Noong 2016, matapos kong ipasa ang manuscript ng aking libro sa unang publishing house na sinubukan kong pagpasahan, hiningan ako ng mga kuwentong katatawanan mula sa med school upang mabalanse ang mga mabibigat na istorya mula sa residency training. Heto ang anim na kuwentong nahalungkat ko mula sa blog ko noong ako ay medical student pa. Wala ito sa librong ilalabas ng U.P. Press sa susunod na taon. Ito ay para sa lahat ng med student na kasalukuyang nahihirapan subalit patuloy na umaasa at hindi sumusuko sa laban.
Not a lot of people know that many years before I became a doctor, I was a patient first.
It was a month after my high school graduation and the euphoria of getting accepted into UP College of Medicine’s INTARMED program had not yet subsided. I spent whole days wondering about, dreaming of, and planning the next seven years that would lead to the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I was excited to meet new friends who would come from all over the country. For sure, they must be just as I excited as I had been to dress in white, hold a scalpel, and learn how to use a stethoscope.
I struggled during my first two years of medical school in the University of the Philippines (UP). This I can say only in retrospect, not because of a lack of awareness at that time, but more so because I refused to acknowledge how I felt. I thought I was OK. I wanted to believe I was OK. Many years later, as a doctor and teacher at the same medical school, I can say I wasn’t.
It was Saturday morning, and by force of habit, I woke up early even though I had nothing scheduled for the day. It was the end of my second week in private practice. Lying in bed, staring at the circular lamp set on a deep blue background which is my bedroom ceiling—meant to simulate a full moon on a starless night sky—I wondered if I had made the correct decisions thus far.
Sa taun-taong pagtuturo ko ng biochemistry sa mga medical student na nagre-review para sa Physician Licensure Exam, nakagawian na ng mga estudyante kong magpatasa ng lapis sa huling araw ng klase. Diumano, upang makapasa, kailangan mong magpatasa ng lapis sa isang lisensyadong doktor na nakalampas na sa board exam.
We need to talk about doctor shaming on social media. This month alone, I have seen three separate posts in which a patient’s watcher, presumably a relative, snaps a photo of the involved physician or intern, and then posts the image on Facebook with either a disgruntled remark or an agonizing narrative. The post invariably generates commiseration in the form of likes and comments, only a few of which could be considered constructive, some even bordering on harassment and libel.
It was elective surgery day and I was the pediatric neurosurgery fellow assigned to the operating theater. After scrubbing my arms and hands with antiseptic in the anteroom that served as our washing area, I walked into the operating room with both arms held up in front and politely requested a sterile towel from the scrub nurse. From across the room, it was our head nurse Shelley who noticed the grazes on both of my forearms.
“Oh, what happened to you Ron?” her tone filled with concern as if I were her own son.
“I got into a fight in a bar over the weekend,” I said with as much seriousness I could muster while patting myself dry.
Earlier this week, a medical intern’s photo of the emergency department of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) circulated online. It showed the triage area filled to the brim, packed with patients lying on bare metal stretchers, fazed watchers, and not surprisingly, only a handful medical personnel. Because of a change in the start of the academic year, the student workforce had been reduced to a third of its usual number. “Madness. We need help. (Crying emoji)” part of the caption read.