For a medicine student, Facebook is a nice place to explore other people’s ideas and to connect with other students and doctors who share tidbits of their experiences and opinions online. I chanced upon an article shared by a friend about Tu Youyou, the awardee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015.
Tu was the recipient of half of that year’s prize for her contributions in discovering a novel therapy for malaria. It was reported that she took on this research upon orders from Mao Zedong himself. Tu said that she did not want to be famous for her work saying that, “I do not want fame. In our day, no essay was published under the author’s byline.”
However, in contrast to what Tu Youyou has managed to have, our culture sometimes depend on patronizing people to prove their worth and medicine is not indifferent to this. People flock the clinics of famous doctors because they are proven to make miracles happen. We are sometimes required to claim our practice as ours, to treat ‘medicine’ as our own.
Here at Roxas Hall, we are taught to be cautious and generous to our future patients. Since day one, we are constantly reminded that medicine is not a means to become rich. We are even challenged that if our goal to become doctors someday is to be rich, we must stop this journey once and for all.
‘Trip to Mars’
We were taught that rational prescription to patients may even mean prescribing no medicines for them. Of course, we are told not to follow what some doctors do, where they overprescribe medicines whether the patient needs them or not, either broad-spectrum antibiotics for simple infections or a range of medications from one company.
I have heard about a doctor that would require all laboratory tests and prescribe a third-generation antibiotic together with other medicines manufactured by a certain pharmaceutical company whenever a patient comes for a checkup. I would always hear gossips about doctors who avail of “trips to Mars” every year because of exceeding quota for prescription.
It is sometimes disheartening that people would look at doctors like predators who about themselves first. While we know that these instances exist, it can sometimes demoralize us since we’re taught to be total opposites of these doctors.
‘Laway lang ang Puhunan’
Even though social media websites can serve to inform the learned, they may also become avenues for bullying and false accusations toward health practitioners. I know some of these reports are unfair and may even be false; patients tend to think that they are masters to be served and not patients to be cared for. However, there are some cases where patients’ accusations were true.
Aside from the “loyalty prescription” happening, physicians tend to be the subject of ire from patients because of expensive consultation fees. They would always say that doctors can charge any amount and only have their saliva as an investment, as they burden patients with numerous laboratory tests and high fees.
Even those in government hospitals are being accused of taking advantage of patients. We can’t deny that these things are happening as the advent of faster information exchange continues to hound us with these stories.
Rich Doctor, Poor Doctor
We can’t also deny the fact that people see doctors as those from the levels of the upper social strata. Most doctors would drive cars, live in big houses, and wear expensive clothes. Because of this, people see medicine as a good money-making profession, offering the best future for everyone.
Meanwhile, doctors who are not extravagant in their appearance would sometimes be called ineffective, with the absence of their wealth a proof that they do not do their jobs well. As a student, I become astounded by this narrow-minded comparison but cannot help as this is what society has shaped our fellowmen’s attitude.
Again, we can’t deny that medicine has become a vanity desired by people for personal gains. But does this qualify as a necessity in this journey?
Giving our ‘Medicine’ to the People
Back in 2014, the Department of Health (DOH) debunked the notion that the country lacks doctors. Officials were quick to retort that the Philippines has enough doctors. They said that there was just maldistribution due to low compensation for those willing to serve the people.
However, after two years, former DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial said that we still need 15,000 doctors. Our doctor-to-patient ratio is stuck at 1 doctor for 33,000 patients, especially to far-flung areas. This led to the country to devise schemes encouraging doctors to choose service even just for some years of practice. But this must not prevent us from striving to be effective healthcare providers for our sick countrymen.
Aside from learning to be effective physicians someday, we must also strive to change people’s views of doctors. I hope that our graduates will be like beacons set apart and show compassion to people, letting them know that we have nothing more but service to offer. Our ‘medicine’ should be for people who need it.
I’m glad that Roxas Hall has been constant in reminding us to be humble and to serve the Filipino people, asking us to define for whom we offer this dedication to become doctors. How about you? For whom is your ‘medicine’ for?