Dear Doctor: To My Former Peers Who Became New Physicians in the Pandemic

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Dear Doctor,

I could still remember being eagle-eyed in 2015, the year we all decided that becoming a doctor is the best way to go to become our future careers. We noticed everything that happened around us, the doctor-mentors in their white coats, the diverse face of our seatmates, and the water of our first day. We felt the excitement and the anticipation of wearing our uniforms and be clad in white, but we still needed to wait for weeks before that happened.

We scrambled at every session and discussion, though armed with the knowledge we gained from our bachelor’s degrees, medical school was a different setting. Everything was fast-paced, even with the most mundane of activities. As soon as the serious stuff was being taught, we pointed fingers at each other, trying to refer to persons who were expected to know stuff. The nurses know the anatomy and physiology, the laboratory science and public health majors know their microscopy, the biology majors love dissecting things.

By and by quizzes and examinations went one after the other, most are anxious about their scores. Most were passing, but some are experiencing it very hard. Unfortunately, I was one of them, and after just one semester in college, I had to rest. Mainly to retain my slot as recommended by a mentor. However, I think it was a necessary detour I had to take for self-preservation and mental recuperation, which, unfortunately, needed five more years before happening.

The hard thing about medical school is that it needs perseverance and dedication. Slots are limited, especially in state universities. Grade and residency requirements are necessary to remain in the dream. Resting for the second semester seemed like the wisest decision for me, but I already had a fear of being removed from the roster and was even expecting to never graduate with the degree at all.

Even though I was recommended to remain connected with the batch, I was removed from your group. Though I was welcome to attend your other classes, I detached myself from your bunch, opting to isolate myself further, eventually taking up a job to dissociate myself from the heartbreak of not graduating with you.

But enough of me. This letter, after all, is for you. Throughout the years, I have seen your dedication and how you managed to balance your academic life with extracurricular activities. Your initiative to highlight sports as an important part of your life has been nothing short of admirable.

You managed to ace every subject and lesson, becoming some of the favored individuals to have passed by the college. You maintained composure as the barrage of lessons and hectic schedule swallowed you up as you breezed through the second year and third year.

Of course, there were also some like me who were not able to keep up with your pace of learning and took a path similar to mine, yet you who remained have been unsurprisingly well. I saw how the friendships and relationships you forged since your first year became firm foundations that I foresee as something that will continue as we get older.

I was able to see how you beamed during your first days of duty as clinical clerks. As you scrubbed your feet on the floor and wore your white shoes, you made me look forward to the time that I could also be like you, serving people through your intellect, making wise decisions to save their lives.

But as you were nearing your graduation, with photos of yourselves wearing your whitecoats and togas shared on social media, I sensed a tinge of hurt in my heart. As much as I wanted to be like you, what I really wanted was to beĀ like you, in the way graduating with you. I became insecure and depressed as though you were the ones who made my life miserable or you purposefully made me fail my grades.

Yet, you graduated, and you were still awesome. You went on to become interns that scatter across the country. Even though I know you were well-equipped with virology and public health fundamentals, I know that nobody prepared you to address a pandemic.

pandemic

More than just a way of communicating with you, and perhaps with a little bit of catharsis, this letter is that of an apology, too, even when you may think that I did not wrong you.

I apologize for suddenly detaching myself from your circle, whether you wanted it or not. I felt that I was no longer fit for your friendship and warmth. I could have remained and tried to be your friend when you were in need, especially for someone to talk to.

I apologize for thinking that your firm patina was that of arrogance or superiority despite the possibility that you were also trying so hard to adapt to the changes in your medical school life. I saw this and felt that I no longer belong to your degree of connection. I could have understood this as your way of composing yourself, and maybe you were just in deep thought.

I apologize for coveting what you have, from your intelligence and skills to your success. I have nothing but praise for what you have achieved, yet I was holding it back because of some jealousy. I could have remained steadfast in my own journey and be more inspired to be like you.

Last year, as the pandemic was declared, you were placed at a crossroads in your career. Some of you may have served on the frontlines in containing the virus and its onslaught. You were threatened with the possibility of harboring the disease if you continue on your journey. As your internship finished, you were all caught up in the dilemma of forgoing your licensure exams or go on and be modern-day heroes as you get your license.

As one by one you passed, you took your oaths despite the continued threats of the pandemic. You were drenched in your sweat in your level III and level IV personal protective equipment. You tirelessly make up the shortage of interns and clerks as you continued on your rotations. You chose the specializations suited for your skills and interests, and all of them are commendable.

It would have been better if there was not a pandemic to change my perspective of your medical journey or if I was not a bitter potato from the very start. But your success has since then been a personal pride of mine. I have been grateful to God for having even brushed elbows with you and calling you acquaintances, and I pray daily for your protection, success, and continued perseverance in the faith and in practice.

You truly are heroes beyond what you see yourselves. You are God’s gift to humankind in this tumultuous and hard season. I wish you more blessings and success as you continue your journey as five-star physicians.

The Ceaseless Nomad

 

Note: This has been on my drafts since the results of the second Physician’s Licensure Examination were released in 2020 and the entry was then again edited after the results of the March 2021 exams were published. While my main inspiration for writing this letter was my first classmates in medical school at West Visayas State University – College of Medicine, this would be appropriate for all new doctors in this pandemic who braved the uncertainties and persevered to become healers in a time of turmoil.

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