Last Christmas, Dr. Jenny L. Batongmalaque, a Torrance physician, took nine other health professionals to her homeland, the Philippines, to see the wretched health conditions of poor children.
"I was appalled, it was so abysmal," said the physician, popularly known as Dr. Jenny. She heads a foundation to aid the Philippines called AMOMA (which means "to assist" in the Filipino-Visayan languages) that stands for Any Manpower or Monies Appreciated.
Among the 1,200 children surveyed, the group found high rates of malnutrition as well as pneumonia, various gastrointestinal illnesses and tuberculosis, Dr. Jenny said. "It's all over the place."
Now, two trips later, she and others have reported their findings to the Filipino government, met briefly with President Corazon Aquino, transported medical supplies and established contacts with a medical school with the hope of creating an exchange program between Filipino and American physicians.
During the last trip, in June, she said, AMOMA held a 10-day clinic in Davao City, 350 miles south of Manila. Dr. Diana Farnsworth of Beverly Hills and another plastic surgeon helped local doctors operate on 12 children with cleft palates and other problems. Dr. Marjorie Braude, a psychiatrist and the wife of Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, worked with children at a local mental hospital. Dr. Braude is collecting books to start a psychiatry library at the hospital.
"Out of this, we are planning to have a medical exchange program with Davao Medical School," Dr. Jenny said, possibly in affiliation with the University of Southern California.
Dr. Jenny said the foundation has 30 active members and is open to anyone for annual dues of $15.
She said the group's goal continues to be helping children, adding that AMOMA's people-to-people approach is showing results.