This guest post today, published with permission, is also my entry to The Blog Rounds # 10, hosted by Doc Joey.
On being a doctor, a teacher, a father and a husband
by Dr. Robert Michael T. Ozoa
Thirty days ago today, I arrived at my clinic and found this “open letter” on my table. It was signed by the interns’ class president and it did not come with the usual envelope that we get around this time of the year. I thought it was just another tulisitation letter. Because it was open already I immediately got to read its contents ---- it was the invitation to give the inspirational talk today.
My initial reaction? Wow. Gulang na gyud ko. In between patients, I was thinking up excuses to beg off. …
PTA meeting?… but school was out.
Piano recital?... but that is going to be in June yet.
Kulang ko’g maid… but that was very far from the issue.
Then, Dr. Gaballo came to my clinic and would not take no for an answer. So I am here today.
I am really new at doing this kind of talk, a beginner, in fact. I’m not sure if I can actually talk about being a “physician, teacher and father” as what the letter of invitation stated. That is quite a lot of things to talk about. I am just 40 years old and as the cliché goes, life begins at this age. But at this age, I have had my share of lessons learned, on my own, as advised by family and friends and others I’ve read or heard from somewhere.
To the graduating class, you have chosen to become doctors and you are very, very close to becoming full pledged ones. The cost of going to med school is very high, the return of investment takes a very long time and there is no retirement. That’s the downside to it. However, the upside far outweighs the downside.
It is a very noble profession. You are instruments of God to continue His healing ministry. The ministry to heal the utmost of His creation - MAN. People come to you for help. To ease their pain. Listen to their woes. At times, your healing goes beyond the physical. Family or personal issues have to be resolved. Put dignity in our profession. As one of my teachers in med school would say, “It is the only profession in the world where you ask somebody to undress in front of you, touch him or her anywhere you want and you get paid for doing it.”
Much is expected of you and maybe because you hold life itself in your hands, patients will believe you. Believe you more than their parents, spouses, politicians or even more than their pastors or priests. Family members will ask you to convince their patients to quit smoking or drinking and sometimes your mere presence would mean a lot to your patient and their family.
Very soon, you will be taking the board exams. If you make it, you will get your licenses. But the learning process will not have ended. To some, the real thing will just begin. Go into residency training if you can. The idea of finally going to earn money and get some of the things you need and want is very attractive. … but residency is not a walk in the park. You might have to give up family or relationships; but that is just temporary. There is an end to it.
Going into residency is the only sure way of saying goodbye to 24 hour duties but still do hospital work. For the women, your biological clocks are ticking and you might be in a hurry to start a family. By all means, go ahead. Each one of us has had a classmate or two who went through med school while starting a family.
But don’t get me wrong about residency training. You can still practice medicine wherever you want to. If going to the barrios and serving the least of our countrymen makes you happy – go ahead. In the first place, that was the very answer you gave during your interview when asked why you wanted to be a doctor when you entered med school, wasn’t it? How about going into nursing? It might be practical also but I advise you to try being a doctor first.
Whether you go into residency training or not, be sure not to neglect updating yourself about medicine. Attend meetings, conferences or conventions once in a while. Don’t go there just for the food. Medicine is an ever growing science. Ideally, journals are the way to go but these are expensive. Register with MEDLINE or PUBMED. It’s free. They’ll send you relevant e-mails long after your high school buddy has stopped forwarding chain e-mails. Unknowingly, you might be practicing medicine “oido”. But the one who goes to find out the why of things achieves more than the one who just did it because it was the way he saw or heard how somebody else did it.
Don’t keep the things that you learn to yourself. Show as much passion for teaching as for learning. Teaching is the closest thing you can get to gaining immortality. Be careful with what you teach. Some people take what you say hook, line and sinker. And you might be quoted on it. You don’t have to teach only about medicine. When you get kids (I got 4) you will be teaching them their ABCs, good manners and about life in general. Practice what you teach. Especially with kids, leadership by example is still the best.
Of course, you should not have kids just because I told you so. If and when you have found that someone who you can imagine being the first person you see when you wake up in the morning for the rest of your life, then make that commitment with him /her. Get married, start a family. Like everything else, it doesn’t get cheaper if you delay it. And if it is true love, it will stand the test of time.
Years ago, when people asked me how long I have been married I tell them there are two answers to the question: i.e. from the time I said my I dos in church and from the time I started actually living with my wife and kids. I now realize it is the same time. You don’t cease to be a husband or a father because your wife or kids are not beside you. Don’t forget your vows and work hard to make the relationship work and last.
We are in difficult times. The basic unit of society, that is the family, is at constant threat. The future is so uncertain. Parents have to leave their children so they can provide for the family’s needs. It is a shame that for the sake of survival, raising a family has to come in second of your priorities. It will be hard but so your union is meaningful, “procreate”. Kids are kapoy work pero makawala ug kapoy. I can go on the whole day and tell you about the antics of each of my kids. Each is different and a challenge. Even my twin sons have different personalities. Everyday is a blessing.
You know what my greatest fear is for my family? It is the fear that I have not loved them enough. My wife and I had our share of being “geographically single parents”. When I was in residency training at St. Luke’s in Manila, my wife, Grace, raised our eldest son, Miggy, in America. She said that even if she gave her 100% to Miggy, it still would not be enough because a child needs 100% from each parent. Now that we have four children, we are busy giving our all that we don’t have the time to calculate how much love we are giving each one of them.
Rev. Golosino once told me that children spell LOVE as T-I-M-E. As a parent, you will have to make the time, even if at times there seems to be none left for yourself, for the sake of your kids. Be at their school activities, watch a movie with them, dine out, play with them, and the list just goes on. I think every parent here would agree with me that there is no complete guide or book on parenting.
Always strive to teach your kids what is right as what the bible says and always be on your guard because “kahit gaano mo katino palakihin ang mga anak mo, gagaguhin lang ng ibang tao” as what our resident training officer once told me when I appreciated how well mannered and behaved his teenage sons were. I tell my kids that their best friends are mommy and daddy so they can tell us everything and be themselves when we are around. And, I also I tell my 3 year old daughter not to have a boyfriend.
Parenting, I suppose, doesn’t end even if your kids got kids for themselves already. Make their childhood a happy one. The next best thing to seeing a happy child is knowing that you were the one who put that smile on that face. We just celebrated my father’s 80th birthday and all seven of us siblings were around to celebrate it. This time we were the ones who put the smile and tears on his face. Give back to your parents when you can, you will not be here if not for them.
I guess I have said my piece about being a physician, teacher and father already. But the most important thing you should remember: In everything that you do, do it for the greater honor and glory of God. At the end of the day, it will still be between you and your creator. He will be asking you about what you did about the talents and treasures He gave you, to the children he entrusted to you. Is that not scary?
To the graduating class, Congratulations and Godspeed.
To the incoming class, Welcome.
And to everybody else, Good afternoon.