Operation Care Abroad (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit surgical mission started in 2004 by Providence Hospital Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Oscar “Oca” Ong. Originally from Davao, Philippines, Nurse Ong came to the United States in 1978 and has worked at St John Providence Health System for over 32 years.

When Nurse Oca returns to the Philippines during family vacations, he is unable to overlook the drastic differences between Filipino and American health resources. In 2004 Nurse Ong recruited five St John CRNAs to volunteer their services at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) to combat the disparity. Together with SPMC Chief, Leopoldo Vega, MD, and his team of local surgeons, they performed cleft lip and palate repairs, thyroidectomies, and hernioplasties on individuals who would otherwise not have the resources for medical services. As the mission grew, Nurse Ong partnered with the CRNA programs at Wayne State University, University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan State University, and Oakland University to recruit additional volunteers.

For over 10 years, OCA has provided top quality medical care in conjunction with local surgeons to the poverty-stricken population in the Philippines who would otherwise not receive care. The experiences and stories of the volunteers helping those who need help the most has inspired many to join the mission. Because of the life-changing experiences the mission brings to both patients and care-givers alike, many volunteers return year after year.

Volunteers travel to Davao City in January at their own expense, taking time away from their families and time off work to help in this important effort. The mission operates out of the main hospital for the southern region of the Philippines. Approximately 200 surgeries and procedures are performed during each mission. Procedures range from cataracts to mitral valve replacements to cranial facial reconstruction. All instruments and materials are brought/ provided by the mission through the generous donations of many individuals, institutions, and companies.

The local surgeons do an excellent job of caring for their patients, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients who require care. OCA is able to provide material and human resources to assist in providing medical services for a limited amount of time, but unfortunately the job is never done. That is why another goal has been to enable local surgeons to perform cases they otherwise wouldn’t be able to without help from OCA. This includes heart valve replacement and complex craniofacial reconstructive procedures for encephalocoeles, a condition unique to that part of the world. Through the efforts of neurosurgeon, Daniel Pieper, M.D. and craniofacial reconstructive surgeon, Mark Hnatiuk, M.D. the local surgeons are now starting to operate on patients with these complicated and demanding pathologies who previously would go untreated or, if they were lucky, would be sent to Manila or Hawaii.  OCA has also sponsored six pediatric patients to receive medical treatment onsite at St John Providence Hospital in Southfield, MI.


Volunteers gather annually in Davao City, Philippines, to provide without charge, much needed surgical services and anesthesia to individuals with limited financial resources who would otherwise do without.