Assuming the Sick Role

Let’s face it, physicians are not supermen or superwomen as much as people think we are; We do get bogged down by the physiological needs that every other human does. We do need to eat at the proper time, we do need to sleep to regain our energy and train of thought, and we do get sick.

I for one got a bug right now and it has debilitated me for the better part of the entire week. This caused me to miss my clinic duties. It is tough because I chose this career to in order to treat people who are ailing or at least do my best to increase their quality of life as it goes, but having the tables turned on me and now assuming the sick role hinders me from doing so.

I am a workaholic and I don’t like to be seen or labeled as someone that can’t be relied on, so being sick and having to miss my clinic duties is tough on my ego; All I can think about is letting my colleagues down, and most importantly, I feel I am letting my patients down.

But we were also taught in medicine that one physician has to take care of him or herself and stay healthy enough in order to treat other people.

With that said, there are still patients who don’t know what we are going through just to treat them; all those sleepless nights, all those sermons from our bosses, all the doubts that can cloud our judgment, and a multitude more of intangibles, add in the fact we are still human and are, like I mentioned above, still bogged down by physiological needs, the mere fact we try to take a short nap (10min nap is already heaven for us, by the way), have a quick snack since we are already hypoglycemic and suddenly have blurring of vision. or having to go to the bathroom real quick because the peristaltic rush is a bitch. It is the latter, tangible, aspects of being human that patients hate about us doctors. They expect us to be exempted from all that in order to be of service to them.

God forbid the physician gets sick.

Being away from work to recover my health and I am sure once I get back on the horse, I will make a run for it and be better than I was before I got ill and serve the patients the way we physicians aim to do. But there is a voice lingering, a thorn in my side, reminding me that I am failing my patients. With that mentality, let it be known that, each time we take a quick nap, we are thinking of our patients as we are counting sheep and how we can better treat that patient in the ER, also in taking a quick nap, makes us rest our weary minds and reset it to think more of the treatment; each time we take a snack, we tend to forget to chew, and in doing so, whet the mouths of our clerks/interns at the possibility of them carrying out the Heimlich Maneuver on us, just to finish the meal quickly enough to attend to the patient again immediately; and having to dispose a few pounds into the toilet rapidly and not realizing that the toilet paper ran out and hoping the same clerks/interns are not devilish enough to not give you a new roll when you ask them (I can always give them a demerit anyway).

Assuming the sick role reminded me how human I am as a physician and how vulnerable we are to being human. Let it be known that every waking hour, every minute passing, every second ticking, we are bound to our patients and we are as angry at ourselves for being human as the patients are. We just need someone out there to understand us… as humans.

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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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Decisions… Decisions…

I thought being a 27 year old and not having to train yet in my chosen residency program, I would just enjoy my life as a general physician, being a mentor in my former review center for medical students, being a guest lecturer in school here and there, and a (motivational) speaker in several institutions. Sure, that alone sounds like I am juggling quite a number of tasks, however, I am very happy with my work load and more importantly, I am not directly involved with the administration of any of the institutions I work in.

I just have to be  a physician in the clinics I work in and not care about the inner workings of the school/clinic/diagnostic center; I can just teach as a guest lecturer and need not worry about the syllabus, grades, and everything else – being a guest lecturer, I am simply given a topic and I teach it; I can just give a talk to people, either to motivate them or guide them in a phase in their life, and not worry about organizing these talks.

And more importantly, I still have, surprisingly, enough time for my own leisure activities.

Looking at my current writeup of my resume/curriculum vitae, one would say it is a pretty handsome paper for a 27 year old. And it will only get better from here.

I was content with the content (wow… I need a thesaurus) of my resume and plan to just add more weight to it as I get older, as I train, as I try to add more letters at the end of my name. But recently, I have been given more opportunities that most individuals in my age group would never have. I am not trying to be a show off here or anything, but I am both surprised and happy that I am given such job titles and opportunities at this stage of my life where most of my friends I know aren’t in this position or never had this opportunity.

Let us run down what I am doing for now, take note, this is not me being a show boat: I am a general physician at a university and a diagnostic clinic, I am a mentor for medical students in my old review center, I am a moonlighter in several institutions, I am a guest lecturer for the department of biochemistry, anatomy and possible physiology in the school of medicine in my Alma mater, I am a guest lecturer in the department of biology also in my Alma mater, I am proctor/preceptor in the hospitals for medical students, and I am a guest speaker for a number of topics in a number of institutions. And that is to name a few. I have a lot more ventures and these are things that not many in my age group are doing or has done.

So another opportunity came knocking at my door, and as a 27 year old, I find it a tad bit bonkers that they even considered me. The university I am working as a general physician is asking me to become the overall director of the university health services that was previously held by my mentor and good friend. He left the university last summer for other opportunities, but he held it for 5 years prior and he had a lot more experience in the medical field and admin way before he was given the title as director.

Here I am, a fresh new doctor in the world of medicine, a young start up at the age of 27, with little experience handling administrative work. Sure, I was a constant student leader, a president in many organizations, both as a student and not, held positions in the hospital as a senior medical intern, etc. but I always had a superior to eventually fall back on when the going gets tough. Now if I do accept the position as director, it is all on me. Any decisions I make, I will receive reprimands or praises. I will be in board meetings where there is a high chance that I am the youngest one (heck I am the youngest person in the university clinic right now). Persuading the higher ups at a young age may be difficult. Having being bombarded with administrative work may make me lose my mind especially when I am still inexperienced with these.

Though I am very flattered by their consideration. Like I said, not that many friends of mine are given this kind of opportunity at this age, so I didn’t expect them to consider giving me the position of director. And to think I just a fresh face in the world of medicine having recently passed my board exams (with one take, mind you) and just started working 3 months ago.

Most people, even those older than me, may jump at the opportunity, but I have grown enough (figuratively) to ask when is the deadline for my decision as I don’t want to simply jump at the idea. They gave me until the end of this semester to think it thru and that is a little over a month left.

I am 50-50 with the idea, mostly due to my age and my inexperience; I feel like I might just let them down, and as a team player, I hate bringing people down. The other thing is, I will have to readjust my schedule, possibly quit some my other ventures, and recalculate my earnings as I am contented with my current workload and salary.

Let us be clear, I am not really too big into the money idea, but let us be honest, I have a certain set of skills that takes you to hone and a license that one can’t simply buy, so I also want to be properly compensated for my services that I am sure not that many people can provide.

 Once I can justify the increase number of hours I will gain, the proper compensation that equals the workload or at least equal what I am earning now with lesser hours, being able to fix my schedule all over again and possibly quit some of my other ventures, and the fact that I will gain confidence in my abilities to be a good director, then there is a good chance that I will accept the position.

I will use the grace period given to me to really think this through and seek out advice from my professors that never failed to help me out in these difficult decisions.

But one thing is for sure, whatever I decide, I will stick by it with no regrets and use it to my advantage to grow more mature and hone my skills.

Til then! 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!

-o-

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