Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Crossroads in a Physician's Journey

Replying to one of the emails/comments from one of our readers, Jesselyn, in The Tipster: The Idiot's Guide to Residency.


Good afternoon po Doc. :) I recently passed the board exam (March 2018). And I still can't believe that I am already a licensed doctor. During med school I already had the idea of going to Internal Medicine with an interest in Nutrition and Allergies. But right now, I feel like a blank piece of paper. I don't know what to pursue for residency. It seems like I always doubt myself in pursuing such a busy, stressful and demanding training. I do admit being a sickly person (asthma, allergic rhinitis, menstrual problems, so on and so forth). My place is like a pharmacy bec. I have a lot of medications. Some of my seniors would even ask me why did I enter this field knowing my health condition is quite poor. Being a doctor wasn't really my first choice bec. I was thinking that my health might not be able to cope up with the stressful environment as a physician. But when my late grandfather told me that he wishes me to enter medicine, I took a chance. I made a promise to myself that for every year that I pass med school, I shall continue my craft to be a physician. And so I did. But in between those success in passing are the days and even weeks that I am not feeling well. I even had instances where my allergies flare up during exam days, and I had no choice but to take medications. Sometimes I find myself sleeping during exam. Our Dean would always tell me that I am incapable of being a good doctor and just quit. But for every time I get through these exams and hear the words "thank you" from my patients, it lights up my eagerness to be a doctor. I accidentally found your blog po Doc while I was scrolling down at Google search for what should I do in choosing residency training. I have read a few articles just now and I was really inspired. I hope to hear from you po Doc. God bless po :)
 I have posted it here so it can reach more readers.


Hello Jesselyn!

I am so sorry that it took me quite a long time to finally reply to your comment.

First of all, I would like to thank you for taking time to read my entries. It does not matter that you found this blog serendipitously because that is how most readers found their way here. LOL! What matters is that you have found a companion, a confidante, as you begin your journey as a physician. There is nothing better than touching a person's life and I believe that somehow in my own little way, I have touched your life, and that is more than enough to inspire me to go on nurturing this blog.

Second, allow me to congratulate you for passing the physician licensure boards. Congratulations, Jesselyn! You made it! It is undeniable, it is on paper, and the PRC can give proof that you are a licensed physician! This victory, this triumph, definitely cancels out all the discouragements you have encountered before earning your license. Do not waste time dwelling and fretting about what has been said to you then, those comments might have propelled you to where you are now and that's it, those comments have served their purpose, which is to challenge you so that you can prove them all wrong. So again, congratulations! Our journey as physicians is actually not without trials and frustrations (sorry to break your bubble with that) but those tribulations will only mold us to become better individuals and able physicians who can deliver quality care for our patients. You've surpassed all those hurdles in health, in the people around you, etc., it would not be impossible that you will overcome other trials in the future. Hard but not impossible. Besides, that is life, Jess. We will only stop encountering challenges once we join the flatliners. So congratulations again, and rejoice! Life throws lemons at you because you are alive and it knows you can make lemonade out of it.

I could still remember that very first morning after the night when I knew I passed the medicine boards. The sun emanated an unusually pleasant glow. The meal I ordered at McDonald's tasted differently in a good kind of way, and lastly, I could not hold my smile. That's how victory felt and maybe, tasted.

Now, as we enter this milestone, we are beset with a lot of choices, like multiple decks of cards laid and neatly arranged in front of you, each card almost silently screaming at you to take it.

Well, how do I help you with this. 

This may sound cliche or cheesy but in this aspect, it would make sense - I say follow your heart. If you decide to go into a particular specialty for training, be sure it is the specialty that you see yourself practicing in the future. You have to set your eyes on the doughnut and not the hole. The journey to the finish line will be very challenging, I tell you, ( I found myself crying almost everyday when I was in training) but just think of your goal and your purpose. Just remember that short-term pains will lead to long term gains. However, let me emphasize that as much as possible, avoid setting money or being rich as your primary motivation. Of course, as doctors, we are assured of at least a comfortable life, but it is different when your mindset is, you wanted and indeed you became a doctor because you wanted to be very rich. In my honest opinion, money as a motivation, will easily make you dwindle and wither specially with the harsh reality of this profession - the almost unattainable expectations from your patients, your colleagues, and the workplace in general. This mindset which is mainly centered on money will easily lead you to the thought that anyway, there are other ways to earn big bucks, and even bigger than practicing to be a doctor. In other words, commitment is the key here. A consultant once told me that just do what is right, just give everything your best, and money will follow.

I hope this helped, Jess. God bless you in your journey and who knows, by chance, we would meet somewhere sometime soon in one of our conferences. 

Mabuhay ka!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

What’s your excuse?

The woman in the picture, carrying her newborn child was referred to me for medical clearance for surgical procedure. In the middle of my interview with her, my attention was diverted to the man in the picture, who was sitting at the foot of the bed. He was in fact, her husband. 

I even looked closely (yes,like, literally) to check if I was seeing what I was seeing then. Both of his eyes were blind. His right eye had a dominant opaque lens and it exhibited a right-sided nystagmus. I asked as politely as I can and he told me he has been legally blind on both eyes since the age of six as a complication of measles.

In layman’s term, legally blind would mean he cannot even perceive light on both eyes. Pitch black.

I went on to ask him what he does for a living, and he said he makes cabinets and furniture. I was even amused how he is able to pull that off considering that he has to mark his measurements on wood and cut the wood too. He just smiled and said it may sound unbelievable but that is  what he does and his smile was beaming with pride when he told me that the products he builds and puts on display does not stay idle very long and are sold out after a few days. He also accepts other errands that would give him pay after a day’s work.

What struck me even more was the absence of even the slightest hint of bitterness in this man. He was smiling most of the time when we were talking, not because of embarassment, but simply because he had long accepted his reality and is at peace with it.

He even mentioned something to the effect that his mother probably forgot to have him vaccinated against measles when he was young. He ended that statement with a soft chuckle, giving me the impression that that does not matter a bit at at all. That is small stuff now.

He is at peace, even if he does not run out of trials, to add to his condition. His wife of 22 years just gave birth to their newborn baby boy, their 7th baby (7th heaven?) - adding to the six small mouths he already needs to feed - not including his wife’s and his. 

Amidst all that, he maintained a positive mindset, confident that they will surpass all these trials and that the Almighty will not forget them and forsake them. He was kind of worried though if ever they would need to stay longer in the hospital. A longer hospital stay would mean a loss of opportunity for him to earn for his family. Now that gives us more than a hint of the diligence, perseverance, and sense of responsibility that this man has. 

I may not exactly be super duper pious but I concluded our conversation by blessing him and wishing him well. Here is a man deprived of his sight since childhood but does not consider it as a hindrance to work hard for his family. His disability did not even succeed in crushing his hope for a better life for him and his family.

He may be blind, but his eyes which have long become strangers to light, are radiating with a lot of positivity of the almost blinding kind. 

He is an inspiration.

Now, what’s your excuse? What’s our excuse?

Note: Photo taken with permission. It shows in their smiles, doesn’t it? :D

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