During my first month of internship, I rotated first in the Department of Medicine. It was during this time that our dean, who happened to be the department head of Pathology also got hospitalized. She is a fierce opinionated lady you wouldn’t want to cross paths with, she was very intimidating. I was not assigned to her during her admission but due to fear of everyone, I was the one sent to insert intravenous line for her. I took it as a chance to build rapport with her and perhaps earn “pogi points” as she had known my interest too to train with her. But I was mistaken as she realized that while I was inseerting her IV line, I would be better off as a clinician rather than an academician. Later, months after her discharge, she sent me a feeler that at first slighted me, but later on made me thank her for realizing which discipline I ought to be in.
So I got it that after obtaining my license, I’d rather go to branch of medicine that would have hands on for patients. I had 4 options then. Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Pediatrics. If I were to go to internal medicine, my patients would be adult and it has been my observation that adults usually are stubborn patients (but I was not wrong as I still maintain such observation up to this date). Take for example an infection: even if the advice is to complete 1 week of antibiotics, as soon as they feel better on the third day of the treatment regimen, they voluntarily stop and don’t follow-up any further. Being a goal-oriented person, it would frustrate me if I don’t see concrete resolution of my patients’ problems. If I were to be a surgeon, I don’t think I have the knee-jerk reflex to react on emergency operating room conditions. I think I have a good manual skills but I didn’t think it was wise for me to be in this department. If obstetrics and gynecology, though most gynecologist abroad are males, the same does not hold true locally, and I might not be able to have a good practice after all. So I was left with pediatrics. I have seen how parents were obliged to complete their children’s treatment regimens, how results usually were appreciated and how most parents complied with instructions. (I am not saying right now that pediatrics was my last option, it was just that this was how I justified my choice of specialization. In fact, I only applied in one department, Pediatrics.) Unfortunately though, I had to wait for available item at my alma mater so it took me a year after passing the board exam to start my residency training. I don’t know, I didn’t consider going away and train in other institutions. Perhaps because I would want to be familiar at the place where I would be having my practice, that’s why. Or maybe, I didn’t want to be away from my parents.
When I applied already for residency training, the outgoing chairman of Pediatrics didn’t personally like me. In fact, it was during the time when I applied there were 4 aspects of evaluation — academic standing, actual examination, pre-residency performance and emotional quotient, for the very first time. These weren’t the same criteria used to screen previous residents. Meanwhile, while waiting for the call if I got the slo or not, I didn’t want to be idle. I applied as school physician in one of the universities in Baguio where I was accepted amongst other applicants, even if they knew I was waiting for my call to start training and I could resign anytime. Two months into my work, the new department head (who had been fighting for me to be accepted into training) of pediatrics called me and start my training if still interested. I tendered my resignation at the school after accomplishing the annual physical examination of the students. (I thought if I were to leave soonest, at least I would be able to accomplish even just a small deed.)
When I was already starting my residency training in Pediatrics, I felt harrassed by threats of recommendation for my termination. I may not have been a very brilliant freshie resident and was having difficulty adjusting to the individualities of several consultants. My performance may not have met their expectations thats why I kept on earning their ire. It was always a tense-filled day since day 1. But slowly, I believed I was getting better (who else doesnt believe they’re improving huh?). I just had to accept the fact that I cannot please everybody. It was hurting to hear those negative remarks though… but that was the reality in my field… and I just had to swallow them.
Immediately after my residency, I just tried my luck in applying for fellowship training in neonatology. There were no neonatologists in our department during my residency training and I wondered whether or not what we were doing with those prematures were the right thing. I chose UST Hospital upon the recommendation of a more senior resident who started fellowship too on neurology at the same hospital. This time, the struggle was on another field, finances. UST Hospital back then do not give salaries to fellowship trainees, unlike the residents. Fellows had to find sponsors who’ll finance their training. I had to find one too. It was difficult. The stipend was a lump sum of 6 months, but given late, about three months late. There were times when I had to borrow money from my younger sisters who were already working then. My father already retired from work and is merely relying on his pension for his monthly sustenance. Sometimes, I had to borrow from friends. I even applied to teach in a medical transcription school to augment my finances but they wont accept me because I had to be at the hospital during regular office hours, conflict of schedule. What made my training lighter was that all of my mentors were accommodating and approachable, despite their being a national figure in their own subspecialties. I never had difficulty adjusting. They never made me feel I was a stranger. They made me feel I was one of them. Three years passed, finally I graduated.
I wanted to go back home because life in the province was simpler than the complicated lifestyle in Manila. Moreover, I wanted to share back the knowledge I gathered, a “pay-it-forward” act on my part — to my alma mater, to my sponsors during my studies and to my community.
It has been 5 years now since I started my private practice and yes, this is my story. I want to make it big in my practice so I can earn my keep and start a foundation or continue the legacy of my benefactor during my high school years. (I hope you found some inspiration somewhere as you read through my journey.)