A Collective Response to Helping Others
Singapore-based non-profit Global Clinic provides free, specialized healthcare in dentistry, ophthalmology, and women’s health to communities in need
A number of volunteer health programs fail because they are unable to sustain their services. Without follow-up care and consultation, progressive recovery is often compromised. Global Clinic, a Singapore-based non-profit organization is keenly aware of this predicament. The group, which delivers free specialized healthcare in dentistry, ophthalmology and women’s health to communities in need, ultimately aims to ensure that the communities they serve continue to receive cost-effective, quality healthcare in the long term. “We embark on overseas medical missions each year,” says Dr. Marcus Ang, Founding Director and Head of Global Clinic’s Vision Team. “In these we take a two-pronged approach with our initiatives to transform the lives of the people we serve.” Global Clinic works closely with the communities to improve healthcare standards, not just through immediate, short-term healthcare solutions such as setting up medical clinics and surgical expeditions. The group’s other objective on every mission is to provide medical equipment and focus on education, skills transfer, and knowledge sharing with locals on the ground, including doctors, medical and non-medical staff. After the locals complete their training, Global Clinic offers them instruments for further development opportunities such as scholarships and vocational training funds to support them as they continue to serve their community. “In this way, we encourage these communities to continue our efforts and run them effectively without us,” Dr. Ang explains.
In 2014, Dr. Ang started a charity program called the Mobile Eye Clinic for the underprivileged elderlies in Singapore. The program reaches out to the needy in the heartlands and provides them with access to eye care. Global Clinic is yet another project that Dr. Ang has founded and describes as “close to my heart”. “Global Clinic focuses on less privileged communities with little or no access to healthcare. This is where our efforts matter the most, and where we have a chance to help change in their healthcare systems. “We live in a global city with an international outlook, and a strong interest to tackle global challenges collectively. We’re fortunate to find compassionate volunteers based in Singapore who are willing to share their medical expertise, knowledge and skills, to work towards making a difference for communities beyond our own,” he says.
Global Clinic programs strive to provide long-term medical benefits and foster a better, healthier future for these communities in need – with a strong focus on Asia. Over the past two decades, it has helped improve the lives of over 36,000 people in ethnic minority tribes and remote villages in 11 countries around Asia, including Myanmar, Laos, and Nepal. “The programs conducted on our medical missions include setting up medical clinics, surgical expeditions, and, for more remotely-located communities, mobile care units. Depending on the needs of the communities, we could cover basic treatment such as routine check-ups and screenings, as well as more complicated surgeries for cleft lip and cleft palate, cataract, emergency cases and more.
I am particularly proud of our mobile care unit program,”
Dr. Ang enthuses. The medical missions entail taking a smaller team of around five volunteers on expeditions that last from five to seven days. “We move into more difficult, remotely located communities – rural villages, nomadic areas or refugee camps – to set up base and work closely with local liaisons to see and treat around 100 to 200 patients a day.”
An Early Start
“When I was a medical student, I started volunteering in local Singapore neighborhoods for medical home care for the elderly
and hospice patients,” recalls Dr. Ang, “and as a young doctor, I did similar volunteer work in rural Cambodia. “Once I became a fully qualified eye surgeon, I quickly learned that I could contribute so much more. I was inspired by Dr Myra Elliot, Founding Director and Head of Global Clinic’s Dentistry Team, and joined her on a few missions overseas before officially incorporating Global Clinic as a non-profit entity.” Dr. Ang’s ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of preventable blindness in the world by providing access to treatments for reversible causes of visual impairment, such as cataracts and uncorrected refractive error. “Through Global Clinic, we hope to help these rural communities cultivate stronger healthcare systems, and become more selfsustaining.” Together with founding directors Dr Myra Elliott and Dr Chua Yang, who take care of dentistry and women’s health respectively, Dr. Ang heads the Global Clinic Vision team and leads the ophthalmology medical missions overseas. Such missions in rural, underdeveloped areas of a country, where there is no access to eye care, usually last a week. “We typically treat and examine 3,000 to 4,000 patients in the outpatient clinic, and perform 300 to 400 surgeries to restore sight.”
“It was and still is incredibly rewarding to see tangible differences in the lives of our patients. I remember one patient who walked for days to our mission hospital, with the help of his family, just to get his eyes treated. He was a cook, but was unable to work as he became blind in both eyes due to cataracts – the most common cause of reversible blindness in the world today. The next day, when we restored his vision through a successful cataract removal, he was overjoyed and invited us back to his home for a meal, which took us three days of travel. He just wouldn’t take no for an answer, and in the end, he cooked for us in a nearby house to show us his gratitude.
A Plea to the Public
“I look forward to continuing these efforts with our volunteers from all walks of life who come together for one goal: Providing access to healthcare and cost-effective treatments for reversible or preventable blindness.” Alongside Dr. Ang’s unstinting hard work and enthusiasm is a constant plea for donors’ support. “Our upcoming ‘GC Night’, our first invitation-only auction event, will be held at members club, 1880, on the 27th August. This will be an evening where invited guests can ‘bid for good’ on culinary and travel experiences. “Guests will have an opportunity to contribute through their bids to fund eye cataract surgery that can restore vision (the procedure for each eye costs approximately S$200) or individual treatment for prescription spectacles and medications (approximately S$50). “All donations are used to pay for patients’ surgeries, consumables, medications and support for the patients. Our volunteers pay for their own accommodation, travels and expenses.” The public is encouraged to send donations through www.globalclinic.org/donate.php. All contributions received are fully directed towards medicine, equipment and medical supplies to improve the lives of beneficiaries.