MANILA—Twelve medical students of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine (UPCM) received scholarships on Friday from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), in the aid group’s first effort to sponsor future healthcare workers.
Each student is set to receive P300,000 a year in benefits lasting 3 to 5 years—the full duration of UP’s medical course.
Officials of the PRC and UPCM met with the scholars and their families at UP Manila to formalize the agreement.
As scholars, the prospective doctors will be expected to volunteer with the PRC after med school equivalent to every year covered by the scholarship.
PRC chairman and CEO Richard Gordon said while this is not a bond they will strictly enforce, they hope it would train the scholars to make volunteerism part of their work ethic.
“It’s important to have scholarships because kulang na kulang tayo sa doktor, kulang na kulang tayo sa nurses, at hindi basta doktor—magagaling na doktor at prinsipyadong doktor,” he said.
“Maraming doktor ang habol ay guminahawa ang buhay. Tunay na ginhawa ang buhay ‘pag tumulong ka sa kapwa mo, mararamdaman mong umaangat ang taong tinutulungan mo, hindi lang ikaw.
Gordon bared the PRC’s expansion plans which would tap the scholars.
“The Red Cross intends to put up a major hospital in the country. And we want to make sure na ang mga ga-graduate dito ay magkaroon sila ng pagkakataon makapag-aral at magamit doon sa mga ospital ng Red Cross. This will be our first stab. Pinag-aaralan pa namin maigi iyon. Matuloy o hindi, I did not make any demands,” he said.
He added the PRC also plans to put up its own school of medicine and nursing, as well as offer online training courses and continuing education for Red Cross volunteers.
FINANCIALLY NEEDY STUDENTS
Nine of the scholars are starting their first year this August, like 21-year-old Charmaine Alba, who is aiming to be the first doctor to come from their village, Calero in Malolos, Bulacan.
“Lumaki po ako sa maliit na community na ‘yon, tapos ‘pag mayroong medical emergency, kailangan pa magbangka kasi hindi siya napapasok ng malalaking sasakyan. So naisip ko po na malaking tulong po kung magkakaroon ng doktor sa community namin kasi at least may matatakbuhan ang mga nandoon,” she said.
Her mother Cherry added Charmaine’s scholarships since her pre-med course has been a big help.
“Sobra pong tuwa kasi po talagang ‘yong pangarap namin sa anak ko, matutupad niya. Kasi kung kami lang po, ‘di po namin kaya talaga dahil ‘yong asawa ko po mangingisda po, ako naman po, housewife lang. Talagang naghahanap po kami scholar,” she said.
The PRC said the scholarship benefits will cover tuition, miscellaneous and laboratory fees, student fund, book allowance, uniform, internet access, lodging, living allowance, transportation, as well as health, death and disability insurance.
It will also fund scholars’ board exam review and application fees.
UPCM dean Dr. Charlotte Chiong said the scholars were screened from 39 applicants, 20 of whom said they really needed the financial support.
She added the 8 others on the shortlist who did not get the PRC’s scholarship would be given other sponsors.
There are about 200 scholars in UPCM yearly, with 6 to 7 out of every 10 covered by alumni, corporate, or private sponsors.
“‘Pag kami’y nag-a-accept ng estudyante, pinapalagay na namin kung may pangangailangan sila, even during the interview process. So sila po ang magsasabi na malamang mangangailangan ako ng financial support. ‘yon po ang binabantayan ng Kolehiyo ng Medisina,” Chiong said.
Chiong added nearly 30% of UPCM’s students had asked for financial aid in the past 2-and-a-half years of the pandemic.
UP Manila Chancellor Dr. Carmencita Padilla said they continually look for support to help future doctors.
“Education is not easy at this time, and no matter how much support we get from the government, it’s not enough. So we want to make sure the students concentrate on studying. Kailangan kasing nakatuon sila sa pag-aaral at may mga pangangailangan sila. Kaya itong tulong na ito ay napakahalaga sa atin,” Padilla said.
Since 2018, the Commission on Higher Education offered cash grants for medical students in 8 state universities and colleges including UPCM, but lost funding to continue it since 2020.
In 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte approved the “Doktor Para sa Bayan Act”, a law creating a scholarship and return service program for “deserving” medical students.