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

Portfolio - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Lili Li

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.

Col­lec­tive Re­sponse

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.

Sus­tained Pro­grams

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.”

In­cred­i­ble Re­wards

“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.

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