written by Nora Leonardi, Aiducator.

“I am in love and it has changed me forever”, Marie Gene Cruz, a Filipino medical student, says about her recent trip to Switzerland. Filipino medical student and Marie Gene Cruz took a life-changing trip to Switzerland this autumn: She briefly interned at a Swiss hospital and saw how much it matters to treat patients humanely, and to take the time to talk and listen to them. About to graduate next year, she is closer than ever to realizing her childhood dream of serving the underprivileged as a medical doctor and to be a responsible leader.

Growing up, Marie Gene never pictured herself assisting medical doctors in Switzerland. When she was 9 years old her father suffered a serious heart attack and he had to undergo a heart bypass surgery – this event became her main motivator to become a medical doctor. Because of the ensuing lack of funds from medical bills and her father’s inability to work, the talented student had to transfer to a public high school. In a typical Filipino public high school conditions are far from ideal: The classes are large, and sometimes two of them are held in the same classroom at the same time, the facilities are often old and teachers not trained well-enough. Luckily, Marie Gene got accepted in a public science high school, where the quality of education is better than in regular public schools. This is where she was able to join Pathways to Higher Education, a partner organization of Aiducation International since 2014. Pathways helped her both financially and academically, and, after finishing second out of her batch, to get into one of the top universities. Marie Gene graduated magna cum laude in Life Sciences at the Ateneo de Manila University and is now pursuing a degree in medicine at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. She is also the first of Pathways scholar to have received a postgraduate scholarship. “Pathways has helped me to realize my potential as a student and my childhood dream of becoming a doctor. It is a family who keeps on bringing out the best in me, not just for myself, but for the Philippine society”, Marie Gene thankfully says.

Medical Internship at the Gesundheitszentrum Fricktal (Fricktal Health Center), Rheinfelden, Switzerland.

This past October Marie Gene had the chance to visit Switzerland for two weeks and to perform an internship at the Gesundheitszentrum Fricktal. “It was a much-needed and timely reminder of why I am studying medicine – to serve the underserved”, Gene says. She loved her day with the rescue services and was blown away by their speed and efficiency in caring for patients. Another of her cherished moments was the visit of the diabetes clinic: “I was getting all these jittery feelings of excitement when Dr. Birsen Arici allowed us to observe her patient consultations”, she says.

How do the Swiss and Filipino medical systems compare?

“In the Philippines, the big private hospitals look almost the same as the Gesundheitszentrum Fricktal, with the latest facilities, clean hallways, hotel-like rooms, patient-friendly services, etc. But in a public hospital, where I am currently doing my medical internship, we (doctors, nurses and hospital staff) barely spend more than 5-10 minutes per patient because of a seemingly endless influx of patients. Overfatigue from all the workload and incredibly long duty hours (24-36 hrs) consumes us all. And so most of the time, we cannot help but reprimand patients and their companions for delaying their consultations to a point when their diseases are no longer curable. This problem all boils down to poverty and lack of a solid and accessible health system. I realized that despite that situation, we, health workers, should not treat these poor patients inhumanely despite their “choice” of ignoring their disease;for their “choice” was probably between spending for family’s daily sustenance or own health.”

With René and Mathias after our 12-hr duty at the Rescue Services.

Marie Gene’s main take home message is to appreciate each and every patient: “I noticed that the doctors and medical staff took the time talking and listening to their patients. Their patients’ faces change from a frown of anxiety to a smile of gratitude. Such a small act can help patients feel better.” 
“It was a life-changing experience and made me a better doctor-to-be”, she says.

During her visit Marie Gene also attended various meetings. She shared her story at the Aiducation Impact Dinners in Zurich and Basel, with partner organizations of Aiducation such as Swiss Re and high-school students.

“All I felt was so much joy and gratitude for having been gifted this opportunity to travel to Switzerland and inspire other people.” Keep on inspiring and shining, Marie Gene, as the socially aware doctor and responsible leader you aspire to be.

At Üetliberg (top of Zürich) overlooking the whole city and the Swiss Alps..

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