Dr. Violeta Singson, M.D.
The doctor is IN
Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation (PCCCF) included among its leaders many expert medical practitioners who were well
established in the Milwaukee area. Most of them are members of the Philippine Medical Association of Wisconsin (PMA-W) and the
University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Wisconsin (UPAA-W). The Free Medical Clinic was one of PCCCF’s objectives from the
start. The choice to lead this huge undertaking was Dr. Violeta “Volette” Singson, a pediatrician.
She readily agreed to head up the clinic, with the promised support of the few doctors and nurses present during a meeting of UPAA-W in
September 2000. It took a lot of hard work and organizational skill on the part of Dr. Singson and a few volunteers before they opened the
Philippine Center’s Free Clinic at the Oak Creek Community Center in October that same year. After several moves since 2000, the Free
Clinic is now located at the private medical clinic of Dr. Singson and Dr. Sandra Montano at 535 N 27th Street in Milwaukee. The plan is to
house it permanently when the PCCCF’s building has been built or bought. The Clinic has survived through support primarily from the PCCCF,
PMA-W, UPAA-W, and private donors.
It was an early morning of a last Saturday of the month. It wasn’t even 9 a.m., yet several people, of various ages and obvious diverse
ethnicities, patiently waited outside the modest one-story building housing the Philippine Center Free Medical Clinic. They, like thousands
before them who keep on coming to this clinic, are Wisconsin residents who cannot afford health insurance. This scene has been repeated
over the last seven years, every second and fourth Saturday of the month, rain or shine, snow or sleet, with the number of patients
increasing exponentially through the years. It highlights an obvious failure of the richest country in the world to take care of the infirm who do
not have the means to acquire meaningful health care.
As of 2007, there have been more than 2,500 visits documented in the clinic’s record.
I witnessed Dr. Violeta Singson one Saturday morning in August, doing a mission not many medical practitioners do — serving the poor
for free, consistently and unconditionally. (Not many people know this, but Dr. Singson was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but this
bad news didn’t stop her from doing her life’s work.) Our interview had to wait until after her last patient was gone. When I entered the center’
s door, Dr. Singson was busy registering the patients and talking to each of them individually before assigning them to their “doctors” in the
clinic. There were four volunteer Filipino American doctors working with Dr. Singson that day, and they were ready to handle more than three
dozen people who came before 9 a.m. and several more as the day neared noon. The clinic volunteers — including a nurse, a medical
assistant, and a clinic administrator — were working nonstop for more than four hours, exceeding the three-hour (9 a.m.-12 noon) clinic
hours allotted, until the last patient had been seen, diagnosed, and given medication. In addition to giving away free medicines, the Free
Clinic also provides additional services beyond regular check-ups, coordinating with other organizations to provide mammograms, X-rays,
and other laboratory tests. Dr. Singson has done much more than simply diagnosing patients and sending them home with a packet or a
bottle of free medicines.
It was 1:20 p.m. when Dr. Singson was able to sit with me for an interview. She was the very last volunteer to eat her lunch while doing
the interview. (I gathered from one of the volunteers that Dr. Singson feeds them generously, with catered food that she pays for out of her
own pocket. She makes them feel so needed and appreciated.) Even after this four-hour, nonstop volunteer medical work, Dr. Singson still
exuded an extraordinary stamina. A quick look at her petite frame, natural poise and flawless face made me imagine an extremely attractive
and beautiful woman in her youth. A combination BB (beauty and brains, that is) with a beautiful heart too.
Dr. Singson immigrated to the U.S. in 1967 with her fiancé and classmate, Johnny (an oncologist), after graduating from the University of
the Philippines- College of Medicine in Manila, admittedly joining the “brain drain” generation. “You knew how it was at that time,” Dr.
Singson began, over a small veggie bite. (Indeed, I knew exactly what she meant. Filipino professionals left the country to seek greener
pastures and/or post-graduate studies. Most Filipino professionals went to the United States because of an open recruitment for “skilled
professionals,” especially in the health field.) “At that time I didn’t know my geography. Johnny and I just wanted to find a place where any
hospital could take both of us. There were nine of us from our class who came to Milwaukee in June of 1967.”
The Milwaukee area became Dr. Singson’s new home, where she gradually became known as one of the most respected pediatricians
and as a civic leader. After 20 years of working in various hospitals, Dr. Singson opened her own practice in 1987. “This is my office,” Dr.
Singson said with a sense of pride as she showed me her private office. “We (with Dr. Sandra Montano) built this building in 2006. This is
where I see my regular patients.” Regular patients are, of course, HMO-card/commercial insurance-card bearing patients. Dr. Singson sees
her “regular” pediatric patients Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and her urgent cases, 5-8 p.m. The Free Clinic temporarily rents the building
for $500 a month, which includes office supplies, from Singson and Montano LLC./Dr. Singson, like many medical doctors from other
countries who have made the U.S. their home, has succeeded financially and career-wise. But this success never led her to believing that it
was hers alone. She has made it her life’s mission to help others in need of medical care, at no cost, here in the U.S. and back home where
she was born.
On even-numbered years, Dr. Singson joins the Rizal McArthur Memorial Foundation Medical Mission in the Philippines, and since 2005,
started to do her own medical mission in her home province. “I went back to Batangas (Philippines) in 2005 to do a free medical clinic as
well, and I plan to do this every other year,” Dr. Singson said. “I did another one this year. Six months before the medical mission, I sent 12
balikbayan door-to-door boxes, of medications and medical supplies. I did one week of medical service in the barrio where my parents grew
up. The venue was an elementary school.”
What does Dr. Singson get out of all this? With no pause whatsoever, Dr. Singson said, “Self-fulfillment; nothing more than that. I don’t
expect any glory, any publicity.” However, because of the need for more funds to support the Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation’
s dream of owning its own building to house the Free Medical Clinic, Dr. Singson realized it’s all right to get some publicity for the work they’
re doing. “If it’s there, I guess it’s OK, it is nice to know that people recognize and appreciate this,” she said. “I’m hoping to get more funds
for the center and the clinic.”
Dr. Singson received several more awards in Milwaukee and the Philippines Medical Alumni Society, for “Outstanding Alumnus
Overseas for Community Service.” Word of distinguished life work indeed spreads fast.
The Philippine Cultural Civic Center Foundation needs help to continue providing services through its Free Medical Clinic, and to realize
its dream of building a center that will permanently house this clinic that serves ALL people in need of medical help, as well as provide a
space for community gatherings and activities that benefit one and all. Please send your contributions/checks to PCCCF, 535 N 27th Street,
Milwaukee, WI 53208. Visit www.philippinecenter.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
By Heidi M. Pascual
“A diamond is only as brilliant as the light that illuminates it. Dr. Singson radiates that
light. With her remarkable accomplishments and intense dedication, this incredible woman
has managed to bring boundless change and success to that once hazy dream. We sought to
help our community, and have gained so much more in the process, a friend, a skilled
physician, and a leader.”
The above was written by Jocelyn “Jojo” Ramos, a longtime Milwaukee resident, in
support of the nomination of Dr. Violeta Singson for the Meredith Children’s Champion
Awards. Every year, the Meredith Corporation, publisher of popular children’s magazines
(Child, Family Circle, Parents, and American Baby) recognizes outstanding individuals from
diverse fields who have dedicated their time and effort to improve the lives of children.
(There were six awards for this category.) In 2007, the corporation partnered with Johnson &
Johnson to choose three additional awardees for “Champions Among Us,” from hundreds of
nominees nationwide. Dr. Violeta Singson, a Filipino American pediatrician who was born
and educated in the Philippines, won and received one of the three “Champion” awards on
May 9, 2007 at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City.
A gem of the medical community in Milwaukee, Dr. Singson is the medical director of the
Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation’s Free Medical Clinic, serving uninsured
and disadvantaged people regardless of race, religious beliefs, employment or immigration
It is important to note that the Filipino community in Milwaukee that established the
Dr. Violeta Singson cares for the uninsured
and underinsured in Wisconsin, for free.