Responding With Gratitude: Salamat Dok’s call to health education, public service

There’s something about a television program to have lasted for eight years (now 12 years). Salamat Dok! has unquestionably done enough in helping raise public awareness on prevalent medical problems in the country that made them last that long. In an interview, author asked the people behind the successful TV show to talk about their experiences and lessons learned

Hosts Alvin Elchico and Bernadette Sembrano (Photo courtesy of Health and Lifestyle magazine)
Hosts Alvin Elchico and Bernadette Sembrano (Photo courtesy of Health and Lifestyle magazine)

As the Philippines’ only live medical television program that provides a holistic approach to wellness and health, Salamat Dok! has proven that they have went beyond just a TV program.

Because of that, Salamat Dok! was awarded during the Health & Lifestyle (H&L)’s 10th anniversary for having achieved excellence in health education and public service (mass media category).

Memorable episode 

“Every episode is unforgettable. We conducted medical missions in different places before. But we held a medical mission first time in Apalit, Pampanga with the Badjaos and we saw their way of life. Even though they live near the city, where the doctors and media can easily reach them, they weren’t given much attention. They don’t have a public toilet,” said associate producer Michelle Buenviaje when asked if she had an unforgettable episode.

Michelle added that the most prevalent medical problem in the country is the lack of affordable medicine. Indigent people could not afford medicines even for simple colds, coughs, and fever.

“Actually in the medical mission we conduct every Saturday and Sunday, even simple colds, coughs, and fever if you’re very poor like the indigent patients, you can’t afford it. They really need to go to medical missions to avail free check-ups and medicines. Sometimes we can’t understand why they prefer to go here instead of health centers,” said Michelle.

According to Michelle, indigent people flock their medical missions almost every week. “They go back to us because we monitor their health conditions through the doctors who come with us. We also have sufficient supply of vitamins and antibiotics,” revealed Michelle.

Salamat Dok!’s guest doctor Dr. Willie Ong , who was also among the awardees during the H&L anniversary, could not help but pity the patients he meet during medical missions.

“It’s surprising that people with serious medical conditions come to Salamat Dok! They don’t have anywhere to go. We direct them to the proper venue. If there are people who are willing to help please do so,” said Dr. Ong. 

Lessons learned

If there is something Michelle learned from the show that is to be grateful.

“We’ve learned to say thank you. Thank you for the doctors who have been very supportive of us for the past eight years. I’ve learned that Filipinos need proper health information, especially on simple illnesses. They don’t know how to take care of themselves so we need to reinforce our information dissemination,” she said.

On favorite guests, Michelle said she can’t say anyone in particular but among the regulars, they would be Doctors Willie and Liza Ong who are always present during their medical missions.

“We can call them anytime if we need information on a certain illness,” said Michelle with a smile.

Wishes and dreams 

Michelle has no other wish for Salamat Dok! other than to remain a health show in the years to come. “That we remain the health show of the country. We are called ‘Ang Health Show Ng Bayan’. That we continue to raise awareness among the Filipinos, that they become more familiar in their illnesses. That they go to the doctor not because they’re already sick.  Teach them more on prevention and healthy lifestyle,” said Michelle.

Michelle also encouraged everyone to practice a healthy lifestyle. “Health is the greatest gift so we need to take good care of it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ong said he will just follow God’s will and continue with his advocacy. “The healthiest lifestyle that Dr. Castillo taught me is not about smoking, exercise, or eating healthy food,” said Dr. Ong referring to Dr. Rafael Castillo, H&L’s editor-in-chief. “The healthiest lifestyle he taught me is to love your neighbor – that’s the most important. Not just through words but through action. We saw Dr. Castillo gave his magazine, his time and money, now the awards for our country and health professionals. Money is not important to Dr. Castillo, it’s secondary. He will always say, God will provide. Because of that, I owe so much to him. For me, H&L is the main tree. It’s the sturdy tree of inspiration. I’m just one of its fruits,” he added.

“To H&L, of course, thank you to Dr. Castillo. This is his brain child. He spent a lot of time on this. He helped doctors and health professionals a lot to change their unhealthy habits,” Dr. Ong concluded.

Salamat Dok! is a multi-awarded educational, public-service medical talk show. The program has helped raised public awareness on prevalent medical problems in the country and how to prevent them with lifestyle modification. It also gives medical assistance and counseling to indigent patients thru weekly free clinics in the ABS-CBN compound. The show, hosted by Bernadette Sembrano and Alvin Elchico, is on its 8th year of raising public health awareness.

“To H&L, thank you for the award you gave to Salamat Dok! It is truly an honor. We’d like to share this award to all the doctors, all the volunteers, and everyone who had been generous not only with their time, but with their knowledge and even their finances. It makes everything worthwhile that we can do this in our program Salamat Dok! to reach out to our fellow countrymen who don’t have access to knowledge, especially on health. So thank you very much for this award,” said Bernadette Sembrano, one of the show’s main hosts.

Originally published in Health and Lifestyle magazine January 2013 issue. Republished with minor edits

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