I’d lie if I tell you that not once during med school have I thought of why I am here, or questioned myself if I made the right decision. Because I did, more than once, to be honest. Despite these few moments of doubt, I always seem to get back on track and continue with what I have started. But, looking back to my old self eight years ago, I wish someone had told me what it really takes for one to get that “MD” on his name.
I am done with the second month (out of twelve) of clerkship aka 4th year med school aka “being at the bottom of the food chain.” But before I tell you how I feel as a clinical clerk, you may want to be enlightened how I got here. So here it goes…
THE PREPARATION BEFORE MED SCHOOL
1. Finish a pre-med course.
It was during the application period for universities when I thought I cannot be a Civil Engineer, said to myself that I did not want to be an accountant (although I was a “Mathlete” throughout high school… Okay, don’t start laughing! It was actually cool to be good with numbers! Haha), and decided that I wanted to become a doctor.
My parents are not doctors so I asked around and a lot of reliable people told me that BIOLOGY IS THE BEST pre-med course. So I took their advice like a good child. But what the heck, it is not the best pre-med course! You know what the actual best option is? NURSING! But maybe, there is no such thing as the best pre-med course because each one has its own pros and cons. However, if I am going to send my children to medical school in the future (don’t worry, I will not force them), I would definitely suggest BS Nursing. Nurses have a good grasp of the basics in the hospital setting. They know some things about the patients’ medications, and they are familiar with a lot of diseases.
Throwback to April 2012 during the University and College of Arts & Sciences graduation ceremonies.
Then, you ask me, “What if you have a college degree not related to life sciences at all?” If that’s the case, then you can still become a doctor. I know of med students who are Engineering, Business Administration, Fine Arts, and Clothing Technology graduates. Some med schools may just require them to take some classes in Chemistry and Biology before they consider their application. The bottom line is, if you want to become a doctor, go get a college degree!
2. Take the National Medical Admission Test aka NMAT.
All medical schools require this for admission. I knew I was going to med school so I took the exam during college, around 3rd year – December 2010. This test can be taken during April or December each year. Know more about NMAT here.
NOTE: If one happens to be admitted to an Intarmed program (UP-PGH, for example), then he won’t need a college degree. It’s a program where only two years of pre-medical education (versus the usual four years) is required. But I do think intarmed students are still required to take the NMAT to be eligible to continue with med school proper.
3. Apply to medical schools, of course.
I sent application forms to three schools — UP-PGH, UERMMMCI, and PLM. I got interviewed in PGH but was not included in the final list. I got in to both UERM and PLM. Why I chose UERM, maybe this deserves a different blog entry or you may just ask me personally if you’re about to apply or in the process of choosing. This is a very crucial step because each med school has a different culture and approach on teaching students. As for me, since first year, I’ve always felt that going to UERM is one of the best decisions in my life!
THE REAL DEAL: INSIDE MEDICAL SCHOOL
While some of my high school friends were moving in to a new place for work, I was moving to Quezon City where UERM was located. Four years of Biology? Check! Now on to a new adventure; I was so excited! Then that summer before med school started, I went home to the province, people found out I would be taking Medicine, and the follow-up question was…
About the time: How many more years would it take until you become a doctor?
The simple answer to this question is FIVE YEARS. The slightly complicated version? The first two years was devoted to reading, lectures, and some group discussions. In third year, we got to see and interview patients, and examine them with consent. The fourth year is spent in the hospital as clinical clerks. For 365 days as clinical clerks, we have the opportunity to learn as much as we can about the patients, their diseases, diagnosis, and the appropriate management. After the 4th year, we’ll get our “Doctor of Medicine” aka MD diploma. However, in the Philippines, before you can legally practice as a physician, you need to have a one-year internship experience and then pass the board exam. So technically, you are a doctor after 5 years of hard work and a passing board exam score.
So you’ve got the time to spare for medical school. You’re fine if you don’t see your parents, friends, or lover regularly. But you ask, why won’t you get to spend time with them? Because you have to study! I didn’t know this was a legitimate reason to skip parties and meetings with friends until I became a medical student… But, aside from the time, what else do you need?
You have got to give a lot more than five years worth of your life.
About the right attitude: One has got to have the desire and determination to become a doctor. Or if you have parents who will drag you into medical school. Or both. Those who do it for themselves may find it easier to just swallow the things they’ve got to do or the materials they’ve got to read. Kasi nga, it was your choice. If anything goes wrong like failing an exam or the whole semester, you can’t blame it on your parents or other people. Just please, don’t do it for the pogi points.
After one of our small group discussions…
Med school becomes more fun when spent with crazy groupmates!
About the money: In contrast to Jesse J’s Price Tag, it IS about the money. To send someone to medical school is an investment, an expensive one. I did not come from a rich family, so imagine the horror when I found out that one semester costs 120K to 130K pesos. And that’s only for the tuition! It was a good thing that my school is generous enough to offer scholarship programs (academic and financial aid) to qualified students. Other medical schools in the Philippines also offer scholarship programs but maybe not as generous as UERM. Meanwhile, med students in UP-PGH only pay about 50K per sem while those in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) pay between 10K to 70K per sem, depending on the student classification (based on academic standing and place of residency).
However, even with scholarship grants, med school still doesn’t come close to being cheap. You’d spend a lot of money for the gallons of coffee you’d drink, a hundred pieces of highlighter, stacks of bond papers, and liters of ink for printing. Add lodging and utility fees if you are not from Manila, just like me. Medicine really is an expensive path, no wonder why one consultation lasting for at least 10 minutes would cost about 500 pesos, or more!
I’m the type who can study in my room all day, with the help of instant or brewed coffee. But there are times, especially during exam week, when I can’t concentrate in my room anymore. So, I go out and it means spending so much on coffee!
I think this is the longest blog entry I have written so far. A lot has happened since I chose this path about seven or eight years ago. Medical school may have taken a lot from me — money, time, effort, and tears, but it is worth all of these sacrifices. I gained a lot of knowledge, experience, friends, and memories that money can’t buy. Also, I may be in my 4th year, but I know that I have a looong way to go. After board exam comes residency (three years for dermatology, five years for general surgery). So, how do I feel after two months of clerkship have passed? Grateful, that I have parents and family who are with me on this journey; and hopeful, that I may not get tired of the routine and continue to do and give my best in everything that I do.
So, who wants to be a doctor?