Mrs. Jellyby and the Zamboanga project

Dr. Alexander H. G. Paterson talks about his involvement with the Ateneo de Zamboanga Medical School on the Philippines Island of Mindanao.

This project is one of several sponsored by the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. For more information, visit the Calgary Global Health Initiative.

It’s important to follow local advice as to any direction taken, but practical people – doctors, nurses and engineers – can help in these parts of the world, mainly with training, education and a few donations. The rest is up to the local population – not the Jellybys of this world.

VIDEO

Watch a "New breed of doctors" to find out more about this initiative.

What's a "Jellyby project"?

“Jolibee” restaurants are big in the Southern Philippines. They remind me of Dickens’ Mrs. Jellyby, the character in Bleak House who was oblivious to the squalor and poverty in Victorian London but devoted to bettering the lot of the Borrioboola-Gha tribe by re-locating the London under-class:

“You find me, my dears,” said Mrs. Jellyby, “as usual, very busy; but that you will excuse. The African project at present employs my whole time. It involves me in correspondence with public bodies, and with private individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the country.

I am happy to say it is advancing. We hope by this time next year to have 200 healthy families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger.”

In global health projects, I like to ask: “Is this a Jellyby project?”

For nearly 20 years, the University of Calgary Medical School has been involved in the Philippines island of Mindanao with the Ateneo de Zamboanga Medical School.

ZamboangaWhat's medical care like in this part of the world?

Initiated by Clarence Guenter, with faculty going to teach the medical students and give advice on a curriculum emphasizing local diseases and local social problems, the aim has been to train students to make a difference locally rather than training them to work in Canada and the USA. It is not a Jellyby project.

Vincente's story

Story of a young girl and a pampered pet

Gay's story

Where does the money go?

ZamboangaSome final thoughts

It’s a lovely part of the world – and there are no tourists. A breakfast of coffee, fresh mango, eggs, pork tocino and sinangag rice in the sun on the verandah of the old Lantaka Hotel overlooking the harbor and the Sulu Sea with the Spanish cannon pointing at the mountains of Basilan in the distance makes my rushed toast and coffee here seem absurd.

The hotel’s bedrooms have native paintings of Muslim villages and sailboats on the walls; the water pipes clank and the air conditioners rattle.

“How much did you have to pay for the ransom?” I asked Vicente Barrios.

His son smiled: “Because of Ramadan I beat them down to 600,000 pesos.” Mr. Barrios looked pained. He was not wealthy.

“Two months as a prisoner of the Abu Sayyaf and you’re frightened of a few side-effects from radiotherapy?” I said.

He smiled. “I will think about it,” he said.

But I knew what the problem was. It was not his fear of radiation side-effects; it was that he and his family could not afford the treatment.

It’s important to follow local advice as to any direction taken, but practical people – doctors, nurses and engineers – can help in these parts of the world, mainly with training, education and a few donations. The rest is up to the local population – not the Jellybys of this world.

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.