Name: Tina Modillas
City and State: Rocklin, California
Current Position: Works one week of each month with Dr. Mani Menon at Vattikuti Urology Institute of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI, first assisting in robotic surgeries (mostly urology, sometimes kidney transplants). During the other weeks, works as a CRNFA with the Rideout Vascular Institute in Marysville, CA, first assisting mainly on vascular surgeries (open and endovascular).
Student Status: Graduated from NIFA’s RNFA program in January 2009.
In early 2017, Tina Modillas accompanied Dr. Glenn Geelhoed and Mission to Heal, serving as a first assistant on a two-week medical mission to the Philippines.
“In the first village, in Mayoyao, they had a couple of operating rooms. We were doing a lot of thyroids and some hysterectomies. The hospital could not really hold a lot of the
cases; they don’t have the support for it. The people, the villagers, were extremely, extremely nice and very grateful that we were there. Some of them walked for days just to get there.”
In Mayoyao, the team’s volume was less than expected because of rain. It is an area of rice terraces and when it rains, the people plant rice.
“It rained 80% of the time we were there,” Tina says. “Many of the people who had signed up to have their procedures done were not showing up because it was a choice between planting rice and feeding their family or having surgery.” Just as the team was leaving Mayoyao, the sun came out and people in the village wanted them to stay, but they were due in the next town and couldn’t stay. The mayor asked the group to come back next year, later in the year.
“It was an amazing experience,” she says, adding that some of the other volunteers there had done medical missions in Africa, Cambodia and elsewhere and were having a particularly good time here. “We were literally fed five to six times per day, and the villagers put on a couple of shows for us with dancing and costumes.”
The team then went to Alfonso Lista, a larger town. In addition to two operating rooms there, they were able to use the mobile surgical unit (MSU) that Dr. Glenn had brought. (The road to Mayoyao had been too narrow and steep for the MSU). The town was busier and the workload heavier.
“In Alfonso Lista, Dr. Glenn and I and the medical student who was with us [Belaine Eyob, a 4th year medical student from Georgetown University who recently matched for General Surgery Residency in Columbia University Medical Center, NYC] were in the mobile surgical unit and the other teams were in the operating rooms,” Tina says. “We were doing all the minor cases: procedures like fibromas, myelomas, lipomas. Some of these people had huge, huge lipomas and they could not afford to go to a physician. They never have any money.
“This one particular lady, she’s probably 80-something, and she was very grateful. We did her procedure. And she said that she’s very thankful that we came because if we hadn’t come, she said, she would have never had it removed and she probably would have died with it. People were very, very grateful that we were all there.
“Unfortunately, there were some that we couldn’t help. Like, there were a couple of cases with breast cancer that’s already stage 4. You don’t even have to touch it. You just look at it and there’s nothing you can do, so you turn them down.”
First medical mission
“This was my first medical mission,” Tina says. “But I always travel in third world countries for vacation. I’m a hiker so I go on a lot of treks, and most of the beautiful treks are in the third world countries, so I see places like this, but not to this extent—that we see the people every day and we actually interact with them and they tell us about their lives and give us truly a wonderful experience.
“And Dr. Glenn is just amazing, that’s for sure. He’s not there for glory; he’s really, truly there to help. He became one of my heroes. I don’t have a lot.” She laughs.
Shift in outlook
When asked if she’s noticed anything different in her own work or out look as a result of this experience, Tina says, “Absolutely. I used to be wasteful, because we waste everything in our setup here. When I was there I realized that even a paper gown is valuable. It totally changed my practice in that way as soon as I came back. The people over there . . . I can only imagine how they try to work things out with very little compared to us; that we have so much. It truly changed my whole perspective of how we waste in our setup here. “
Tina will be going on another mission with Mission to Heal in January 2018 to serve people in the islands of western Philippines.