Santa Rosa doctor off on latest international relief mission

  • Santa Rosa Kaiser Emergency room Dr. Joshua Weil leaves on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 for the Philippines to help with relief efforts. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Dr. Joshua Weil reveals some of what makes him tick when he shares that he once plotted to spend his life plying the seas.

It wasn't an idle ambition. As a younger man, the 49-year-old son of a filmmaker and a historian sailed extensively as a crewman.

Harkening to the moment he changed course and chose to become a physician, he said, "I literally decided the day I turned 25, on a sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean."

Today he's an indoors guy, a husband and a father of three. He works long hours as an emergency-room doctor and administrator at Kaiser Permanente's Santa Rosa Medical Center.

But Weil still gets out. He flew Sunday to a typhoon-ravaged region of the Philippines for his latest international relief mission. Even as he prepared on Saturday, he couldn't be certain of where he and the team of Kaiser volunteers he directs will be stationed or how they will connect with Filipinos in need of medical attention more than three weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck.

"It's still very fluid, even after all this time," the Santa Rosa resident said. Owing to difficulties with logistics and transportation within the country, he said, "It's been challenging in the Philippines to find a location and a scope of mission."

What he knew for sure was that there will be many people desperate to find medical care for themselves or their loved ones, and that the conditions the Kaiser workers will encounter will be tough.

Weil's experience with volunteering at massively destructive and deadly natural disasters includes his journey to Haiti following the earthquake of 2010, to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and to Sri Lanka after the tsunami of 2004.

Asked what those humanitarian journeys left him with, he considered and replied, "You don't remember sleeping on the ground and not eating well ... Well, you do."

But mostly, he remembers some of the many people he treated, among them the Haitian girl of perhaps 10 who'd suffered a grievous injury that exposed the bare bone of her forehead. He recalls the smile she wore when she returned a week or so after he'd tended to her, with the wound healing nicely.

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