2016: A Review

DISCLAIMER: Photos of celebrities are not mine. Credits to the owners.

Waking up on the last day of 2016, at least in this part of the world, at noon, gives me but 12 hours (or less at time that this post is… well… posted) to reflect on the highs and lows of the year. This may be enough time for most people to just give a one sentence summary of their 2016, but not me; this year has been good to me, and I will take you by the hand and take you back to the best parts of the year, some bad parts that are far and in between, and you will know why this has been my year.

Let’s start off with the obvious bad parts of the year, though it may not have affected my life directly, these personalities were a big part of my childhood that I can’t go unaffected by their deaths. I am, of course, talking about the celebrity deaths. Now deaths are never nice, no matter the person, no matter the time, and I felt that it was such a bad coincidence that their time came up in 2016 giving 2016 such a bad rap. The deaths that hit me hard were that of John Glenn, Mercury 7 astronaut; I am an avid fan of anything to do with space and the early 60s space race that led up to the Apollo missions and landing on the moon were of my favorite in science history. John Glenn and the rest of the Mercury astronauts paved the way for NASA and all other space agencies we know today and the science of space travel we know today. And like his flight before launch, God Speed… John Glenn.

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Next on my list is David Bowie; being a fan of the rock scene from 50s-90s, it is no surprise that I am gutted by his death. I in particular love his songs Life on Mars, Rebel Rebel, Starman, Heroes, and The Man Who Sold the World. You may ask me why Space Oddity is not in the list, if you know well enough, I tend to not like songs that become too mainstream. His style of music and fashion for his time was definitely ahead of his time. So influential that he influenced my all time favorite band, The Cure, to come into fruition. You are now one with the stars, Mr. Ziggy Stardust.

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Alan Rickman makes the list not for his contributions in the Harry Potter movies, but for my personal favorite movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff. He definitely cut our hearts out with a spoon.

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Florence Henderson, now of course I wasn’t born yet in the original run of the Brady Bunch, I did catch a lot of the reruns and I remember watching them almost daily with my mom in the afternoons when I was younger. We honestly need more shows like the Brady Bunch again that shows family values, and having Florence Henderson as Mrs. Brady is perfect as she portrayed a mother to us all giving us wisdom.

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Erik Bauersfeld, the voice actor for Admiral Ackbar and Bib Fortun, as well as Kenny Baker, who portrayed R2-D2, both are, of course, from Star Wars movie lore, and being a Star Wars fan, this definitely gutted me. My love for science fiction truly began with Star Wars and losing them is like saying goodbye to my childhood and my humble beginnings for my love of science fiction. It reminds me I am no longer that kid anymore and I am an adult now, yet still loving science fiction and Star Wars.

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Speaking of Star Wars, we can’t cap off this topic without talking about my original princess, Carrie Fisher, who portrayed Princess Leia. All geeks like me would remember her in her Golden Bikini in Return of the Jedi, but I will always remember her for her smile in the outtakes; they were magical and perfect. This was the death that got me the most. And then sadly, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, also passed just a day after her.

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Now honestly, that is the only bad I can say that happened this year. Even if it doesn’t affect my life directly, like I said earlier, they were a big part of me growing up, and it is just a confirmation that I am no longer a kid anymore with their deaths. With that out of the way, let us talk about the good! This may take awhile, but don’t worry, I still have a firm grip on your hand on this one.

Let us begin with the good stuff with… what is the greatest thing that happened to me in my life thus far, and that is, of course, me becoming an officially licensed physician.

Now let us go back a bit to 2014, where I had my knee operation and forced me to delay finishing my medical internship by at least 2 months and thus also forcing me to miss out on the August 2015 Physician Licensure Examination with my classmates.

I will admit, I was envious when my classmates took the exam and all passed the exam, whereas I, still had to finish my internship and waiting for March 2016 for my exam.

Needless to say, March 2016 came by, 12 difficult exams across 4 days in 2 weekends, and 2 days later, on March 16, 2016, they announced the successful passers of the physician licensure exam and there was my name.

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I still can’t forget that day: I was out for lunch and coffee with my close friend Amanda, who was visiting the country as she moved to China for work and studies. She was here for a few weeks and we decided to meet up and hang out and just to help me calm down after the exam. The funny thing was I wasn’t able to eat a lot and she knows me well enough that I eat a lot despite my size, but I guess I was really feeling the effects of the exam at this point. After Japanese lunch (our favorite) and coffee we decided to go around the mall and we ran into my sister, Debbie, who happens to be a licensed physician too and is already a consultant at this point. The importance of running into my sister is apparent once me and Amanda decided to go home: I got a call from my sister, and since I just saw her in the mall, I thought she was calling me if I needed a ride going home, but it goes like this:

Debbie: Hey doc! (take note, we usually call eachother doc as a sign of professionalism and respect, so this was nothing new)

Me: Hey doc… sup?

Debbie: CONGRATULATIONS! YOU PASSED!

Me:…………………………………….YOU LIE!

It turns out her bestfriend since their medical school days and co fellow in AUFMC Section of Cardiology, Dr Cheng, called her up after Doc Cheng’s boyfriend, Dr. Lloyd, found out I passed when he was checking the website.

I didn’t really believe it myself since I was at the website and was like refreshing it every 15 minutes. So when I went back and saw my name, I was on cloud 9. Truth be told, my right knee still hurts but I jumped for joy and the pain of jumping on my bad knee was worth it.

The best part was when I stormed out of my room and shouted from the door to my mom just across the living room laying down on the couch watching TV. As soon as I said it, I just blinked once, and she was right at my face giving me a tight hug! Then my dad got home from his afternoon jogging and when he found out he ordered pizza for us and the neighbors. It was nuts!

I got a barrage of messages/calls and what not from friends and mentors and it was one of the best feelings of my life. But of course, I still have a long way to go so I couldn’t just settle with this. I still have residency training, hopefully midyear next year.

I will also mention that I lived in Manila for almost 4 months while I was reviewing for the exam and having to pack up the place and move back home it was a very unforgettable experience.

Then came the day I dreamed of forever, Oath Taking for the New Physicians where I got to see my friends from the review center and recite the Hippocratic Oath together while my family looks on is something that is embedded on my mind.

As soon as I became licensed, the very next day, it was back to the real world. By that I mean that I didn’t rub it in that I am licensed; I was never one to show off all the time anyways, so after the high of passing, I made sure I got my feet planting back down to earth the very next day. For new licensed physicians, they can immediately go training, look for a job as a general physician, or go on vacation. I for one wasn’t really looking for a job at this point, nor did I wan’t to go on vacation so to speak, but thankfully for me, I made enough of a name for myself as a medical student that I was given a lot of job offers the coming days and months. Heck, even up to this day, since I am not training yet, I am given so much job opportunities it is ridiculous.

My first few jobs were lecturing in my Alma Mater and my former review center, as well as a general physician in several institutions and mass blood donations. I knew I didn’t want to train yet, but I also didn’t wanna stay idle. So I took these simple tasks.

I was then giving a clinic schedule in a nearby diagnostic center and has now become a staple of my earnings. I was happy… I was working just 2 days a week in the center, then I got my other rackets as a general physician and professor elsewhere. I was earning enough to get the things I wanted and still able to save.

Then I was given another opportunity in school other than being a guest lecturer, I was given the position of University Physician. Now I wasn’t going to accept this but I thought that this may be a simple yet effective way to give back to my former university, AUF. So I took it and 6 months later, I feel my colleagues in the clinic is more of my family now than anything. I certainly did not regret accepting the job.

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I am well received there even if I am still a rookie so to speak that I was asked to become the Director of the University Health Services at the gentle age of 27! I had to control myself… As much as I wanted the prestige, this would mean I would have to commit more than just a year in serving as their director and it will hinder my plans of training for Neurology as my specialty. So I humbly declined.

Next opportunity was to be a part time faculty in the Department of Biochemistry in AUF School of Medicine. I was also very psyched about this as I love teaching and teaching in the school of medicine is one of my goals. to think, I am a 27 year old physician and a faculty in school of medicine. Awesome. It helps that I also love Biochemistry. But sadly, my sched in my various jobs at this point took its toll and I need to sacrifice this one.

Six months since I officially started working, meeting new people/colleagues, adding friends and memories, and of course, having earned and saved up enough money and reach my quota in saving, makes me feel really accomplished. And makes me look forward to next year, my year, the year of the dragon, for even more accomplishments.

Now as we wrap up 2016 in a few hours, I got my DSLR ready for my annual fireworks photography, got my family cooking up for dinner, and got my favorite games loaded up in my PC… Cap it off with a high!

Til next time! HAPPY NEW YEAR! AND PEACE!

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Tables are Turned

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View from the other side… Feels funny now that I am their examiner when it wasn’t long ago I was in their shoes.

It wasn’t that long ago when I donned the medical school proper uniform or even that of a 4th year medical clerk uniform. All the pain and suffering while studying on going on duties as a clerk is still quite fresh in my mind, and I do have some literal scars that are still oozing with blood from it all.

So when I was asked to help out in my Alma Mater for the current medical students’ exams, I was more than happy to help out and be their proctor/examiner for some subjects.

I wanted to give back to the university and the department that made my dreams into reality and never stopped believing that all my goals in life will be in fruition. Thus, simple acts like this can still go a long way in their eyes and then some. Plus, I am starting to acclimatize myself once again with the school policies as I am a guest lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry also in the School of Medicine in my Alma Mater and plan to help out in the lectures/reports/exams in the second semester. Helping out now will help get in tune with the medicine office and the people once again.

This is actually my first time being a proctor in an examination but still having the memories of being a student taking the exams quite fresh, I still remember the usual things my proctors would say before, during, or after the examinations, so I was easily able to adapt quickly and thankfully the students were very behaved so I had no problems during my first proctoring of an exam.

I will be proctoring other exams for the rest of the week and I am actually looking forward to it as it is quite therapeutic doing this. I hardly have to answer tough questions as I would have when I am lecturing, I don’t have to make hard decisions such as those times when I am in the clinic, and I don’t have to correct anything in the test paper as I am not the one that made it, I simply relay any questions.

And I need something therapeutic as the past couple of days up to weeks, I have not been my jolly self in the clinics I work in. Gone is the funny doctor that does his best to make you smile before leaving the clinic, now we have a doctor that seems to just wait til quitting time. The latter is something I don’t want to be remembered as; I have always pride myself as being a workaholic, a guy that gets the job done in spite of the toxicity, a guy that never shies away from a task as it gets tougher, a guy that is cool when it comes to emergencies, and a guy that will never tire even if overtime is a real thing.

I need something therapeutic so I can be that kind of guy again. Not sure what has happened to me in the past few days up to weeks. I probably took life a wee bit too seriously that I have lost track of how to have fun at work. There is a number of things that I can point my finger on as to why I am not my usual jolly self, but I can’t really pin point the exact moment where I felt the dread.

Thus I try to do new things, go places, and just try to relax – and being a proctor… simply a proctor, may help me. Here’s hoping it will.

So as the tables are now turned as I am no longer the medical student/medical clerk/medical intern, twiddling my thumb while having what seems to be a restless leg syndrome as I toil away at the exams, I am now the proctor and examiner looking at younger medical students that are now having the mannerisms I had during exams. It is a perfect circle. And pretty soon, they will also become proctors or examiners for future medical doctors… and thus, the cycle continues.

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Tables are turned!

Til then! PEACE!

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Another Day, Another Job Done

Now it is no surprise that I am juggling 3 jobs and other rackets that I have every now and then. My stable jobs are clinic duties in a diagnostic center and in a university as well as a guest lecturer in the same university. My other rackets would be a guest lecturer in different institutions, ER duties in hospitals, or the more usual, being a general physician for blood letting events.

Today, I am the latter, a general physician for blood letting. It is yet another day of the usual history and physical examination, prescribing medications if ever so needed, and just having fun.

However, today, I was joined by some clerks, who happened to be some of my good friends, and it made the experience even better. Now, when I have clerks, I usually give funny names for our team. Back then, I had the “Lizard Squad”, then I had “The Seawolves”, and now, we have “Team Packers”. Long story for all the origins of those names.

Needless to say, today, my clerks are all boys, so being all boys, we were slightly rowdy and talked about games, movies, comics; you name it, anything geeky or nerdy, we talked about it.

It was a very relaxing day honestly; no huge lines of patients, no emergency cases, and whatnot. Just 4 male doctors chilling out.

This blood letting event is a charity event by a family that lost their child to cancer 5 years ago and have been doing this annually for the past 4 years. A very noble cause and we were all happy to be a part of it.

Overall a fun and benign day for all of us.

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Let’s go TEAM PACKERS! I’m the short guy 4th from the left with a black 3/4ths long sleeves

Til next time! PEACE!

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Friends for Keeps

We always say that we wont forget a certain batch of friends, most people will say high school friends, others would choose college friends. For me, as much as a I loved and enjoyed the company of all my classmates from the different phases of my school life, it will come to no surprise that I hold my medical school classmates above all else.

It may seem cliche when I say this, but having to go through literally hell and back during my medical studies with them; all the blood, sweat, and tears; all the tiny arguments and patching up at the end of the day; they all meant the world to me and sharing it with my classmates made the experience of medicine a lot more tolerable.

This is why I hold them so dear and thankfully with me, even if I had some arguments with some of them, I never ended up hating any one of them. They are my friends for keeps, they are my friends for life. Nothing can compare to what we went through together. No one else can understand.

One great thing about my batch of friends in medical school is that it is far easy for us to hang out; all we have to do is make sure it doesn’t get in between our commitments as doctors, after which, we choose a day, and we hang out, like we were still classmates just hanging out after class.

We are all comfortable with eachother that saying anything, absolutely anything, we are just fine. Showing that whatever we have been through as classmates, strengthened our bonds, and no amount of insults or jokes can sever that. In fact, it is a strong showing of friendship having to joke and insult eachother and it is nothing to one another.

I am mentioning all this friendship stuff as I was able to catch up with 2 of my former classmates at medschool that are both currently residents in the department of surgery in AUFMC, namely, Doc Opal and Doc Anne.

It was nice just to catch up with eachother after all these months of doing our own thing in the world of medicine. It was just like a regular day for us; we caught up, talked about life and training, and just had a great time like we were classmates all over again.

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Coffee time!

Here we are just having coffee, after which, we spent the entire day walking around the mall. One good tidbit, is that Doc Anne bought herself a ukulele. Partly my fault, as we are both musicians (I play mostly guitar and keyboard, she plays guitar and drums) and I wanted to look for an amplifier, and while we were at the music store, she saw the ukulele on good sale. Needless to say, like a good friend, I forced her into buying it. It was all goo fun.

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Dinner time!

We then had dinner and after which, we all went out separate ways. Having a sense of clingy-ness, we all made sure we got home safe and swore we would all hang out again some time in the future.

And I surely can’t wait to do this all over again. Hopefully this time, we can get more of our former classmates into the mix.

With that! I end my post!

PEACE!

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When You Love Your Job

Not that many people I know can actually say that about their job; it probably is a job with good pay, but not something they can say they love. I for one am in prime position to say I love my job; I may not be training yet in my chosen specialization just yet, namely neurology, so maybe I have yet to see the full stress my profession entails, but thus far, I can really say I love my job.

Seeing patients in the clinic with different cases I can exercise my thought processes in order to diagnose and give the proper treatment. Now I am not saying I know all diseases and treatment, I do still need to read, and I still may find some cases perplexing, but all in all, I feel that I am at my element… mastering my craft.

I am a young doctor and I am sure I still have a lot to learn, and with my current duties in a diagnostic center and possibly a spot as a University Physician in my Alma Mater, will help me see different case, critically think about diagnostics and treatment, and basically learn my own style of examining patients.

This is a short post just showing that after such a long time in my life, I really feel quite happy again. And I intend to stay as happy as I am right now.

Til then! PEACE!

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Lost in PHA Convention

Well, not really lost in the Philippine Heart Association (Hereafter, PHA) Convention, just can’t think of anything better as a title; forgive me, for I am battling a total of 6 hours sleep in the past 4 days, so I guess my so called creativity is on hibernation – something I should actually be doing, too.

Anyways, the actual convention concluded yesterday, where it spanned from May 25-27, and I was there since the 24th; usually, these conventions, I am just another delegate, choosing which topics I would love to listen to, but this time around, since my sister, who is a cardiology fellow, was tasked to give a case on the second day of the event, I was there for moral support, and probably more importantly, there for technical support and such, just to make sure her case report would not be a failure.

I can’t take all the credit for her successful case report, of course not! It was her own work, and her own power that made her report a success, I was there just in case she needs me to research, clarify some topics, or even fix her laptop if need be. I am the insurance for anything that can go wrong,; thankfully nothing did go wrong, and of course, even if something did, again, in the end, it would still be her doing the actual report, the actual work, so it is really her glory. I am emphasizing this because a lot of people also credited me for her successful report, for which I am honored that they think so, but in reality, it was all on my sister.

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Proud little bro here!

Apart from that case report of my sister, her co cardio fellows of the AUFMC also had their own respective parts in the event, and each, like my sister, had successful presentations.

 

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Dr. Canono, considered my other sister, proudly representing AUFMC in the poster presentation of her study

 

 

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From left to right, Dr. Debbie (my real sis), Dr. Cheng (my other sis), and Dr. Richard, representing AUFMC for the PHA Quiz Show!

The overall event was successful, and I love the location as I can easily go to the mall after the day’s lectures – you get to learn, feed your mind if you will, and then you can relax at the mall/plaza that is next to the hotel, Shangri-La  Hotel at EDSA, and then feed the tummy and the soul with whatever you please there.

This time around, however, I didn’t see my classmates, but I did see a lot of my mentors, which is great; I can give my thanks to them for guiding me throughout medical school and for their prayers when I was preparing for my board exams. So that was more than enough to make up for me not being able to catch up with my classmates from medschool there.

Away from the conventions and the realm of medicine, I got to explore places in Manila I usually do not go in a regular basis, one of which is a Bonifacio Global City, which I have gone to a few times, but like previously mentioned, I don’t visit this place a lot, but it is in my bucket list to live in during my residency training as I target either The Medical City or St. Luke’s; I am targeting those 2 institutions for Neurology training because I heard great feedback from my mentors and fellow physician friends, then seeing Global City as a whole back then, made me all the more want to live in, then seeing it again during my stay in Manila for the PHA Convention, made me long for it even more.

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Pig Out!!

BGC reminds me of the States so much; it goes to show that proper city planning can even make places in the Philippines look great. It has wide sidewalks, strict traffic rules, lots of trash cans to avoid loitering just anywhere, friendly people, and lots of cops just to make it all the more safe. Add in the towering skyscrapers of corporations, hotels, etc., it really reminds me of back home in the States.

While there in BGC, we sampled a lot of the well known eateries like IHOP and a lot more; this whole trip was basically eating away anything  to the point on the last day, which was yesterday, I wasn’t as hungry as the first few days. All I wanted to do was drink or immediately head back to the hotel room so I can sleep – the latter of which curtails to the fact that I had 6 hours of sleep in the past 4 days.

Having spent 4 and a half days there for the convention, even with the lack of sleep, it was great hanging out with my sister and her colleagues who happen to be my mentors, and practically, my second siblings. I was able to unwind from all the stress reality can give and feel refreshed as I returned home and facing whatever my professional life will now throw at me.

 

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Last day of the convention, sister decided to treat me cake; I honestly look more tired than the other people that actually have a part in the PHA Convention program

 

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Another pig out session before returning home to Pampanga the next day and face reality

And the coup de grace, if you will, is that since my sister presented a case, she was given a token that happens to be a USB 3.0 32Gb Flashdrive from Samsung, and notorious for not being geeky and notorious for losing a number of her Flashdrives, as well as my Flashdrives, she decided to give it to me since she knows I won’t lose it and can use it to a greater extent than her, plus it is her way of thanking me for being there and helping her with anything she needed during the convention. I failed to mention that my right knee was killing me the entire convention, but the simple thank you would have easily made me feel better even without the Flashdrive, I wouldn’t have said that anyway… I mean, come on, I do want that Flashdrive…

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My prize for helping out!

So with that, I end this post…

Til next time! PEACE!

 

-0-

 

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The Quest for the “M.D.”

A month has passed since the results of the March 2016 Physician Licensure Examinations (Hereafter, PLE) were released by the Professional Regulation Commission (Hereafter, PRC), and to see my name among those who passed felt like a dream… a dream that became a reality.

I am, and always will be, happy of this achievement, but of course, a month in where this extra 2 letters at the end of my name is now official, the high has since dissipated; the reality sets in that now I have to find a job; and the pressure that passing the exam on my first try is not a fluke and I deserve to be a doctor is now looming over me.

Having said that, we just recently had our Oath Taking and got our professional ID’s that I think it is a good idea to walk down memory lane and see how we got here. So, join me, as we look back!. Now, I will not cover my WHOLE life’s story… that would frankly be boring, instead, let us talk about the past 4-5 months when I was reviewing in this board preparation center aptly named Topnotch.

So, sit back, relax, grab some popcorn, because this will be a story unlike any other I have ever told…

It was around August 2015, where my classmates are within days of their own PLE; I had to opt out of the August 2015 exams with them since I had an operation in the middle of our internship together to alleviate an injury on my right knee. This forced me to stay an extra 2 months in internship as my classmates toiled away at their notes in Topnotch building up to the August 2015 PLE.

Was I envious? Who wouldn’t be? I wanted to review, take, and eventually conquer, the exams with the same people I survived the first 5 years (including internship) of Medicine with. The same people I see day in and day out. The same people who know it’s me if they hear someone blurt out profanity in the back of the room. The same people that recognize the tone of my voice, in turn, I too, know the tone of their voice, and can immediately finish eachother’s sentences. Those were the people I wanted to share this whole ordeal with.

But alas, in tune with Murphy’s Law, I had to be delayed around 2 months in internship, in doing so I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready to take the exams. I might even spoil our university’s (Angeles University Foundation) record of having 100% passing rate nearly every year for the first time takers of the PLE.

So I waited. And had to endure the fact that my classmates, during the August 2015 PLE, all passed, leaving me to wait for March 2016 to bask in the same glory as they did. Of course, along the way, I had my doubts as to whether I can really pass the exam myself, as you will read later on as we go on with the post.

I mean, come on, I am not a jerk that I was not happy my classmates passed and I didn’t even take the exam; I was sincerely happy, but I wished I were there. Heck, I nearly shed a man tear when I saw one of my best friends making rounds in the hospital as a resident. It was a sight to see and I was just imagining my turn.

As soon as their PLE was over with and the good news was announced, I was refreshing the main website and Facebook page of Topnotch Medical Board Prep, waiting (im)patiently to register for their program. And when the Google Form was up on the date and time they promised it would be, I immediately registered and felt my first milestone passed on my journey to those 2 letters at the end of my name, M.D..

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And so it begins…

I was reading some of my review books that I bought up to this point in order to refresh my mind with all these medical subjects that I have certainly forgotten over time and make it easier for me to follow the flow of the review lectures in Topnotch. It did pay off while I was there, but as you will read later on, it did burn me out eventually reading for nearly a year.

Upon receiving a confirmation as to what section I am going to be in, which was Section Harvard in Fairview, Quezon City, my first choice, that is when we decided to look for a place for me to stay. It is of note, that we already decided on finding a place in Sunny Villas, the same place where my sister stayed while she was also reviewing for her board exams some 7 years ago. Also of note, just like when my sister was reviewing, my mom will be staying with me; not only for morale support but for physical support as my right knee that was operated on would have a relapse of pain every now and then rendering unable to really walk.

Upon finding a place in Fairview in a day, it was time to play the waiting game.

At this time, the exams were still thought to be on February 2016, but upon receiving word from PRC that the exams have been moved to March 2016, so to was the start of the review sessions in Topnotch, giving me 2 more weeks of “supposed” freedom; that freedom of course, was spent valiantly reading, but would be enticed to play games with my friends. Two weeks well spent.

Then the day of the move arrived. I decided to move in just a day before the registration and orientation, but thankfully I was able to get used to the place quickly enough.

As you can see, the place wasn’t really all that pretty, but it was the only one on ground level for my leg to be able to tolerate it. It isn’t really a place I would usually like to live in, but hey, I gotta make due since I needed a place close enough the review center to… well… review.

I was already making due with the place, tolerating its shortcomings, then suddenly, after a few days of the review, me and my mom were told that we were staying in that place illegally. It came to a shock to my mom, as I was attending the review session when all that broke down, only hearing about it the night after my review session. It turns out, the person that we were renting the place out of, wasn’t the owner nor was she allowed to make such transactions. The owner came by and told my mom to move out or she will sue. Sue for what!? We were actually more of the victims here! Anyways, needless to say, me and my mom decided to find another place also in Sunny Villas, and thankfully found one. Sadly, we didn’t even get back our initial deposit from that fraud in the initial place we rented out.Talk about fucked up. But I didn’t expect any less from people like that.

It was actually a Godsend that that happened to us. We found a way better place. It is a small place, but it was just right, and this time, we transacted with the owner of the place and he was a doctor and said he has good luck with that place when he himself was review in for both his premed and med board exams, as well as anyone that rented that place out from him had great luck in the med board exams. We are pretty superstitious so we jumped at the opportunity to get it. And in the end, it became home.

As time went by, notes started to stack up, things are starting to get overwhelming, but thankfully, since we were given an extra month for the exam, the review sessions were spread far enough apart to also give us self study periods at our own place.

That is what I appreciate about Topnotch; sure the board exams for us is the most important hurdle for us to go over in our live’s at that stage, but they also made sure we don’t lose our minds, reading day in and day out; they have mentorship, wherein a mentor will guide a student not only academically but emotionally – I for one didn’t have mentor, since I had my mom with me, but it was nice to see others availing of such; we have afternoon snacks, which may seem like nothing, but after listening to a lot of concepts in medicine, having snacks and sharing them with your co-reviewees gives a sense of camaraderie like no other; and the fact that you really don’t feel alone, that they really show their support of their students, that in fact, you are not alone in this endeavor, makes me confident as the days of the exam come closer and closer.

Of course, I shouldn’t completely rely on the review program, I had to do my part. I reverted back to my old ways of studying like in the medical proper days; staying up late, sometimes skipping meals, etc. It took awhile to get used to it, but I then had study flow that I get to do day in and day out.

Still though, all that combined is certainly not enough. There is one more up my sleeve, that is praying. I am a Catholic and even though I don’t show that I am practicing my religion a lot, I am quite religious and I owe everything I have and everything I achieved with my faith.

Like every challenge in my life, along with my hard work, I prayed; I believe that I can’t accomplish things if I just work hard and prayed. Same time, I also believe I can’t accomplish anything if I just prayed, I need to do my part.

Each time I am absorbed in my studies, like previously mentioned, I would have little to no sleep and I’d skip meals. I become very picky as to what to eat, and I am already picky as it already stands. Even if we had an electric stove and my mom is a good cook (you can ask my friends), yet, I couldn’t even find any food palatable. It was always fast food for nearly 5 months; lots of jugs of Nutella; lots of Frito-Lay chips; and lots and lots of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. No wonder my knee is hurting again as I gained weight.

Now I have never been the model student ever since I was younger, and it still showed while I was in Topnotch. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the bad influence type of person, but what I meant was that I didn’t go to all my classes, didn’t take all the mock exams they gave, and I even went home during the Yuletide holidays when it would have been better if I isolated myself from them and studied.

At first I was worried about skipping some classes and not taking all the mock exams, but the notes in Topnotch are very informative that one, granted that one has at least a basic idea of the subject matter, will easily pick up and learn.

And it also helped left my spirits seeing my family during the holidays, because I didn’t opt for the mentoring program in Topnotch so I had to seek emotional support from my real family – it was great, even just for a day (thought a day of not reading was still considered a sin) not to think of the stress of the board exams. Heck I was happy that I got to do my yearly tradition of taking shots of the fireworks display!

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A break from review! Welcoming 2016!
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A break from review! Welcoming 2016!

After the holidays, we had about 2 weeks left of regular review in Topnotch until we have our month long self review followed by a week of “pearls” which serves as a final preparation in Topnotch before we head for the exams.

The most difficult part of the month long self review is keeping the motivation; heck not just the month long review, but for the whole ordeal. Motivation was difficult to keep up. Then you start to notice your confidence also dipping to the point of running away from the exam. That nearly happened to me. I was seriously exhausted and totally burnt out since I was reading for so long now, I have been deprived of sleep or fun outside the review. I was going nuts. But I had to press on.

After all that was said and done, only a few days from March 6-7, 13-14, 2016, I was thinking of quitting and taking the boards next time. Even with all my preparation, my prayers, I still had my confidence dipping. It was natural. It was expected. But thankfully, I had my family and friends pushing to take it anyway. And I did.

Having to see my white blazer and white pants again, made me somewhat excited to tackle the exams, not knowing if I will really do good. Not knowing if my inexperience in taking these kind of exams (since it was my first time taking any board exam; B.S. Biology doesn’t have a board exam) will cause me to freeze up. But I felt a little more at ease when I saw my name on that blazer – I was but a few days away from adding those M.D. at the end of my name officially.

Then the day I have both been dreading and was so excited for was upon me; woke up at 5am just to make sure I arrive at my designated testing area before 6.30am on the first day of the exams to hear the instructions, because hey, like I said, this was my first time taking any kind of board exam. Had a quick bite to eat, loaded my system up with Coke (it has enough caffeine; I didn’t drink any real coffee these days since I was having lots of abdominal pain and loose bowel movement the moment I take sip of coffee… talk about stressed), and paced around the space outside the room, saying hi, but no small talk, to the people I knew from the same review center as me. And I prayed.

Next thing I knew, the first 3 exams are done with and I am back in room taking a nap before reading for the next day’s 3 exams. The first 3 exams felt great, so I was starting to feel pretty good. Thankfully, so too, were the next 3 exams. Closing out the first 2 days of the exams with a good feeling, I was looking forward to the next week and the remaining 6 exams that would also be split into 2 days.

The dreaded “week in between” where you strive to find the inspiration to read for the remaining exams, yet wanting to sleep so bad because the week before was tiring in itself already. It was tough, sometimes even depressing, but the funny thing about medicine, is that when a student says he or she will quit, or can’t take it anymore, we find it in ourselves to push on – against any odds.

March 13 finally came, the second to the last day of examinations; woke up early yet again, but somehow, a gut feeling was in me telling me that this day may be tough. And boy it was surely tough!

First exam of the second week, which is technically the seventh exam overall, Pharmacology, nearly took my life. It was tough. It was crazy. But I prayed. I pressed on. The fear was now there. What I felt so great about the first week is now greeted with doubts beyond imagination. I cried. Because this meant something to me; I WANT TO BE A DOCTOR. For the first time in my life… I doubted my abilities. I was thinking of my alibis if I failed. All this was going through my head and there were still 2 more exams later that day and 3 more the next day.

The last 2 exams of the day felt so and so, thus for a moment, I had forgotten what Pharmacology did to me. But later that night, it was gnawing at me mercilessly. I had to find the strength to go on for the last 3 exams. I prayed… but, deep inside me, I was already losing hope.

The last day and the last 3 exams were fair. I didn’t feel as bad as the Pharmacology exam, but how the board exams are graded, the way to pass is to have an average of 75% with no grade in any subject of less than 50%. I felt I was below 50% in Pharmacology. So, no matter how good I did in the other exams, that one exam can end it all.

After the last exam, a bit of jubilation, more of fear and doubt, set in. But upon seeing my mom waiting for me to take me home here at Angeles City, Pampanga, with a few Steam Wallet cards at hand, I somehow forgotten about the exams, and just said to myself, after signing the cross “I have done all that I can humanly do in the exam, it is all up to You, God.”.

The projected release of the results were on March 18; four days after the exam. The first night I was able to game a lot and thus, that night went by very fast. First day post exam was a little more tricky, I tried to play games, but wasn’t in the mood. I just cleaned my room and that seemed to work well. On the second day post exam, I went out with a friend I haven’t seen in a year or so since she is now living in China; I must say, I was happy to be with her because she made me forget about the exam for a bit and when she notices me being nervous or tensed up about it, she cracks a joke or just talks about random things to get my mind off of it.

Sadly, as much fun as I had with her, we had to go back to our respective homes. Upon arriving home, I was in desperate need to get my mind off the exam, so I decided to manage some wires in my PC.

As I was tinkering away in my PC, I got a call from my sister. When I answered she called me “doc”, which is not too surprising… Since I became an Intern 2 years ago, she calls me doc, because I also call her doc in the hospital (Yes, my sister is a doctor, too). So, I thought this was a regular call until she said the magical words “Congratulations! You passed!”. I was like no way, and then I went to the PRC website and saw them release the results; I hit Ctrl+F and typed my name, and there it was!

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This was taken from my sister’s Facebook page; I appreciate that she made this. By the way, I am not 450 overall… this is alphabetical!

However, I was still not sure if what I saw was real. The first person I told this to was my mother, of course, and I had her read my name to make sure. She said, yes that is your name. Yet, I was still not believing any of this. Until finally, my close friend, a classmate from my B.S. Biology days, who happens to be taking up medicine as well and will take the board exam herself this September 2016, greeted me through Facebook private messaging. That is when I knew, it was all true.

Had a multitude of greetings from old friends, my classmates, professors, and relatives. I was at cloud nine. And I thank God for all of this. I felt real happy and I knew I should enjoy the high and the subsequent VACATION (I capitalized that word because boy oh boy do I need and want one), because in time, when the high is gone and I am tired of vacation and staying stagnant, reality will strike and I should look for a job and start my residency training – and once residency starts, well, I won’t have a break or vacation for a number of years.

After the results were released, I was looking for jobs, but not really planning to give my application anytime soon, as the games on my Steam library are tempting me, plus like I said, I want a vacation. I was just looking for future references. With that said, I didn’t turn down all job opportunities; meager tasks like doing the physical examinations for blood donors I do just to earn a little extra spending money, and not yet committing to a full time job just yet. It helps pass the time when you don’t want to game the whole day and waiting for the day you need to register in PRC, and ultimately, attend the Oath Taking.

Which leads us to today…

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This is it!

Just finished attending the Oath Taking for the New Physicians, saw my review mates from Topnotch, saw my classmate, and saw my fellow interns from AUFMC; had a great time, this time no more small talk, since there was nothing to worry about, I got to talk a lot, and apparently, they talked a lot as well. I guess we were all the same when we reviewing and taking the exam – we were tensed and just couldn’t find it in ourselves to talk to each other when we could just review. Now, it was no holds barred. It was great.

After reciting the PRC Oath and, what I have been waiting for since I was a young boy, the Hippocratic Oath, it was time to get our professional ID and certificate of registration…

When all was said and done, took enough pictures to make my mom and sister (who attended; my dad never attends these… he is… agoraphobic.), saying bye to my friends and assuring them we will all meet again, it was time to go home.

Now that this is over, I can really plan out my vacation before I seriously job hunt.

The experience I had during the review sessions and then the exam I will never forget. Much like clerkship and internship, I look back on this and smile. But also like clerkship and internship, I would never want to go through this again. It is a humbling experience, and I feel humbled enough to never have to go through it again. Sure, I will have my future diplomate exams, but I feel that I will be more mature and more in tune with my chosen specialty to tackle the diplomate exams with confidence (I hope… but most likely, I will be human, and be scared again). I have always practiced my faith in my own way, and during the exams, I prayed more than I can ever remember. And again, I did work hard for all this, I had great support by family and friends, but I wouldn’t have made it without my faith. Thank you God.

All the people that I’ve met, both co reviewees and the people around Fairview where I reviewed, I appreciate their support even when I was basically a stranger to them. My friends, mentors, all throughout my life even those I haven’t seen over many years, gave their well wishes and prayers during this exam. My family who never doubted me. And God. I thank them all. I love them all. To the point when even moving out of my home for 6 months in Fairview made me well up a bit.

Vacation mode ON. And then onwards to the next chapter of my life!

‘Til next time!! PEACE!!

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What all those years of blood, sweat and tears are all about. Now, onwards to the next chapter of my life! Residency training! After vacation, of course!

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