Picture a white bed in the corner of the hospital’s emergency room. Three surgeries, six weeks of monitoring, and ten days of being wired to a ventilator just so a dying patient could breathe. This was the dreary story of nine-year-old Kenna Van Kirk, a fun-loving girl who’s confined in dim-lit hospital chambers after her legs, lungs, and heart fell prey to a bacterial infection (Infectious Diseases Society of America, 2023).

The culprit? A bacteria species known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is just one of the many microorganisms that recently acquired drug resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an emergent phenomenon that’s burdening the global healthcare sector. When bacteria mutate and become tolerant towards pharmaceutical drugs, it becomes difficult to treat them using antibiotics. According to a study in health journal The Lancet, 1.27 million deaths annually are attributed to AMR (Murray et al., 2022, p. 629). And although AMR can arise from natural evolution, the wide prevalence of bacterial resistance originates from short-term thinking in the field of medicine. To illustrate this, let’s zoom into a local context — my hometown in San Miguel.

Within my rural community, citizens have a preconceived belief that symptoms like fever and coughing can be cured by consuming an antibiotic even without doctor’s prescriptions. But in the process, we expose bacteria isolates to high doses of antibiotics, leading them to develop resistance techniques. In fact, overuse of antibiotics rose to 65% in this decade (O’Brien, 2018), predominantly in low-income countries where medical knowledge is minimal, like my home province. We focused on quick and short-term treatment of bacterial diseases, failing to foresee the ramifications of our actions.

As opposed to transient thinking, a long-term perspective fosters a sustainable future for medicine in two ways. Firstly, by thinking long-term, we prioritize preventive healthcare over passive healthcare. For example, instead of spending money on medicine for chronic illnesses, the public health system can shift priorities to healthy lifestyle, community exercises, meal plans, and vaccination programs. Rather than curing a plethora of patients, we can focus on preventing the spread of illnesses in the first place. After all, researchers state that healthy lifestyle programs reduce risks of chronic illnesses by 80 percent (Al-Maskari, 2021), and vaccinations save 4-5 million lives annually (WHO, 2023).

More importantly, foresight allows us to refocus goals from quick and easy treatment to epidemiology and research. In the case of AMR, long-term hospital policies will lessen prescription of antibiotics, reserving these drugs only as a last resort. Instead, pharmaceutical laboratories must be proactive by conducting studies on bacterial mutations, crafting containment policies to limit spread of resistance, and examining natural compounds as novel medicine. Since research is interdisciplinary, experts, policymakers, and educators will work hand-in-hand to combat AMR. Even the youth can play a part, as learners of any age can contribute by raising awareness, performing research, or advocating for shifts in local medical policy. All of these actions trace back to a central theme: thinking ahead and planning for the long-term.

At the end of the day, patients are still suffering and dying at the cruel hands of AMR. Kenna van Kirk is still confined in her hospital room, eagerly waiting for the day where MRSA no longer threatens her life. To save all these patients, and to secure a future for medicine, we need more than passive treatment. We need proactive, collaborative, and long-term medical policies. Only then can we truly resist the silent threats of infection.


Al-Maskari, F (2021). Lifestyle Diseases: An Economic Burden on the Health Services. United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services. (Accessed: 30 September 2023).

‌Infectious Diseases Society of America. (2023). Patient Stories: Kenna Van Kirk. Available at: https://www.idsociety.org/public-health/patient-stories/kenna-van-kirk/. (Accessed: 30 September 2023).

Murray, C. et al. (2022). ‘Global Burden of Bacterial Antimicrobial Resistance in 2019: A Systematic Analysis,’ The Lancet, 399; p. 629. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02724-0.

O’Brien, M. (2018). Global antibiotic overuse is like a ‘slow motion train wreck’. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/global-antibiotic-overuse-is-like-a-slow-motion-train-wreck. (Accessed: 30 September 2023).

World Health Organization. (2023). https://www.who.int/westernpacific/activities/raising-awareness-of-immunization. Available at: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/activities/raising-awareness-of-immunization. (Accessed: 30 September 2023).