Daunting Giants

•August 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

To celebrate my 26th birthday, I went out with my med school buddies tonight and ate at CPK Shangri-La. It was also our first time to see each other since the results of the board exams came out a few days ago. One could then imagine the conversations that went on. For all of us, there came a point when the idea of failing the boards became very real. For Angel, it was the Legal Medicine exam. For Byron, it was the Internal Medicine exam. For most of us, it was the Pediatrics exam. I personally thought that all the clinical subjects were difficult (Surgery, IM, Pediatrics, OB-Gyn…). So on the night the results came out, I think there was a collective feeling of relief mixed in with the tremendous joy of knowing that our names were on the list of new physicians. I think no one in our little group will disagree with me when I say that it was an “act of God” that we were able to hurdle the 12 exams. I can’t say this enough: Praise God!

Towards the end of the evening, over coffee, we got to talking about our new responsibilities as licensed physicians. See, as interns or even as clerks, we always had a licensed physician, a consultant or a resident, who had direct supervision over us and who was responsible for signing all the prescriptions and charts. If we didn’t know what to do or what dosage of medicine to give, we had the option of asking. If something untoward happened to the patient, theoretically speaking of course, we would be excused from all legal responsibility since we were just trainees. Now, as licensed physicians in our own right, those “privileges” no longer apply. It’s a scary thought, really. It made me realize that the 4 years I spent in medical school and the 1 year as an intern at The Medical City were inadequate to prepare me for clinical work. I’m sure I’d panic should I be required to captain a code (i.e., CPR in a hospital setting, with all the IV meds and defibrillators). I don’t even know how to compute for dosages of the most basic cardiovascular drugs like dopamine and dobutamine. It becomes even more daunting now that some people come to me and joke about how they can now come and consult me about their medical problems, thinking that I know my stuff. Add that to the fact that now, with the license number I carry (or will carry — it’s still at the PRC), one wrong move and I can potentially be brought to court for it.

I received a letter from Angel’s mom tonight, a congratulatory note. Towards the end of the letter, she quoted Jeremiah 29:11-13: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” It gives me great comfort to know that despite all my imperfections and all my inadequacies, it was the Lord who ordained for me to become a physician. I am confident that this is what I am called by God to do. I only need to trust in His leading and ask for His wisdom. The responsibilities of a physician are truly, truly frightening. It’s like a giant that rises into the air and casts a dark shadow around me. But my God is bigger, He is mightier, and He is wiser. His strength is sufficient for me.

Posted for posterity:

L-R: Jumbo, Anna, Angel, Jeff, Me, Chinky, Ivy, Byron, Donna


•August 15, 2007 • 6 Comments

The much-awaited list of newly-licensed physicians came out tonight. I was on the list. Praise God!

Rumor has it that UST (my medical school) had a 91% passing rate, higher than the passing rates these past few years. We also reportedly got slots 2, 4, and 7 in the Top Ten. No one seems to know who’s in the Magic 10 though. I’m sure the newspapers will publish it tomorrow. I hope my friend got a slot. Hehe.


Post-Board Exam Thoughts: God, the Protagonist

•August 12, 2007 • 1 Comment

After all is said and done, in the end, it was still all about God. The clinical part of the board exams (internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, OB-Gyn) was difficult. It was neither manageable nor very enjoyable. We really had to wring out the last bit of rusty memory we had of lessons learned from medical school and some from our experience in the clinics as clerks and interns. As I took the tests and encountered question after difficult question that seemed so strange and unfamiliar, all I could do was to constantly ask God for wisdom. Should I change my answer in number 39, God? Lord, what on earth does this term mean? This question’s so badly phrased I can’t understand it, Father! Through it all, I felt His hands guiding me. It’s too early to say whether I did well enough to pass. By faith though, I know it. To Him I give back all the praise and glory.

As I think back through the 3 months I spent preparing for the test on 12 very important subjects, I realize now that I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved having to go to Starbucks and read a refresher on Surgery. I loved hi-liting my anatomy and biochem books. I recall with fondness how I ditched Pediatrics for Harry Potter 5. Hehe. Call me a geek but I really enjoyed the experience. But (and it’s a big but) I only mean to experience it once in my entire life. It won’t be fun the second time around.
As for reviewing, the last 2 weeks have been the most enjoyable for me. I was bunked in with a few friends from medical school at our apartment in Manila. The presence of friends really helped in diffusing the immense pressure that any big test can bring. We answered the sample examinations together and shared memory aids and mnemonics. While I learned a lot from our study sessions, it wasn’t what I found most important. I realized that stressors like the board exams can make you see some of the best and worst things about other people and about yourself and you find it completely acceptable, even endearing. I don’t think there will ever be a time again in my life that I’ll experience friendship the way I experienced it these past 2 weeks … the waking up early and cooking breakfast or the morning coffee, eating together, getting irked at coffee spills on the counter (hehe), very trivial things that don’t really matter in the big picture but are important anyway.

Above is probably the last photo my friends and I will have as “would-be” doctors (L-R: Jeff, Angel, Byron, Ivy, Not in photo: Anna P. and Chinky L.). In a few days, we’ll know our fates when the results of the board exams come out. No one really knows what will come next. The only sure thing is that there will be a definite parting of ways. Most of us are looking to go abroad. I’m going to start preparations for the USMLE, which may lead me to live in America for several years. Angel and Jeff are going to work and are looking at Australia as a possible new home. Byron and Ivy are taking the USMLE too, but at a different schedule from mine. Anna’s headed to a residency training in Ophthalmology (or maybe MLE too?). Maybe we’ll get to spend time as a group again but the time when we were all students and of one goal (to pass exams and get through med school in one piece) has passed. In the coming weeks, future goals will be laid out and plans made. I’ll definitely miss medical school then. But the nice thing about it is that we’ll get to see each other’s futures unfold and we’ll each be part of the others’ lives.

Last thought. My medical school friends and I have started talking about moonlighting and getting jobs for some time before heading to the pressure-cooker training positions as residents. Then I realized that to go through medicine and medical school really is like having extended adolescence (it’s a medical fact). The issues we’re currently facing (i.e., get a job or bum around for awhile? which job to take?) were issues that my high school and college contemporaries have faced 4 or 5 years ago. Here we are, (almost) newly minted physicians in our mid-twenties thinking about getting our first real job. It’s funny, really.

Plans for the immediate future:
1. Tonight, start reading Harry Potter 7.
2. Tomorrow, get back to the gym.
3. Spend a whole afternoon sometime this week at the new Fully Booked branch at The Fort just browsing their precious books and probably buy myself a moleskin for my birthday.

I’ve gone that far into thinking ahead about my future. There’s plenty of time for thinking later: I’m officially a bum.

Now, excuse me while I finally crack open Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s gathering dust on my shelf.

"Enjoying" "Manageable" Exams

•August 4, 2007 • 5 Comments

“The final end product of glycolysis in anaerobic tissues is …”

Those were the first few words that greeted me as I skimmed the first of 12 examinations I would be taking in the next 2 weekends.  I sat for 3 exams today: Biochemistry, Anatomy & Histology, and Microbiology.  I’m scheduled to take Physiology, Legal Medicine & Medical Jurisprudence, and Pathology tomorrow.  I won’t say that the tests today were very tough but they weren’t easy either.  When people ask me how the exams today went, my standard answer is that “it was manageable.”  I pray that it will be “manageable” tomorrow too.
I received the best advice on taking the board exams this afternoon, while on lunch break.  A good friend of mine said that I should “enjoy” it.  I will (hopefully) go through this experience only once in my lifetime so I might as well enjoy every minute of it as I answer the questions.  It seems like excellent advice, no matter how oxymoronic it sounds to put “examinations” and “enjoyment” in the same sentence.  Were it not for the fact that I was very sleepy during the last exam in the afternoon, I would have tried to “enjoy” answering the Microbio test.  Also, my friend who gave the advice was ranked number 1 when her PT board exam results came out a few years ago.  Tough feat to beat (not that I’m attempting to).  It also explains how she can “enjoy” answering questions on subjects she knew so well.  But it really won’t hurt to try this “enjoy” thing.  God, after all, is doing all the driving this time and I derive pleasure from the thought that He has things under His total control.
Anyway, I don’t want to do any more studying tonight.  It’s either I sleep early or if I can’t, I’ll watch one of the DVDs here at home.  But I definitely won’t do any more studying this weekend.

13 days to go …

•July 30, 2007 • 1 Comment

… before i can crack this book open. Our british-print copy of HP7 arrived last night. I cheated and already read the first two chapters. Nice. 😉
Five days to go before we take the medical board exams. Getting just a little anxious but I’m generally calm and at peace. God will see me through this. Five of my med school buddies will bunk in at the apartment. We’re going to attempt to cram as much info our overloaded and tired brains could handle. I don’t get tired of saying this: I can’t wait to get this over with.

So near yet so far

•July 22, 2007 • 5 Comments

I dare not touch this magnificent book until after august 12. I don’t even read anything on the net about it. I really can’t wait until these blasted exams are over. Roughly 3 more weeks to go.

Staple Food

•July 9, 2007 • 5 Comments

Another quick entry via Benjamin, my trusty phone. I’m getting a bit sick of all this studying that I’m doing. Coffee, the wonderful juice extracted from the dark brown substance pictured above, has become a regular part of my diet these days. It is not unlike my med school days, only then, I wasn’t pressured much to study. I really wish August had come and gone, and the board exam is but a distant memory, a wisp of a dream. It’s not so much that I’m scared of taking the test. I realized God has been giving me extraordinary peace for this. Rather, it is the fact that I hav to endure waiting for August to come, like an axe hanging over my head. It is less than a month before the 4 big days. I’ve never been more excited to celebrate my birthday. Because then, this would all be over and I can really start to pursue my dreams.