Nov 15

The Pursuit of Excellence

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was requested to write this essay for the 15 November 2015 edition of Manila Bulletin’s Panorama magazine. To my disappointment, the editor heavily revised the submission and had sent the edited article to the printers before I was able to review the changes. This version is my preferred text and retains much more of the original’s style and content.

As a student, I was the stereotypical academic achiever. “Consistent honor pupil” was how family members would invariably introduce me to acquaintances then, and how most of my former teachers would remember me now. At the end of each academic year, it was no surprise to my parents receiving a letter from my school, inviting them to bestow medals upon the eldest of their five children.

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Dec 14

On Graduating from Residency Training in Philippine General Hospital

Dr. Aida Salonga and other guests of honor, Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim and consultants of the Sections of Adult Neurology, Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery, alumni of the Department of Neurosciences, parents, co-residents, medical students, and guests, good evening.

What common experience binds all of us doctors here tonight? I thought about this and realized that aside from Emergency Medicine, no other specialty confronts the fragility of human life head on like the Neurosciences. Continue reading →

Jun 14

The Cost of a Life

I propped myself against her husband’s empty hospital bed as Ofelia Reyes remained seated on the plastic monobloc chair next to it, both hands kneading self-pity and frustration on her lap — repeatedly, pointlessly, helplessly — as she narrated the events that left her shaken, robbed of what little money and hope their family had had left. Her husband’s operation went well, I had just told her, but even with eyes averted, she could not keep herself from crying as we spoke. Continue reading →

May 14

On Operating with and Aspiring to be an Expert

In February of this year, I had the rare opportunity to assist a world-renowned neurosurgeon as he clipped three intracranial aneurysms in a patient on the same sitting. Dr. Michael T. Lawton led his medical team from Mission BRAIN Foundation on a three-day visit to Philippine General Hospital, to give lectures and workshops for Filipino neurosurgeons and nurses, and to demonstrate surgical techniques on different neurovascular cases.  Continue reading →

Mar 14

Ang Pinakamahalagang Tanong Tuwing Check-Up

“Anong kuwento mo sa akin ngayon?”

“Ga-graduate na po ako, Dok. Sa wakas.”

“Talaga? Anong course mo?”

“Marketing po.” Continue reading →

Feb 14

The Doctor Goes to Court

It was a cramped courtroom, filled with wooden tables and benches that appeared much older and heavier than me. I suppose the weight was intentional, to prevent any plaintiff or defendant from hurling any of the benches in a moment of outrage.

I had been served a subpoena to testify in a case of frustrated murder. The plaintiff was a patient I operated on three years earlier and it was my first time to perform my civic duty as expert witness. I picked a seat in the middle of the first row. Continue reading →

Jan 14

In Transit

This is the beginning of the end.

2014 is the year I expect to finish training as a neurosurgeon. Except for 2009, when I taught in medical school and practiced general medicine, I have spent most of my waking hours from June 2001 until today in this government-run university-hospital complex. That is 12 of the last 13 years.

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Nov 13

After the Storm: Yolanda in the Eyes of Doctors to the Barrios

While I sat in front of the TV in the comfort of my apartment as Yolanda (Haiyan) unleashed her fury in Central Visayas, these doctors to the barrios (DTTBs) decided to stay at the forefront instead of going back home when the super typhoon hit their respective municipalities.

Rather than point fingers and waste time ranting on what should have and could have been done, allow me to share the first-hand stories of my colleagues, so that the Filipino medical community and the rest of the nation can focus all effort instead on what can be done right here and right now, to create meaningful impact on the people who have been hardest hit by this catastrophe. Continue reading →