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I’m Going to be a Doctor

I have always dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and it is the dream that has always kept me motivated and committed to stay in this pursuit. My interest in the field of medicine began when I started volunteering in my church’s community outreach missions and ministries.

I have worked with a lot of people and fellow volunteers from the field of medicine and I have always been fascinated with their stories from their work in the hospitals, clinics, and barangay health centers. I have also realized that I love people⎯ communicating with them and knowing their personal stories, and serving and taking care of them. Throughout my years in college, I held onto this God-given dream in my heart and I was so sure in pursuing medicine. Moreover, it was also this dream that drove me to be competent in my studies and pushed me to always give my best to my patients. My pursuit of becoming a medical doctor was further solidified when I had my internship at the Philippine General Hospital, Physical Therapy Section. I evaluated and treated patients who came all the way from Bicol, Batangas, Laguna, Bulacan, and other provinces. These are far-flung places and the patients had to travel for hours just to receive, if not free, affordable quality PT treatment. Furthermore, their conditions were complicated because they did not have direct contact with a primary physician. I realized that we do indeed have a very fragile healthcare system in this country and I want to be part of the solution to this problem. It was then that I fully decided to become a medical doctor.

I want to become a medical doctor because I know this is what God has called me to do⎯ to serve the underserved in the field of healthcare. It is something that I have always seen myself doing for the rest of my life and it is a burden in my heart that I cannot ignore. I believe it is an honorable ambition and a dream worth-pursuing.

The University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery is the best, the biggest, and the brightest. To pursue medicine in UST has always been a dream of mine since I was still in college. In fact, it is the university that is on top of my list when I started searching for medical schools to apply to. I was mainly inspired by one of the best professors in our department, Dr. Manuel Y. Gayoles, who is an alumnus of the USTFMS. I have personally seen how committed he is in delivering high quality education to his students, how competent he is as a medical doctor and as an educator, and how compassionate he is to his patients and students. He is one of the few people I look up to and he is the kind of medical doctor I aspire to be⎯ capable, reliable, and empathetic. I believe that the University of Santo Tomas played a great part in molding his character and unlocking his full potential as a medical doctor. I believe this institution is the best and the most suitable medical school to train and equip me to become the medical doctor I have always aspired to be and fulfill my life’s mission to serve the Filipino people back in my province in Bacolod.

To have been given the chance to study medicine in the University of Santo Tomas is both an honor and an achievement of a lifetime. As someone who grew up and lived all his life in a small city of a province in the Visayas, it is indeed a life-changing opportunity to pursue medicine in one of the biggest medical schools in the country. I am looking forward to new and exciting personal experiences, to meet, to interact, and to build new relationships with my fellow classmates and scholars, and to learn from them and be inspired by the best and most brilliant professors in the Philippines. With honorable values and principles, outstanding quality medical education, and excellent equipment and facilities, I just cannot wait to start my medical school journey in UST and receive these amazing experiences. I am also excited to meet the Trustees and staff of the Anargyroi Foundation Inc. I will be forever grateful to them for granting me a full medical scholarship through their Regent’s Scholarship Program, which I believe is the biggest opportunity I have ever received in my life. I am sincerely thankful because I get to pursue medicine and study with lesser worries. It means so much to me and my family.

 

By: Takuya Aiuchi, Incoming First Year RSP Scholar

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An Oath to Serve

Whenever we hear our relatives and friends pursuing medicine, most of us envision a life filled with fulfillment and passion. We often celebrate the notion of selflessness and commitment to their profession. As we all know, it takes many years of learning and training to be a doctor and some would add even a decade more to be pioneers of their field.

Fame, glory, and wealth are what we often associate with these pioneers, and sometimes, we tend to overlook the amount of sacrifices they have made to become one.

Photo credit by: MedTalk Episode 114: Advanced Maternal Health. 9 News & Current Affairs

 

Virgilio B. Castro, MD, FPSUO, a UST Graduate of Class 1972- is a Pioneer of Perinatal (maternal-fetal) Medicine. After finishing his further studies in City Hospital Nottingham/King's College, London and Indiana University Center, Indianapolis, USA, he went back to the Philippines to practice as an Obstetrician- Gynecologist/Sonologist. His homecoming was quite “celebrity-like”, from being a plenary speaker in several schools from Luzon to Mindanao, to going on TV guesting, and being the must-see doctor of women experiencing high risk pregnancies and difficulty in conceiving- he truly paved the way in advancing maternal-fetal health in the country.

Then the pandemic hit.

From seeing patients from Mondays to Saturdays, to only seeing them twice a week, this greatly affected his source of income. Not only that, he also contracted the virus.

35 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and four million pesos in bills, his condition was critical.  With a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 6 throughout- they had to call his family thrice to say goodbye to him. His family stood by him each time, for as doctors, they knew that each breath may be his last.

“Lord, pagbigyan mo ako, gusto ko makita ang pamilya ko” he begged, as the train was approaching the bright end on its path. He looked around, and saw his fellow passengers with indistinguishable faces “baka may COVID din sila”. It was only when his stretcher hit the narrow door frame that he regained consciousness.

“Saan na ang Mommy niyo?” he asked his son and daughters upon waking up, since she was also battling with COVID. He was reassured by his children that she only needed to have two negative swab results to be reunited with him.

Dr. Virgilio Castro (in the middle) along with his colleagues

At 73 years old, he continues to practice and serve his patients’ needs. He is currently undergoing physical therapy to regain full body motion, but is slowly improving. He sends his deepest gratitude to all the doctors who have fought with him, as well as the kindness, generosity, and support his family had received during these trying times.

When asked if he has any message for his fellow doctors, he said, “In consonance with our sworn Hippocratic Oath, we are to serve the Filipino people with their medical problems, despite having these risks. One’s sworn oath to help them in a timely matter should be above all else”. As for the incoming students of medicine, “I have a few reservations of course, nothing could replace face-to-face learning. As teachers, we want them to foster patient and doctor relationship- it’s how you become a well-rounded doctor.”

As the pandemic is still raging on, he also expressed that we need to improve our national programs against COVID, especially vaccination, so we can reach herd immunity.

“So, hold-on until we get there and pray earnestly. Nothing is impossible with prayers. Until then, wear your masks, wash your hands, and stay at home- Stay Safe.”

 

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Staying Connected in a Pandemic, As a Med Student

The pandemic has upended how we interacted completely. From how we interact in the office, to a patient consulting with one's doctors, to a teacher to his/her students, even among families and peers. In a time where we are expected to physically distance ourselves from one another, is the same time where we all need to stay socially connected.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed during these times, especially when physical distancing is necessary for our own safety. Increased feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety are expected (1), even if it’s been a year since COVID 19 was announced as a pandemic.

Being a student studying medicine is hard enough- studying in a pandemic? Well, one would ought to believe it’s nearly impossible without the support of others.

Here are some ways of how our scholars have coped a year of being a student in a pandemic:

Game and Movie Nights

“My cousins and I do game nights as our "catch-up" session whenever we are free. Together with the incoming 2nd year scholars, as seen in the picture below, we would do study group sessions to ease the pressure from major exams. Through these, I realized that staying connected is important because it can reduce stress brought about by the uncertainty of this pandemic. Meanwhile, it can also increase our productivity by finding companionship in doing everyday tasks. We may be physically distant but that doesn't mean we can't be emotionally close!” – Elaine Buenaventura, Incoming 2nd Year

“A lot of us for sure have been longing to see our families and friends, missing the fun of hanging out with them at our favorite resto, or chilling out at our favorite go-to place. Indeed, staying connected with them is a real challenge during these unprecedented times. But thankfully, we have today's technology that gives us ways to reach out to our distant family and friends while being physically apart. I personally use both messenger and zoom to keep in touch with my mom who is currently working abroad and with my friends and blockmates. At times, my friends and I would schedule a movie night using online streaming services like Netflix party or Scener that gives us a vibe of watching together in a cinema but virtual. We also tune in to live-streamed concerts and other online events together.” -Danvel Liwag, Incoming 3rd Year 

Reconnecting and Reuniting with Friends and Family

“Last week, my family and I were cleaning our house when I came across the retreat letters given to me by my high school friends. Then I read the letter of one of my best friends in high school and realized that I haven't talked to her in 6 years. I messaged her and after eight hours of catching up, it is as if all those missed years were compressed into one conversation. We reconnected in an instant. It feels nice to know that most of our friends are just one message away. It is only a matter of who takes the first step.

As an extrovert, these times are definitely the hardest, but staying connected with friends is what keeps me sane. We may not be near to each other but I know that I can talk to any of them when I need it, and I think that's the beauty of friendships. It transcends distance between people--to stay close, even when they are far.” –Harvie Barcellano, incoming 3rd year.

“I am fortunate to be living with my maternal grandparents during this pandemic. It has been my home since birth and I only left it briefly when I studied/worked abroad for 3 years. My maternal grandparents have two children - my mother and my uncle. My uncle and his family live in the far south of NCR while we live in the far north area. Indeed, meeting up is a challenge especially that certain lockdowns and protocols are in place. Since the pandemic broke in our country last March 2020, my uncle's family was able to visit us after 6 months. As for my mother, she lives in the eastern part of NCR and is also having difficulties visiting us. Fortunately, my mother and I got scheduled for the first dose of vaccine last 26th of March, 2021. Finally, my mother and I got reunited in the vaccination center and I took her home with me. It's been 11 months since I last saw her and that reunion was very pleasant.” –Nympa Elisa Sia, Incoming 2nd year

Even just our regular catch-ups through calls with friends and family, even simple encouragements like “kaya mo pa yan” or “sandali nalang magiging doctor kana.” means a world of difference. As shared by Remuel Bonifacio, an incoming 2nd year student.  “...especially in this pandemic, they are my support system as I am to them, and they are the ones who would keep me back up when I am overwhelmed and stressed not only in studies but also in life.”

Our relationships sustain us during times of uncertainty and difficulty. Whether we’re introverts or extroverts, humans are social beings and this pandemic, made us aware and reflect on our need for connection.

 

Photos by: Harvie Barcellano, & Elaine Buenaventura

 

 

(1)    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

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Clerkship in the time of COVID

Ever since the announcement of COVID19 as a pandemic last year, every country had put in restrictions to minimize the spread of the disease- both on the international and national scale. In the Philippines, the first community quarantine was announced on March 12, 2020, effective on the midnight of March 15, 2020 to April 14, 2020 (1), which suspended offices and schools alike. With the disruption of face-to face classes due to prolonged lockdowns, schools had to find ways to cope.

However, online classes have been proven to have limitations, especially for those studying in medicine or health-allied courses (2). There was a necessity to open higher education institutions (HEIs) to allow limited face-to-face classes, 1) to enable the students to achieve specific learning outcomes that can only be done in specialized facilities and hospital settings and, 2) to help augment the lack of healthcare professionals (3).

The University of Santo Tomas (UST), along with five other schools, was among of the first schools that have been retrofitted to be safe spaces as it served as a vaccination site for the country’s first wave of vaccination (3). After following stringent health protocols, and approval, UST opened its face-to-face classes for clinical clerks on June 9, 2021 (4).

Of course, there were a number of things that were expected to be different when having your clerkship during a pandemic, as shared by our own Regent’s Scholarship Program recipients:

“Clerkship was definitely the one I'm looking forward to during medical school. It is by this time that we, clerks, will feel like we are actual doctors, taking care of an actual patient. However, because of this pandemic, all of these expectations have changed. Instead of having real patients, we have cases made for a specific condition, then we report the case as a group. Most of our activities were done this way, and somehow, our history taking and physical exam skills were not well developed. Even though our professors had done their best to make this clerkship the best as it could be, there are still some areas that face- to- face clerkship cannot replace.”  Carmela Niña Tormo, Class of ‘21

This is very different because we were not able to face actual patients, which we are all looking forward to, come our 4th year of Medicine. Since the pandemic started, we resorted to online means of learning, which is undeniably far less ideal than what we should have accomplished if we had face- to- face clerkship. However, given the situation, online clerkship is the best way to contribute in helping to lessen the number of cases in the country and continue learning despite the limitations brought about by the pandemic.” Cloie Anne Rabinetas, Class of ‘21

Yet, despite all the challenges they faced during this time, our graduates persevered. Through hardships, doubts and anxieties, many have pushed through with the help and support of their family, friends, fellow students and even professors, as they remained enthusiastic all through-out.

Cloie, like many of her fellow graduates, her experience doing clerkship in a pandemic made her realize several things, but most importantly the need for medical professionals- especially doctors, to rise above what seems to be insurmountable circumstances.

 

Photos by Carmela Tormo

 

(1) Timeline: Covid-19 in the Philippines - SUNSTAR
(2)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40670-021-01231-z
(3)https://ched.gov.ph/24-colleges-universities-approved-to-re-open-for-limited-face-to-face-classes/
(4)https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/790775/ust-s-faculty-of-medicine-starts-limited-face-to-face-classes/story/

 

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USTMAA: UmaALALAY sa Panahon ng Pandemya

The UST Medical Alumni Association  launched its USTMAAalalay program on May 2019. This is an accompanying program of the Alumni which aims to bring together the alumni and  USTFMS’ medical students  through various programs.  ALALAY  is an  acronym  for “Alay, Lingap, Aruga, Lingkod, Akbay , Yakap”.  Various activities have been identified to foster camaraderie,  and a sense of belongingness. Apart from the yearly homecomings the alumni look forward to, USTMAA has initiated activities to let its alumni  and the medical students feel the love of the Tomasinong Manggagagamot. The freshmen are welcomed with a ceremonial pinning of the nameplates during their orientation day.  The Alumni Association has supported the  medical students’ advocacies  and  Welcome walk and baccalaureate activities. Along with the UST FMS Administration, USTMAA has been part of the send-off mass and activities  as the Thomasians take the  Physician Licensure Examinations. Part of the  PLE kit   are  rosaries, pencils, sharpeners and small notes of encouragement dubbed as NAKS ( Notes from  Ates and Kuyas)  from the medical  alumni. Initiated by Class 1986, the El Fuego Tomasino, a  festive bonfire ceremony is held  to welcome  the new Thomasian doctors  and board topnotchers, a week after the PLE result is out.  USTMAA likewise forms a network of referrals for  the doctors as they pursue their medical careers here or in different parts of the world. As part pf providing medical service to the alumni, home visits are also  done  to those  who are  physically incapacitated because of their illness.

To serve or “magLIngkod”, has been one of the foremost objectives of USTMAA. Numerous medical missions and outreach programs are conducted  every year. Under the leadership of Dr. George Co,  portable  sinks have been distributed to partner communities of USTFMS in Navotas.  There is  no stopping to respond to the call. Even the lingering and hovering pandemic and disastrous events as typhoons and floods did not deter the alumni  from extending their helping hand to those in need.  The  COVID 19 Pandemic  has tested the solidarity of the  Thomasian medical alumni. As protective personal equipment were scarce  at the onset of the pandemic,, the TOMASINONG MD LABAN SA COVID 19  (USTMAA TLC)  was conceived. A call to raise funds to purchase PPEs was made on March 15, 2020. The USTMAAA, through Dr. Gerry Flores, immediately organized meetings to heed to the call. Soon enough, donations from Thomasian medical  alumni from different parts of the country and the US, Australia, Guam started pouring in. Students from the different colleges, people from nowhere  called and shared.  Even the different alumni associations, such as the UST Nursing Alumni,  and Engineering Alumni   contributed to the cause. PPEs were purchased  and sent to  healthcare  personnel  in 151 institutions  as far north in Cagayan Valley and down South  in Zamboanga, and Marawi City. Tomasinong manggagamot everywhere donated goggles, face shields, hazmats, gloves, gallons of alcohol. Food packs  and PPEs were  given to the healthcare workers of the UST Hospital. Getting through checkpoints, the USTMAA Board of Directors, and volunteer alumni  distributed   goods to the different hospitals in Luzon. Our Tomasinong MDs could not be more grateful  for the thoughtfulness  and the care.  Boxes of PPEs  were sent to Visayas and Mindanao through the different USTMAA chapters  with the help of Armed Forces of the Philippines. During the pandemic,  several  USTMAA chapters were organized – Palawan  and Quezon Province. At the moment, these  are  the  four  USTMAA chapters: Cebu, Western Visayas, Central Luzon, Olongapo-Zambales-Bataan. It is hoped that other chapters in Baguio and Batangas be reactivated, and other groups launched such as SOCCKSARGEN, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Ilocos  Region  and Isabela-Cagayan valley, Davao and Zamboanga.

 

Recognizing the vital role of protecting the anesthesiologists during intubation at the height of the pandemic, Class 1970  donated a video laryngoscope to the USTH Department of Anesthesia.

 

Paglingap -  to care. Together with 2020 UST Medical Student Council President, John Knight Gulla, USTMAA President Jocelyn Z. Mariano, M.D., and president-elect Jocelyn Myra Caja, M.D. went to the dormitories around UST distributing health care kits to ninety-three medical students, clerks and interns who were stranded and could not go home at the start of the pandemic. To help the Thomasian MDs resume limited face-to-face consultations, the “Balik Klinika, Balik Kalinga “ Project was launched. A starter kit with  face masks, face shield and isolation gown was distributed to the doctors’ clinics. Families of  fallen alumni due to COVID19 were  given  some financial assistance as well.

 

The last quarter of 2020 had USTMAA  gathering its members  through webinars which talked about Loving Thyself  During  the Pandemic The newly installed CEO of the UST Hospital opened the webinar  . Alumni  who recovered from COVId 19 shared their stories. Dr. Fareda Flores, a neuro-psychiatrist based in Cebu, taught the audience how to love oneself.  The November webinar had alumni from different areas of practice  give light on which fields Thomasian medical graduates can get into.  Dr. Patrick Moral talked of getting into residency training in the Philippines while  Dr. Ma. Isabelita Maligaya Estrella shared her  thoughts on government service.  Drs.Lucio Margallo , Ed Cabigao  and Bryan Lo talked on how to get to the US Residency Training program, with highlights of their experience during residency. Dr. Kat Mendoza  delved on her  UK experience in her pediatric residency training journey. Dr. Dina Jose enthused the alumni to go into Research. Dr. Juan Garchitorena shared his experience with the Doctor to the Barrio Program. The December Virtual Concert Original Thomasian Physician Music showed the musicality of the Thomasian doctors. Original compositions sang by  different batches raised funds  for the USTMAAalalay program.

The University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and  Surgery has  indeed nurtured this breed of  committed, competent, and compassionate Thomasian doctors  responding to whatever challenge it faces. The pandemic has not stopped the USTMAA  to give, to share, to love, and to care .

Ang USTMAA: Handang USTMAAalalay sa bawat Tomasinong Manggagamot.

 

Jocelyn  Zamora Mariano, M.D. , Class 1989
President, USTMAA 2020-2021