Elmwood Park doctor honored for ‘medical missions’ to the Philippines
Dr. Christopher Guerrero examines a young patient on a "medical mission" trip in 2011 to the Philippines. | Photo courtesy of Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center.
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:19AM
ELMWOOD PARK — An Elmwood Park doctor was recently recognized by the Philippines government for his efforts providing medical attention to the less fortunate.
In December, Dr. Christopher M. Guerrero, a family physician and resident of Elmwood Park for more than 30 years, was one of 29 people who received the Presidential Award for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas. It was presented to him personally by Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III at the presidential palace in Manila.
Guerrero, 61, admitted he was a bit nervous meeting the president for the first time when receiving the award.
“One thing that really touched me was when he gave me my plaque he told me ‘continue what you have been doing,’” he said.
The award is given to an individual or association for their exceptional or significant contribution to the reconstruction, progress and development in the Philippines. Guerrero was recognized for the work he’s done for the past 20 years, traveling once a year to the Philippines to provide medical attention to people living in areas of the country where there is a lack of access to medical attention.
Guerrero calls them “medical missions,” and at first he traveled by himself, several hours by bus to outlying villages and barrios to provide medical attention to as many people as he can. He said he became aware of the problems in the outlying provinces when he met a governor of the province here in the United States.
His first medical mission was in 1992.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “The diseases that they have, simple infections, but they never had seen a doctor.”
After several annual trips, he recruited other doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals to travel with him. He also solicits medical supply donations from pharmaceutical companies to take with him.
Guerrero, who has been practicing medicine for 34 years, usually stay for a week and do everything from performing routine exams to providing dental work and eye exams, all free of charge. The doctors all pay their own way for the medical mission.
In 1994, he set up Global Medical Foundation to solicit donations and volunteers.
Over the years, the need for medical assistance in the Philippines has grown, Guerrero said. He said when they arrive it’s not unusual for him and his fellow volunteers to see a thousand people a day.
“Once they start coming, they keep coming and tell their friends,” he said. “You can see lines of people coming from the mountain. It takes about two or three hours coming down from the mountain just to get down to us.”
Guerrero said it has been a humbling experience for him and the other medical professionals who have gone on these medical missions over the years.
Next month, Guerrero will go on his 21st medical mission. While the need is still there, he added they’ve made some strides as well. Through educational programs, the number of Malaria cases they treat has decreased, Guerrero reported.
Even of there was no recognition, Guerrero said he would keep doing it.
“I have seen the realities of life for those who really don’t have anything,” he said.
“Those people that are there, they are not living, they are existing,” Guerrero continued. “They are very happy and every time we go there we give them hope, we give them life, we give them happiness.”
For more information about Guerrero’s medical mission, visit www.globalmedicalfoundation.org.