On December 2nd of 2009, after having spent the last six months being a part-time teacher in Anatomy and Histology lab, I served as exam proctor for the first year medical students of ASMPH one last time. In a month, I would begin my residency training in Neurosurgery.
It was my job to assign rest stations for the move-type exam. In one of the rest stations, I put a box containing sealed envelopes for each of my students. “Get one. Open after the exam,” the instructions on the station said. Inside each envelope were a copy of Gusto Kong Maging Doktor Dahil, and a letter, that I am posting in full below.
My first year medical students then are now interns, and I am struggling with what is turning out to be my most difficult year in residency training. I was looking for inspiration, and I found this.
To my dear ASMPH 2014 students,
The hardest part of being a young teacher fresh out of medical school is earning the respect of students. What I lacked in experience, I had to compensate with a wider grasp of basic sciences. It wasn’t enough to just “know” either. I had to know the subject well enough to be able to help you understand concepts that the lazy mind would simply memorize.
You may not have realized it, but it took me a lot of hard work, guts, and a two-hour commute to your school (and back) to teach your class. Six months after I first walked into your classroom with F4 long hair, I would say it was all worth it.
Beyond perfunctory reverence accorded to a teacher, you have shown a palpable eagerness to learn. You asked questions, you sought answers, and we challenged one another’s responses. The “Hi Sir!” when you greet me in campus, the smile of satisfaction when you expose the most sought after nerve or vessel, the shout of triumph when you correctly identify a structure I focus on under the microscope–at least I knew you were glad to be present in class. I would say that more than half of you had enthusiasm that I never had as an Anatomy/Histology student back in 2003.
I can only reciprocate by teaching you, the best way I know how.
I deeply regret that I will not see you through first year, but I can tell you now that I leave your class knowing that the most fulfilling days of “the year I had long hair” were spent in the classroom. Because of you, I am more certain that no matter what path I may take as a physician, I would want to continue teaching.
I certainly look forward to seeing all of you again in 2014, no longer as a teacher and his students, but a neurosurgeon and his colleagues. Five years may seem a long time amidst your exams, presentations, and written reports. You will face a lot more trials and you will repeatedly question yourself why you wanted to be a doctor in the first place.
Don’t hurry. Med school is fast enough as it is. Take your time, and have fun while you can. I only have this advice to give:
First, never settle for anything less. The greatest injustice you can do to yourself is to be mediocre. Do your best, even if you have to make a lot of sacrifices, even if you’re afraid of failing, even if people discourage you and say otherwise. When you know that you have done all that you can, there will be no room for regret, shame, anger, humiliation, and frustration, no matter what.
And second, stay honest. Integrity is paramount to the practice of medicine. There is no point in cheating in med school. In real life, if you don’t know the answer at the precise moment, with no one (and no kodigo) to turn to, you might have just failed to save a life. You owe it to your self and to your future patients to study well.
Thank you for allowing me to become your teacher, mentor, “idol,” brother, and friend. You know that I love you all. You will be missed, class.
Good luck and goodbye.
01 December 2009