The Philippine Medical School was established by Commonwealth Act No. 1415 on 1 December 1905 to address the critical lack of physicians as raised by the local medical society. In 1915, the government expanded its health services which led to increased demands for medical graduates. A contract was signed by students for them to serve for 2 years in government in exchange for tuition fee waiver for 5 years of medical education. This provision was discontinued in 1920.
Most of our health professions graduates, especially the medical and nursing graduates, have joined the exodus to the US, the Middle East and other countries. Thus, in 1976, the School of Health Sciences (SHS) in Tacloban, Leyte, administratively under UP Manila, was established with the mandate to serve the underserved Filipinos in rural and remote areas. Graduates of SHS serve 2 years for every year of education. They serve either as midwife, nurse or physician, preferably in the community which nominated them. After 33 years, about 90% of SHS graduates are still serving the Philippines. Most of those who left have served the required period of return service. The return service agreement was based initially on verbal social contract but in 2008, SHS was the first component of UP Manila which asked students to sign a tripartite contract with the University and the local government units.
In 2005, the Regionalization Program of the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) started implementing the “Acceptance to Serve and Assumption of Liability (ASAL) Agreement.” Prior to 2005, the Regionalization Program was introduced by the UPCM so that candidates from Philippine areas deemed to be in need of doctors will have a chance to be admitted to UPCM and serve their respective areas. These students undertake annual summer immersion in their region. Students who indicated Regionalization Program in their application shall serve for 5 years in the region which nominated them after graduation. UPCM medical graduates will be leaders, experts, and educators upon their return to these areas.
In 2009, applicants to the medical degree program of UPCM started signing a ‘Return Service Agreement” as requirement for admission. When they graduate in 2014, they shall serve for 3 years in the Philippines. Service will be completed within 5 years after graduation.
Outside UP Manila, return service mechanisms are currently undertaken through the following projects:
- “Bagong Doctor parasa Bayan” of former First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo which started in 2006 and will continue for 5 years. Students in their clerkship are given scholarships up to internship. In return, they will join the Doctors to the Barrios Program of DOH. They will serve for two years in the barrios they are assigned to. Ten students in the first batch and 10 in the second batch were students from UPCM.
- Pinoy MD Program of DOH which started in AY 2006-2007. They will serve for 2 years for every year of training or a total of 10 years. There are from UPCM and SHS in this program.
- Midwifery Student Scholarship Program of the DOH which started including SHS students in AY 2009-2010.