Monday, March 30, 2009

The Blog Rounds: A Call for Articles

It was almost a year ago when Doc Ness and I bumped into each other at the SUMC second floor nurses' station, and she invited me to participate in The Blog Rounds. She was then hosting a summer-themed TBR, and I promised her I would contribute if I could think if something interesting. (I couldn't. Hehe. Or maybe I was just too caught up in the whirlwind that usually surrounds one's last days of PGI.)

Doc Ness and Brian are the only two TBR contributors whom I know personally. Now that it's my turn to host an edition of TBR, I thought it might be a good idea if we could get to know each other a bit more.

Pretend we're putting together a book entitled:

TBR MD's: Their Lives and Letters

(It's a boring title, I admit. Hehe. I'll think of something else later.)

Lives. Put in anything you want that would give us an idea of what it's like to be you. Where is your hometown? (And what would you advise us to do if we were going there this summer?) Do you come from a big family or a small family? Are you married? Do you have kids? What was your pre-med? (Why?) What is your favorite memory from med school / internship / residency? Do you remember your first mortality? What do you do right now? Are you still training, are you teaching, do you have a clinic? What do you do (or would like to do) in your down time? If you weren't a doctor, what would you rather be? Feel free to include as many or as few details about your life as you want.

Letters. The questions for this part are more specific. First, which writers influence/d you the most? (Their influence could be on your writing style or on your life as a whole.) Next, which three (or five...or ten, for those who absolutely can't choose) books would you want the rest of us to read? Third, name three blogs (apart from those of fellow TBR docs, so we won't get into the whole i-pat-your-back-you-pat-mine routine) that you regularly visit. Finally, since this is a book -- an imaginary one, but you never know -- about YOU, name (and provide links to) 7 blog posts by YOU which you would want included in a compilation of your works.

Deadline for submission is April 7, 2009. Please leave a link to your contribution in the comments section of this post, or email me at Thanks!

Friday, March 27, 2009

support earth hour!

If you're living in the Philippines (or, actually, as I just found out from their website, wherever you live, as long as you're on this planet), Earth Hour is from 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM.
(I know the whole thing's related to global warming and not giraffes, but I couldn't resist this photo by kath79 when I opened the SXC website.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the doctor look

Being a doctor is hard enough, but looking like a doctor, I've found, is potentially as tricky.

The dilemma isn't mere vanity. To effect a cure, you have to make patients believe they can be cured. You have to make them believe in you, and, believe me, it's hard to do that if you look scruffier than they do.

A smock helps -- especially the long-sleeved, knee-length variety, which I haven't got -- but I obviously can't wear one all the time. Height would have helped too, but I haven't got that either, and I will probably never master the art of wearing three-inch heels. Big earrings and pearl necklaces? Assuming that I can actually afford them, I still don't have a burning desire to be mugged, thank you very much.

Some people achieve the "doctor look" effortlessly. (Brian and Pura come to mind.) My efforts are so far being met with varying success. I purchased pinstripe pants but had a hard time matching it with the blouses in my closet. (Maybe because I have less than five.) I tried wearing it with a T-shirt -- I have a whole lot of them -- but ended up looking like a promo girl. (I have nothing against promo girls, but I just don't think that particular look would work.) Pinstripe pants would obviously go well with a crisp white shirt and a matching blazer, but I kind of don't want to look like an office girl either.

The solution to all my wardrobe woes would be knits.

(That is my current theory, and it hasn't had a chance to be disproved because knits are expensive and so I haven't been able to stock up on them.)

Ironically, the one item in my wardrobe that's steadily proving to be a success -- one nurse told me I looked like I'd recently been shopping in Loalde, and a rep said, "Hello doctora!" even if she had no idea who I was -- is a gray dress I bought the year before last at an ukay-ukay in Sibulan. Go figure.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Plantation Bay in the dim dawn light.

It was at the end of this pier that I patiently waited for sunup.

When it finally rose, I snapped away.

(For some reason, a lot of photographers include in a description of their photos what type of camera they used. If anyone's interested, these shots were taken with a Canon S5 IS -- a point-and-shoot that my father bought in Quiapo at 75% of its price here in Cebu. I haven't got the faintest idea about exposures and all that sort of stuff, so Canon's pre-set shooting modes are perfect for me. And it's got the LCD that swivels so that you can take a decent self-portrait. Hehe.)

And another day begins at Plantation Bay...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

sun rise

Yesterday I realized that I have never actually watched the sun rise. I don't mean a sunrise, in general. One set of windows in my bedroom faces east, but all I ever really see is the clouds changing colors, and I don't mean that. Yesterday, I got to watch the sun as it rose from its slumber beyond the dark eastern horizon.

Galapagos beach, Plantation Bay, Mactan Island, Cebu

We are taught in school that the sun is a star, a heavenly body made mostly of hydrogen and helium, and that the light by which we see our surroundings emanates from it, 93 million miles away. But yesterday was the first time that I saw it for myself, saw the sun for what it is and always has been.

How many other important things in our life do we take for granted?

Monday, March 16, 2009

the strike

First of all, I'm a savvy jeepney rider. I've got a talent for approaching an oncoming jeepney, at a certain angle, with just the right amount of striding and scurrying, in such a way that I'm first (or at worst third) in line to board the jeepney after the disembarking passengers have stepped off. It's hardly something to brag about, and it's not an earth-shattering talent. It does come in handy when I'm riding a jeepney with friends -- I do my thing, box out the other passengers, let my friends get in first, and then get in myself. It also comes in handy when there's a transport strike, and there are a lot of passengers willing to wrestle with each other to win the empty space in the rare jeepney that comes along.

There was a transport strike today, but I somehow didn't have the heart to use my talent this time.

(All right, so it's not a talent. I'm just a hustler by nature.)

There was a crowd of people at the 13C jeepney stop in Ayala when I got off work. I was still in the process of crossing the road when the first jeepney came by. Five to ten minutes pass before we catch sight of another jeepney approaching. I stride and scurry and hustle, and I'm at the mouth of the jeepney. Two passengers get off. I let the small woman on my left get in first. (I don't know why I did that. Maybe because she was small.) Simultaneously, the guy on my right pushed his way in. Great! I got beaten to two seats because I was more of a gentleman than was an actual man.

Another three minutes go by. A jeepney is again sighted and everyone moves toward it. I find myself at the jeepney's entrance again. Determined this time not to be a gentleman, I hold on to the iron bars beside the entrance to box everyone out. I was about to step inside when an older woman actually pushes me aside! As in pushes me. Unfortunately, it wasn't a basketball game, and there was no referee to call a foul.

And, actually, ordinarily, I would have pushed back, and I would have managed to get inside first through sheer robo-robo. Hehe.

But, like I said, I just didn't have the heart to hustle(-to-the-max) this afternoon. I chuckled, let the older woman get in unmolested, and figured, "What the heck, I just received my paycheck, I might as well take a cab." (Which would have been the first thing that would occur to a person who hears there's a transport strike and sees a horde of people waiting for a jeepney. But I really like riding jeepneys better than I like riding cabs. Anyway.)

Just as I was about to do the sensible thing and hail a cab, what should come rolling by but a huge blue-and-white Kaohshiung bus.

(Kaohshiung buses, for those of you who aren't from Cebu, are non-aircon buses owned by the City, which the government uses to get people stranded during transport strikes home, and which they otherwise lend/rent out to groups going on road trips. At its sides, a painted sign proclaims, "Children ride free on the Kaohshiung bus." But when there are transport strikes, everyone rides free on the Kaohshiung bus.)

A cheer escapes from the lips of a lot of the people at the 13C jeepney stop. I'm first in line again, and this time I am actually able to get in. I find myself a comfortable aisle seat. Other passengers fill up the remaining seats, and some cheerfully stand on the aisle. I call Aivan on the phone and, laughing, I assure him I got a [free] ride on the Kaohshiung. Upbeat chatter could be heard all around me. When one passenger wants to get off, everyone helps him or her shout to the driver, "Lugar lang!" As we speed by, night slowly falls, and the lights in the houses along the street start to go on. I enjoy the [somewhat dusty] wind in my face and I gaze contentedly around the full, noisy, non-aircon bus.

Maybe I let that small woman get in first for a reason. Maybe it was no accident that I didn't push back at that older woman. Maybe it sometimes takes a transport strike to remind me that the best things in life are still free.

(Including talents. Hehehe!)

Monday, March 9, 2009

tips for medical graduates and young doctors

1. Don't panic. The rest of the advice in this article can be taken in whichever order you want, except this one. The desire to earn, the pressure to fulfill expectations, the race for slots, the urge to do something [dammit!] -- those irresistible forces of nature are hardly fertile ground for coming to a decision. You actually should have started doing some thinking before applying for medical school but that was years ago and this is now. Get over it. A couple of days more won't matter. The very worst thing you can do is to rush headlong into a randomly chosen path with eyes shut.

2. You always have a choice. Always. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. For example, you may be all set to embark on your medical career when you suddenly realize that you don't really want to be a doctor. It's sad, but you know what's sadder? Being 50 years old and suddenly realizing that you don't really want to be a doctor. Life's too short. (At least this one is.)

3. So you really want to be a doctor. Great. Why? If you haven't answered that question yet, now's as good a time as any. WHY. DID. YOU. BECOME. A. DOCTOR? It's a question worth answering because your motives are very good sign posts.

If you're in it for the money (and a lot of people are), go into something that will bring you a lot of money. There will always be people giving birth. Consequently, there will always be kids. OB or Pedia should do the trick. Or look for diseases that are on the rise, and specialize in that. If you plan to practice in an area where there aren't a barrage of doctors, find a specialty no one's gone into yet.

If you're in it because you want to serve your people, good for you. There will always be scoffers. Ignore them. Your motives are beyond the reach of their minds. I'm proud to know people who truly have a heart for service and are proving it by joining Doctors to the Barrios or by practicing in communities where the patients pay them with bananas.

I'm one of those people who unshakeably and to my dying day will believe that being a doctor is a calling. (Unless you really weren't called, hehe!) I believe this in the same way that I believe I am called to be a good daughter, and a good sister, and a good friend, and a good wife and mother some day. And I have faith that "all things will work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose."

4. We were trained to come up with differentials. Do it! What can you rule out for certain? There are many reasons for ruling a particular line of work out. For example, as my friends very well know, I haven't the slightest aptitude for surgery. I am ambivalent about kids but I am certain that OA moms annoy me. (Sorry, moms. I do understand you. Theoretically. But of course your kids will cry. Those are needles. Of course they hurt.) OB is a happy specialty but the hours are crummy.

5. Stereotypes schmereotypes. Don't believe any of it. I used to think the ones who have clear goals, and who really want to be doctors, and who are intelligent enough, go into training right away. The ones who moonlight are the ones who have no clear purpose in life or who are after the money. Oh, and the really ambitious ones take the USMLE. Forget all of that. You know what, for a lot of people, in a lot of cases, those stereotypes are true. But don't let your options become limited just because you have always been conditioned to think a certain way about certain people. Once you get rid of your biases, possibilities pour in like sunlight through a newly-washed window.

6. Have a vision. What do you want your schedule to be like, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years from now? This is really what helped me decide on what I want to do and how I'm going to go about doing it. (As I've already published my "manifesto," I'm not gonna go over all of that again.)

7. Have a plan. If Plan A doesn't work, you've still got the rest of the alphabet. If you see yourself being a consultant and doing rounds and making really sick people really well again, there's only one way to be able to do that, and that's through residency training. And, remember, part of having a plan means knowing and preparing for the potential pitfalls. You've decided to go into residency. It will be hell. There will be times that you will want to quit. You will miss meals, you will have no sleep, you will do your best and it still might not be enough. You will cry. But at the end of it is the kind of learning that you can't get anywhere else.

(This is dedicated to Brian, Neil Wayne, Chatie and all my suffering friends. Hehe! My own plan, fortunately, is different.)

8. Don't make decisions based on salary alone. Basta. You'll see. :-)

(This is dedicated to my friends who just passed the board and are being blinded by the big salaries offered in Jupiter... Huh?...Oh! I thought that town was in another planet. My mistake.)

Seriously, guys. You'll see. There's more to life.

9. Watch your head. Don't let it grow big.

10. Love your work and it will love you back. Naks!

This is my contribution to The Blog Rounds hosted by Dr. Gigi at The Last Song Syndrome.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

wet blankets

I am not usually "existentialist."

[Even though I did write a post entitled "What is the purpose of life?" Hey, I have my moments! :-) Seriously, though...]

I usually marvel at how much energy some people can pour into thinking about the meaning of life, and whether there is a God, and whose church is better, and all that, because -- I think I've said this before -- these are questions that I honestly think will only be settled once we're dead and we've got no choice but to see the truth no matter how much it hurts. Of course, this philosophy only betrays what I myself believe: that there is life after death, that there is meaning in the universe, and that there is a God.

I'm not usually existentialist, but I can be a right Puddleglum sometimes. Even the wettest blankets (read the Wikipedia article), however, can have hidden wells of wisdom, and here's a sampling of Puddleglum's, courtesy of Mr. Lewis:

Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, "There is no sun." And they all said nothing. She repeated, in a softer and deeper voice. "There is no sun." After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together, "You are right. There is no sun." It was such a relief to give in and say it.

"There never was a sun," said the Witch.

"No. There never was a sun," said the Prince, and the March-wiggle, and the children.

Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, Prince Rilian, and the children (Jill and Eustace) were in Underland, miles below the surface of the the earth, and the Witch was trying to prevent them from escaping by convincing them that there never was an Overworld -- no Narnia, no Aslan.

The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half-closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once.

First, the sweet heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes.

Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, "What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire inside your veins."

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things -- trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland."

Sometimes life will seem like a black pit. And sometimes you ask "Where is the sun?" so much that you eventually think "There never was a sun." Life will sometimes feel like that, but especially in those times, it is important to hold on to what we know and believe. And sometimes it will take a bit of pain to remind us that there is more to life than just the darkness.

Friday, March 6, 2009

what is the purpose of life?

Does it sometimes feel like life is nothing but the slow march towards death?
How utterly desperate one should feel if one still had eighty years more to live and absolutely nothing to look forward to.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A doctor someone who will never have to buy his own ballpen.