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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Of doctors and dreamers: leaving, loving and longing

Time capsule marker of our class, due to be opened in 2030.A recent conversation thread in our class egroup focused on the disturbing phenomenon of healthcare professionals’ migration and the switching of RP medical doctors to the nursing field in the US.

My foray into the conversation began with a rather sour statement (which in hindsight I wish I can take back). I said- Before, I hated people in class who either have plans of leaving the country or who have left the country altogether. Hated. Past tense. But I opted not to belabor the point in our egroup. Rather, I’d just post an entry here to explain my feeling before and my subsequent enlightenment. (Marvin, I hope this suffices.)

I entered medical school believing that all of us doctors should stay in the country. I already told my parents that I want to practice in far flung communities: to my mind then, Basilan was the place to be in. I just warned my mom that, yes, I’d gladly bring her along (she volunteered to be my medical secretary) but she must not diagnose my patients’ problems before I do. Nope she’s not a medical doctor herself, but we all have Dr. Moms in our midst, don’t we? You know what I mean: how our moms would diagnose our aches and pains as simply caused by eating too many mangoes or staying too long under the sun or lamig. But I digress.

To my mind, it was unthinkable to leave the country. What was more unthinkable was that not everyone thought the same way. I maintained this rather myopic view of the medical profession up until third year in medical school when, after a series of enlightening events, I began to fully understand the realities of life in general and the reasons why many doctors (have to) leave the country.

My current view of regarding doctors and migration is summed by the following:

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- we provide excellent training here anyway. But I’ve realized that we don’t have the monopoly of great doctors and clinical material here. Many of the consultants in the PGH did have international exposure and because of them, the excellent training is available. Why should I deprive my classmates and their eventual patients the access to the latest technologies and know-how?

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- we have very many opportunities to earn here anyway. But the stark reality is, doctors in the country- the younger, start-up ones at least- are overworked and underpaid. Contrary to the popular notion regarding medical students, not many are born into moneyed clans. That they begin earning a decent living after medical school is imperative, so it is incumbent upon them to choose career paths that will fill the mind and the belly the soonest time possible. Why should I rob my classmates and their families the right to have a comfortable life by insisting that they stay here?

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines- the need is here and now, especially in distant provinces and lower class municipalities. But becoming privy to some financial matters, alumni (from) abroad do send a whole lot of assistance to the Philippines to and through the College which, circuitous as it may initially seem, eventually benefits the underserved Filipinos through medical-surgical missions, provision of scholarship for the education of community-oriented MD’s-to-be, training of professors, etc. Why should I fast-forward certain process in exchange for pittance when waiting will yield more dividends in the future?

I cannot train them. I cannot provide for their needs. I cannot fulfill their dreams for them. Only they can accomplish these things. They may have the chance to accomplish more if they are let go.

But please, do not forget your fellow Filipinos. Return to the Philippines when you can.

When I speak to medical students, I have a schema through which I challenge them to be better Filipinos.

That they become excellent community doctors in the Philippines.

If that’s not their inclination, may they become excellent clinicians in the Philippines.

If that’s not their plan, may they become excellent doctors abroad.

If that doesn’t pan out, may they become excellent nurses, musician, bankers, housewives, painters, broadcasters, pilots, hospital administrators etc

Yes, let us all be excellent in whatever career path we choose to take WITH THESE FOREMOST IN OUR MINDS:

That we never stop hoping for our country
That we never stop caring for our people
That we demand greatness from ourselves as Filipinos
That we become an inspiration to other people.

In whatever form or capacity, regardless of the prevailing economic and political climate, with or without signs of gratitude from the recipients- we must give back. Let us channel blessings into our country. Let us open doors of opportunities for each other. Let us not just pray with each other but be the answer to each other’s prayers.

Before, I wanted all my classmates to stay in the Philippines; to leave meant betraying our people. But we all have our roles to play. And these roles may not necessarily have to be fulfilled while one is in the Philippines. One does not even have to be a doctor! We just have to maintain and always be mindful of the needs of humanity in general and Filipinos in particular, inspired and guided by the finest example of love and healing given by the Great Physician Jesus Christ.

So, my dear classmates and friends, whatever the language you may find yourselves advising a patient in, whatever the race or species s/he/it whom you are helping belongs to, taking care of them wearing whatever color or type nameplate, please don’t forget the Philippines.

Because we will never forget you.

Our fellow Filipinos are counting on you.

They are counting on us.

I and along with a good number of our classmates are happily holding the fort while you are gone. We eagerly await your return.

SHINE 2005!

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