A Letter to My Students

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.

Sir Ronibats and ASMPH 2014

Sir Ronibats and ASMPH 2014

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 your self 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.

(signed)
Ronnie Enriquez Baticulon, MD
“Sir Ronibats”
01 December 2009
Manila

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23 comments

  1. wow, i’m so glad to have stumbled upon this. i’m a 2nd year law student, currently in the midst of a mid-postgrad crisis/meltdown. we may be in different fields, but everything you said rang so true. it’s so difficult, and stressful, and it’s overwhelming to realize that on most days, even our biggest dream can be our worst enemy. but it’s professors like you who make me believe that indeed there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to be patient and work hard until we get there. this is exactly the kind of motivation i need to push myself and brave through whatever obstacles the study of law will bring. thank you so much.

    • Thanks, Klarissa! I hope everything turns out well in the end. Not wishing for good luck, but peace of mind.

  2. Sana lahat ng teacher katulad mo. For sure lahat ng studnts mong nakabasa non namov at nainspire ng sobra. Baka nga meron sa kanila na nahihirapan at nagiisip nang idrop ang med school but found new vigor to continue dahil lang sa letter mo. As a team leader sa isang call center, I feel challenged to be able to inspire my agents as well the way you do. Pls continue writing so you can continue inspiring all your readers! :D

  3. I wish more people were like you. You’re definitely one of the few people I’ve stumbled upon who are so obviously oozing with passion for what they do.

    I just want to let you know that you inspire me, Sir Ronibats! :)

  4. you make me want to go back to school! … med school, to be honest with myself!!!
    am passing this on to my sister who has a few more months to complete residency.
    thank you for the inspiration, dr. ronibats!

  5. pwede ba kong ma-touch? ang swerte nila sayo at ikaw sa kanila :) thank you sa post mo na to :) na-inspire na naman ako sa trabaho ko

    • Thanks Mots! Great illustrations on your site. Pwedeng-pwedeng pang wall graffiti for a Pedia clinic. Hehe. :)

  6. I was so inspired sir :) and i agree that even people from different fields can very much relate to this. Thank God for teachers like you :)

  7. Bjorn Molinyawe

    Bai, whatever it is that you are going through, ‘Don’t quit’. Gather strength from our barugan days. Can it be possibly worse than that? hehe Good luck.

    • Bai salamat! Medyo sunud-sunod lang ang problematic patients. Nakakapagod din kasi. Sana matapos na. Hehe.

  8. Just what I needed Doc now that we are on our last lap. Early on fatigue minutely making its presence felt but I know that yours and our common dream is only a few nights away. Here’s to us Doc Ron! see you soon!

  9. ‘Never settle for anything less. The greatest injustice you can do to your self is to be mediocre.’ -really inspiring sir. I hope to meet you in person one day. :)

  10. Thanks Doc for sharing your stories.. Very inspiring and uplifting. Hopefully, I will meet you as a colleague in the future. :)

  11. hi doc! sobrang bait mo po .., sana hindi po kayo mgbago at balang araw pag nging clinical instructor kita the same ka pa rin po na mabait at understanding sa lahat.. I am so much sure na maraming na kaka appreciate sa mga mgagandang aral at kabutihan na ipinababahagi mo sa lahat ng mga tao na nakikilala mo….

    • Hi Cathy! Just trying to be good. If we do meet in the future, don’t forget to introduce yourself. ;)

  12. Hi Dr. Ron! I just finished the law school last March. But though I have already overcome the struggles in the law school, still I am afraid to FAIL, too afraid…
    But thank you for saying those things. It inspires me, truly.

  13. I feel so inspired with your entries, Doc. :) I am a Nursing student graduating this March. I’m in the midst of deciding whether or not I should pursue medicine after. Nursing school was hard and i know that Med School would be harder, it scares me some times but each time i read your stories, i feel so determined to go on and i always end up saying to myself “this is the doctor i would want to become” :)

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