On scholarships, graduations, and finally getting a medical degree

 

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When I decided to take that long and winding road to becoming a doctor, I had no idea about how much money and tears it would cost me (mostly tears for me) and my family.

First and foremost, I have always been my Lola’s (grandmother) scholar. She sent me, along with my brother and cousins to private schools in elementary and high school (except for me). I attended a public high school (with an outstanding science program) but she still supported all of us financially. Note that she was more than 70 years old at that time, but she still worked to help us achieve our goals. I was not pressured to study hard by anyone. Maybe I did my best to at least return the favor to my hard-working Lola and parents.

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Meet the best lola in the world, my wonder woman, Lola Dim

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Elementary graduation — yes, I am that chubby girl at the center (read about how I lost weight here). I was the Class Valedictorian.

During college in University of the Philippines Manila, I had a scholarship grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) so I did not pay for tuition fees throughout those four years of education. I was lucky that my high school encouraged us students to apply for this particular scholarship because it really helped me. My Lola still supported us financially.

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During the UP Manila graduation (left) and College of Arts and Sciences recognition day (right) – I graduated with honors (cum laude). I can’t seem to find a high school graduation photo but I am proud to say that I was the Class Salutatorian.

Going into med school was a different story. After not being accepted by UP-PGH, I had to choose between University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center Inc. (UERMMMCI) and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynia (PLM). The former is a private school while the latter is government-subsidized. Going into PLM would mean less fees to pay for by my family but I just knew I would be happier in UERM. I was really selfish but I do not really regret this decision.

I was a University Entrance Scholar in UERM, meaning I did not have to pay for the tuition and miscellaneous fees for my freshman year. We literally saved about 250,000 pesos that year. The problem was that I overestimated my capabilities and underestimated the study of medicine. The effort I exerted during freshman year was so much more than how I studied from first grade to college combined. I did not understand why I just could not have an average of 88 (1.75 GPA) after all the late-night studying, missed day out with friends, and missed celebrations at home in the province. I would often call my parents in the middle of the night or past midnight just to cry and tell them how I was having a hard time meeting the required grade. If I won’t get a 1.75 GPA (1 being the highest), I would lose my full scholarship. To make things worse, we were having a financial crisis that year.

One night, I called my parents crying and my mom asked, “Gusto mo bang tumigil muna?” I know she only wanted what was best for me and the whole family but it really broke my heart. The thought of not being able to reach my dream despite all my hard work was killing me. I never thought poverty or not having too much money could actually hinder me from becoming a doctor. I felt hopeless; I thought that was the end for me. “Sana mayaman na lang kami,” I said to myself. There were so many questions in my head like, “Akala ko ba kapag masipag ka, walang imposible?”

Just when I thought everything was over, I had a call from my parents telling me that everything was going to be alright. During second year, I was a partial academic scholar (my average was 1.78 for first year, sayang talaga). It means I got a 50% discount on tuition fee. On top of that, the UERM Scholarship Committee gave me an additional grant which further decreased the amount we had to pay for. Lola Dim still supported me financially, and some of my aunts and uncles also helped. The same thing happened for my third year. That’s when I learned not to be hard on myself. I knew I did the best that I could and a partial academic scholarship was still a great help. I am very thankful for the financial and moral support I have received.

The transition from third year to fourth year was the hardest. I was really nervous because third year was the most difficult. I was not able to get an academic scholarship for the following year. But the transition was so hard to bear because Lola Dim passed away during my last month in third year. She was 89 years old. I always dreamed of the day she would see me graduate. I was devastated to hear the news that she would not be able to witness the fruit of all her hard work and selflessness.

Not having an academic scholarship was a great obstacle. But you know, there were a lot of people who were willing to help and give overflowing encouragements — the doctors from the scholarship committee, my sisters from the Sigma Beta Sorority, my brothers from the Beta Sigma Fraternity, friends, and of course, my parents, my family.

Today, I am writing this as Rachelle Carmona Ramilo, MD. I will forever be grateful to the institutions that helped me, and the people who have always believed in me. From saying “Sana mayaman na lang kami,” I now say “Sana makatulong rin ako sa iba sa hinaharap.

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I really wish Lola Dim was there with me, Tatay, and Mami on the stage when I got my diploma (our diploma). I hope I made you proud, Lola. Maraming maraming salamat po.

Rachelle

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15 thoughts on “On scholarships, graduations, and finally getting a medical degree

  1. I can so much relate to your story fellow doc!
    Funny how in the middle of the PLE review/studybreak, I stumbled upon your blog from a comment you left in one of Saab Magalona’s post.
    I miss writing so much 🙂

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  2. Great read! I honestly enjoyed reading all your posts. I am also a bio student and now, an incoming freshman med student and I think I am having a crisis in life. Hahaha! I hope I can also get a scholarship and survive med school just like you do!

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  3. *tears* This is very inspiring! Thank you so much for this blog entry! I am an incoming freshman and I am very anxious of not being able to maintain my scholarship. 😦 But still excited for all those things that await me. Congratulations, Dra! And God Bless to you and your endeavors. 🙂

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    • Kaya mo yan! Basta mag-aral ka lang nang mabuti. Pero kapag feel mo nabuburn out ka na with all the pressure and the tons of papers to read, matuto rin mag-relax. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Good luck! Excited na rin ako for you, guys! Med school life is so much fun despite the non-stop studying! 🙂

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  4. Hi Doc Ramilo! I was so inspired upon reading this blog entry as I can relate to you in so many levels except that I’m not a doctor yet. lol. I’m currently on my first year in Med school at UERM and a fellow recipient of the University Entrance Scholarship. 1st sem is done and my GWA is a little far from 88. We are financially challenged and so I would like to get your advice/insight. I’m planning to target the 50% scholarship, and apply for a financial aid. Would u know how the school evaluates such applications? Thank you! Godbless!

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  5. Wow, congrats Doc! Sobrang relate ako sa blog mo. I’m an incoming UERM freshman and I also applied for the University Entrance Scholarship since pasok naman ako sa requirements. Kaso I’m not that confident pa din na makakuha ako ng slot kasi hindi traditional na pre-med yung course ko and I only graduated as a Cum Laude from UPD. And so far from what I can see sa batchmates ko na nag aapply din ng scholarship, may isa na Magna Cum Laude from a pre-med course talaga. 😦

    This is actually really scary for me kasi I badly need the scholarship. I only have my siblings to support me since both of my parents have already passed away a few years back, and my siblings would not be able to afford kahit 50% scholarship so I really need to maintain the grades if ever I do get the scholarship. But since yung background ko pa lang nung college ay hindi na pang med, plus as you said sobrang hirap imaintain yung grades, I’m not sure talaga kung kaya ba. 😦

    It’s really funny how the people I know would ask what field of medicine I would like to practice in the future, and I just sit there smiling then changing the subject kasi deep inside sobrang nag dodoubt ako kung aabot ba ako sa point where I do actually choose a field to practice. Kino-congratulate nila ako both for recently graduating as a Cum Laude and for getting into med school, pero hindi ko talaga ma-enjoy yung praises nila because of the scholarship hanging over my head. It’s really weighing down on my mental health kahit ano pang pilit ko maging positive.

    OSA said they would update us about the scholarship on August, and ang bigat sa pakiramdam the past months not knowing if I made the right decision by enrolling in UERM. I failed to get into UPM kasi and PLM requries you to be a Manila voter to get a scholarship, and yung scholarships nila mainly 50-80% discount lang din so my siblings still can’t afford that. UERM is the only med school I know that offers full scholarship. My other option is to try for the DOH scholarship in provincial schools pero we already took our chances with UERM since my siblings are hesitant in letting me study sa provinces.

    Sorry sa mala-essay ko na comment. I really just needed to get it out kasi the people I open up to would just say sure sila na kaya ko yun at makukuha ko yung scholarship. I feel like hindi nila maintindihan na the possibility of failing is very, very real. And your blog really inspired me kasi despite showing the harsh reality of the possibility of failing, still it shows na meron at meron pa din paraan.

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    • I heard about the delays in choosing the scholars for the coming school year. I think the office of student affairs (OSA) is more involved as compared to how they were in the previous years. Before kasi the scholarship committee would interview the scholarship applicants earlier. But don’t fret kasi I learned that I was accepted as a university entrance scholar on the first day of school, during the freshmen orientation (grabe diba?! Haha). I am not sure about the number of slots for the particular scholarship grant pero UPD is a good school naman, regardless if pre-med or not yung course mo.

      You might want to ask your siblings to be ready to shoulder a part of your tuition in the succeeding years just in case hindi full yung academic scholarship mo from 2nd to 4th year. This is not to sound pessimistic but it’s really just better to be ready, diba? Para hindi ka rin masyadong nagwoworry every time may grades na after every long exam period.

      I hope everything goes well for you. Update me if possible. Hehe. I’ve met a few scholars na in UERM Med because of this blog. Nakakatuwa. 😊 Basta pray ka lang muna and hope for the best. It’s hard not to worry pero in the end diba kailangan mo lang maghintay kasi worrying won’t really help. Good luck, Karen!

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