Overwhelmed students deserve wellness breaks in this pandemic—and 7 ways to cope!

As I am writing this, our university’s wellness break is nearly done. Echoing the clamors of students who were stuck at home for their online classes, and imitating those institutions who went on and gave the precious time of rest for their students, my university offered one week of rest for studying: no classes for both synchronous and asynchronous sessions, no assignments or projects, no advance readings or anything.

Unfortunately, this week was just like the other weeks I had since I started school this year due to other commitments. But I do admit that it was an eye-opener: I was able to explore more things around me and was made aware of some places that are quite new here in our city. However, I admit that taking a rest from all the study materials allowed me to enjoy mundane activities, especially catching up on my Netflix list and cozying up next to my wife.

I can attest to the stress and worry that online students have been flooding social media platforms about their classes on the internet. Yes, there is less hassle and less interaction with others (one thing that I enjoyed), but it is hard asking questions when things are not clear. Additionally, the recent typhoons that ravaged the Philippines, paired with the harrowing images of destructed houses and helpless people, may have added to the anxiety that has been brewing since classes started in September/October.

I, for one, have previously relayed my frustration and anxiety because of this pandemic. Having this wellness break is something that I really value.

Besides my university, other schools have also followed and set some form of a break, calling it from reading breaks to class breaks, emphasizing students’ need to free up their minds for some rest. Most of those in Luzon were given in response to the damaging effects of the area’s typhoons.

Some groups are actually asking to prioritize the students’ conditions in this pandemic and instead call for halting all classes as soon as solutions to the growing problems in the country loom. Some netizens support this call, yet others consider this as insensitive and unideal. Whatever your opinion on this matter, we should all know to point out some facts.

Online Classes are Necessary to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Nobody wanted COVID-19 to happen, especially for the people here in the Philippines. While the government is repeating its interest in prioritizing waiting for the vaccine to arrive before calling the pandemic a solved issue, avoiding crowds, wearing face masks, and washing hands remain the easiest protection that people need to avoid disease.

Zhou et al. (2020) have seen how online classes in China have helped prevent the pandemic. As much as we would like to see students interact with each other, online classes are the only ideal solution today.

 

Teaching Online is a Challenge for Those Who are Not Used to It

Even though this post presents the plight of the students first, it is undeniable that teachers are another set of people greatly affected by the shift in the mode of instruction. Teachers can be interactive in their approach, and having online classes could remove the connection they want to have with their students.

While interaction may occur in synchronous classes, asynchronous ones, or those recorded before the classes’ schedule, are even worse. They can be watched at other times and eventually be forgotten by the student.

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For whom is your ‘medicine’ for?

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, “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 to 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 prescriptions to patients might 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 a 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 inform the learned, they may also become avenues for bullying and false accusations toward health practitioners. 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 that people see doctors as those from the upper social strata levels. 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

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 the country to devise schemes that encourage 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 doctors’ views. 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 serve the Filipino people, asking us to define who we offer this dedication to become doctors. How about you? For whom is your ‘medicine’ for?

I’m back to writing for a campus paper

Writing for a Campus Paper

I started involving myself with campus journalism back in high school when I was appointed to join a campus journalism seminar. Unlike my classmates, that was my very first exposure to the craft and have fallen in love with it ever since. It also served as my entry to our campus paper.

Through circumstances I still cannot understand, I became the chief editor of our campus pub but halted my involvement when I entered college. I never had the chance to write for it even though I was a member of my first college’s student pub.

When I transferred to my current university to finish my undergraduate degree, I was privileged to be accepted to our university student publication. Through it, I was able to be exposed to the woes of the people, be involved with social issues, and be informed of what my environment is really up to.

Upon graduation, I never imagined myself writing again for a school publication. Then Medicine happened.

 

Writing was a Refuge

I transferred schools after enduring endless troubles in my academic path. I thought I would never survive college with all its challenges and demands. College was not hard. The hard thing was maintaining my sanity because of previous blunders I had.

The moment I saw the recruitment poster for my paper, I felt a slight nudge in my chest telling me to apply. But if not for my girlfriend’s coercion (haha), I would not have applied. I was accepted and it was awesome.

I enjoyed all the tasks given to me. I savored every interview I did, loved all the events to cover and visit, and adored all the precepts of campus journalism. I just recently realized that writing became I way for me to unload some baggage. I was really into writing.

 

Writing must be for the People

But I felt something lacking in my craft. I desired more. Then I was exposed to the idea that writing is a way to serve the people. And with campus journalism’s rich history in the Philippines, the focus must be realigned to the people.

I began to write about people’s woes and their situation. Because of my research for my articles, my mind was opened to what really is happening in the world. It is my hope that the things I wrote would have inspired others to see the way I saw things.

In the Philippines, campus publications are the only student organization to have its own law through Republic Act No. 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991. This should have given more freedom to the campus papers but it still insufficient. I am one with those who still dream that legislation can be passed to provide more opportunities to campus writers and that all suppression of the campus press be gone.

 

Writing is also Healing

We were asked for the interview before entering medical school if what we would want to be if we will not become a doctor. I told the interviewers that I would want to be a journalist since the things that journalists do are just like those that are done by medical doctors. And that’s because of my background in campus publication.

Journalists diagnose society. They write about the people’s condition and offer remedies to these woes. They subject society to various tests to fully inform the people of their situation and offer solutions to their problems.

Journalists serve the people. Medical doctors serve them, too. I am just blessed that I happen to tread both paths in my lifetime.

 

Writing Again

So, for this school year, I applied for our college’s campus publication which is quite surprising for a medical school to have. People would not associate those two but our school publication, Vital Signs, has proven its worth to my fellow students.

This was just an update but I hope you wish me luck on this!

I’ll try to post my write-ups here (to save me from my writer’s block!)

Happiness is the Key

I tried to give this post with the title “Pursuing Happiness” but that would be too cliché. I was planning a post series about happiness which I started here but my schedule prevented me from doing so. For now, I felt an internal nudge telling me to write about this.

 

Happiness

Too often we would hear people say that man’s ultimate goal is to be happy. I have struggled with the idea as long as I can remember. Growing up as a church minister’s son, I have concluded early in my life that happiness is not paramount. Of course for a Christian, it is living according to God’s precepts. But a person’s goal must be something so rewarding and must always start with something unreachable.

I always wanted to be like my dad. His duties as a pastor of our local church were attractive. Even though I grew up as a shy kid, I will always wonder how my dad interacts with people treating even strangers like old-time friends. By the time I graduated in elementary, I told myself that I would be a computer engineer, whatever that profession means. I would never follow any of those two since after graduating from high school, I took up business administration. Now, I am pursuing the life of a medical doctor.

The evolution of my attitudinal change flashed in my mind when I was working with my adopted family for our community work. They were telling me about what they were doing to remedy their sickness including their medical experiences for the last few months. They told me about people who tried to dupe them into buying expensive food supplements and about the drug they are keeping as an emergency pill that was clearly not related to the ailments that they have.

 

Broken Smile

I planned to make my visit short and just record their vital signs and verify some information that I took months before. However, my visit went on for an hour where mostly I debunked their misconceptions and answered their questions to the extent of my knowledge. I admit I was thankful that their questions were not too technical but I loved the feeling of exchanging ideas with them, seeing their interested and satisfied faces, and the total exercise of the event that was happening before my eyes.

It culminated when I notice the firstborn in the family looking eagerly at my nameplate, at my stethoscope, and at my notes. His face was serious and I feel like he was trying to say something. Before I left I asked him if he, too, wants to be a doctor someday. He smiled and answered yes.

His parents were quick to tell him that they may not afford medical education or that now is not the time to decide about it. I dispelled their fears by telling how many doctors are needed by the Philippines and that there is still hope for free medical education someday. They both looked at their son and agreed.

I can’t believe I would be inspired by that scenario. I realized that man functions to follow his need to be happy. He wants to satisfy the longing in his heart that would ultimately make his heart smile.

 

Trigger-Happy Obsession

We are often obsessed with the difference between joy and happiness. Often, joy is something that dwells in our hearts and may persist no matter what the circumstance is. Happiness is the feeling that we feel due to something that happened. I agree that the preceding definitions are correct.

However, the dictionary would tell a different story. For Merriam-Webster, joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires,” and happiness is “a state of well-being and contentment.” By the looks of it, they seem to be similar. We have joy in our hearts but we still try to seek happiness and that is never wrong.

 

Happily Blessed

Religions and self-help programs would guide people to achieve happiness. Because of its English etymology (using blood to consecrate something), we associate the word “blessed” with the act of making something holy. We forget that in the religious context, it also means someone who is happy.

The most famous sermon of Jesus Christ is His Beatitudes which are beautiful in meaning and structure. We call it beatitudes because it has sentences that start with the word beati which means “happiness or blessedness.” This sermon sums up some of the values that He taught and it says that the person who follows them will be happy.

To make yourself happy is not even contradicting to a Christian. The mere fact that believers live their lives to give God happiness is reason enough to say that pursuing happiness is a holy act if done the right way. Belivers disregard that God’s happiness would result to their own happiness.

As long as we do not hurt others, we can chase anything that would make us happy. I think I have a newfound outlook on my life and would now try to seek my happiness.

Oh, the things medical school does to you.

Luther’s movement was more than just religious

Lately, in light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I have filled my blog with posts about this movement within the Christian faith and its modern relevance. These posts were stemmed from my responsibility at my local church where I serve as worship leader and head of communications.

As much as I would want to write more about my experiences as a medical student, I cannot release myself from my faith and given this platform I think it is proper that I allow my religious expression to be heard. I have long considered this journey towards medicine as a hard path; I have repeatedly admitted in my posts about the backlogs in my education and of many hindrances that follow them.

That is why this Reformation was so important for me. In the past, this celebration would have been a day of pride for me where a man of faith braved the odds and expressed his beliefs giving us Christians, of all denominations and groups, the kind of faith that we have now. However, as a person in the academe, I came to realize things about this movement that has kept me striving for my goal.

I have made October as my month of pondering and devotion towards my worldview and the events that happened 500 years ago gave me a chance to introspect and be inspired more.

 

Luther wanted to start a discussion

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th year of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses in the church door in Wittenberg about his realizations on the church practices during his time. He wanted to have a discussion with his community and with the church officials. This plan would be the cause of a schism within the church that would eventually lead to wars and violence throughout Europe.

People would often refer to the chaos that happened during the Reformation but neglect the fact that Luther wanted to talk. In the modern era, we have seen that conflicts can be resolved through discussions. Even though our world is still filled with violence and chaos, sitting with other people and talking about the problem could truly help.

 

He paved the way to the questioning minds of the Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment was the period in Europe where reason dominated world ideas in the 18th century. Early Reformers often had backgrounds in humanism and philosophy, giving them the leeway to reject traditionalism and turning to the Reformation movement which offered a faith based on reason and scriptures.

The Enlightenment also gave rise to atheist philosophers and those that reject Christianity. While believers would say that this is a downside, the Reformation was never in vain. It gave people ideas that they alone can decide what they want to happen to their lives and began questioning the ideas the predominated their time.

The process of questioning would eventually pave the way for a more comprehensive scientific culture that continues until today.

 

The movement tried to dissuade people from superstition and turn to the academe

The faith during Martin Luther’s time often includes several traditions which he pointed out to be inconsistent with the scriptures. Superstitions were also rampant with people doing unnecessary things for their peace of mind. With traditionalism taught as unequal to the scriptures, superstitions started to wane, even though not instantly.

More and more people became interested in studying science. Even in the religious world, people would discuss their faith based on studies that they have done. This culture of studying still has a grip on our modern world and the Reformation may have a hand on this.

A fun fact that I knew just this year is that some universities in Europe still practice nailing their theses on a wall after completing them, mirroring what Luther had done to his.

 

The movement inspired people to work from the heart

The early Reformers were influenced by the writings of Augustine of Hippo which is often depicted holding his heart in serving God saying, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” In the same way, seals of Luther and Calvin also feature the heart as a way of showing that service to God must always be done wholeheartedly.

Because of this, generations were told to strive and succeed. Many minds were opened to the fact that if the work is done properly with all dedication, good outcomes await. Many can attest to this fact and continue to be a source of inspiration.

 

The Reformers taught that people should keep on reforming

The second generation of Reformers has a strong message embedded in their writings: semper reformanda. Always Reforming. They said that the Reformation has not ended. The need to reform is still there. But not the doctrines, the creeds, or the forms. Our lives must continue on reforming until the coming of the Savior.

We can say that this thrust of telling people to always change has inspired people to innovate, to look for more truths, to formulate ideas that show reforming, to strive for better things. The Reformation has given us many things but more than just our way of worship, it has given man a new way of life.

 

Final thoughts

I consider my failures and heartaches as those things necessary for my growth. But I know that I still have the chance to be better, I still have the chance to reform. The influence of the Reformation is undeniable and it has given an impact on the lives of all the people on earth.

We still look forward to more things that we could change for the better. Semper reformanda.

Nail Medical School—Use the Figure 1 App!

Check out Figure 1, a free app that provides thousands of real-world medical cases at your fingertips. It’s a great resource for studying for exams and discussing classic/rare medical cases with a global community of experienced healthcare professionals: https://app.adjust.com/8ju7xk_dxl4wy?campaign=anjoeli9806

Personally, I have found the app to be very useful in my studies. You can check similar cases to those you are learning now. You can also join a community of doctors, medical professionals, and students that would help in time of need in matters of medical questions.

Other than that, the app makes you feel like you’re a doctor and helps you visualize yourself in the shoes of the lifesavers. I think if only I have used the app earlier, I would not have any problems with medical school like I have now.

Use it now and download here. Get the free app used by 70% of medical students.

A Dignified Death for the Ill Old Persons

As a Christian, I was taught to never fear death because I have a Savior that has given His life for my sins, giving me an assurance that there is life after death. If we look into this fact from a secular point of view, this belief somehow gives meaning to life and it stands to give people hope that death is not the end.

Other faiths also have their own version of the afterlife, if those belief systems advocate one. But there are also those ideologies that do not offer an image of life after death. However, all of these beliefs offer their own kind of explanation to life and its impending end.

I am not afraid of dying. I think I am ready to leave this world anytime. But having people leaving me behind is another story. Even before I had experienced a death in the family, I have been avoiding the thought of them dying.

My first experience of dealing with the death of a loved one was back in 2015. My paternal grandmother died due to complications too many that I was not able to inquire. I was just accepted into medical school and was still recovering from the stress of graduation. I was coping from a commencement of a long distance relationship and was still adjusting to the demands of a fresh graduate. Then, our relatives called and informed that my grandmother was already dying.

I was not able to express my real feelings on her death. I was able to meet her alive in a hospital bed one week before she died. Her condition was very foreign to me at that time; I was still not exposed to medical terminologies and other health stuff. As much as I wanted that scenario to be an inspiration for me to reach my dreams of being a doctor, I now think that the sadness and the realization that life is short somehow contributed to my first failure in medical school.

Earlier today, we were learning about caring for old people. In closing his lecture, our teacher read an article from The New York Times entitled One Last Visit to See My Patient. Written by Dr. Danielle Ofri, it was an essay talking about how she encountered the death of one of her patients. Coincidentally, her essay features the story of her Filipino patient which made it even more relatable. You can read the article here.

Basically, the essay aims to advocate early hospice care for patients in contrast with the current practice of only suggesting it to patients who are expected to live for less than six months. The essay cites a study to prove that early palliative care actually improves life expectancy. As for the case of her patient, she was able to extend her life for 18 months.

Dr. Ofri’s patient has everything that she needed. She was well supported by her children, giving her the best healthcare in New York unlike most of the geriatric patients here in the country who do not have the opportunity to be seen by that caliber of a doctor. The patient was given all the comforts on the day of her death where Dr. Ofri realized that “had won the lottery. She’d lived a long and happy life, with a loving extended family in two countries. Her final days were being spent on her own couch, among her plants and family, her favorite TV shows and music.”

As our teacher was reading the essay, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I wanted to cry and again feel the sadness of losing my grandmother. She did not die like Dr. Ofri’s patient. She was not on a couch. She was not surrounded by plants. She cannot even see well. She cannot hear well.

Instead, I remember her on that hospital bed, stationary and weak, connected with different tubes, with a plethora of intravenous fluids hanging by her side. She was constantly comforted by my aunt in the midst of her grueling pleas to ease her pain. She was jaundiced and teary-eyed, and she whispered to my ear, asking for prayers so that she may come home.

She was not surrounded by her children, only one was there. She did not have a personal doctor to assist her in the last moments of her life. We did not know if she still wanted to live. We did not know if she wanted to go. She already lost much of her cognitive function and there were no means to ask her what she wanted. The only thing that I know is that the physician informed my aunt that to resuscitate will be futile. Then, all tubes and life-supporting apparatuses were removed. My grandmother left this world peacefully.

Yes, she did not suffer when she died and as a Christian, I know she met her Creator with open arms. But after hearing the essay, I know she was not able to leave her life in a dignified way. In part, I instantly envied Dr. Ofri’s patient. But then, I began to realize that my grandma will not be the only one in this country that will be deprived of a dignified death. And then I wept some more, albeit deep inside.

Even though I felt sad remembering about my loss, I can’t help but ask myself when will I be able to come to terms with this feeling. I am still living in denial that my loved ones could leave me behind. I still feel that I am not ready to face that moment in my life yet. But the article left me thinking about the dignity in death.

Dr. Ofri was able to express the polarity of the feelings associated with death. She said that while we commonly think about sadness when someone dies, she realized that her patient may have experience joy during her last hours. If only everyone could experience the kind of dignified death as that patient had.

Like Dr. Ofri, I do think, “I hope we all have that chance.”

September 2017 Physician Licensure Examination results

The results are in! After just four working days, the Professional Regulatory Commission has released the results of the recent licensure exams for physicians. 3,340 out of 4,064 takers passed.

For this year, the top performing medical schools are:

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The top ten successful examinees are:

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The list of all passers is available below. Congratulations to our new doctors! For more information, visit the PRC website dedicated on this here.

Having Cavies as Pets: From the Laboratory to our Home

Guinea pigs (also known as cuys or cavies) are rodents belonging to the genus Cavia commonly seen as domestic pets in modern households all over the world. They are known to be cute pets often seen with rabbits and hamsters. While they are known as lovable pets, they are considered as important animals especially in South America where guinea pigs as consumed as food and as an ingredient in folk medicine.

While the etymology of the word ‘guinea pig’ is hard to explain, the animals are popular because of their value in laboratory experiments since the 17th century where the cavies serve as model organisms for experimentations. Because of this, we have also use the word ‘guinea pig’ as an epithet to any test subjects.

Even though cavies are now replaced by other test subjects (like mice and rats), they are still important in researches involving diabetes and cough-related diseases.

Out group at school decided to conduct research that deals with cough. With the earlier information in mind, we have no other choice for test subjects but the guinea pigs. After several months of processing with our university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI), plus a training from someone accredited by the Philippine Association of Laboratory Animal Science (PALAS) we were given clearance and accreditation to do the said experimentation of the cavies.

Initially, we thought that test animals should be euthanized after any experimentation. However, through these various outfits and trainings, we were educated that not all test animals are needed to be euthanized especially if the methods are non-invasive.  Our methods were deemed not harmful for the animals so we were approved.

But the authorities were clear in telling us that the laws of our country prohibit abuse of animals. As much as possible, the laws require that there should be no killing in test subjects.

That is why after our research, we divided our test subjects and took them home as pets. Now, I am starting to become a cavy pet owner and am still finding other ways to manage them and let them grow.

Here is a video of my pets. I hope I can post more about them in the future.

How to Prepare for the NMAT Exam: Tips and Tricks to Ace the Exam

So, you want to be a doctor. And you happen to be a Filipino or want to study medicine in the Philippines. Before you can take the entrance exams to the school of your choice, you still need to prove yourself worthy. You need to take the country’s aptitude examinations for aspiring medical students.

If you have family members who were exposed to the world of medicine, you would have known about this examinations. This is the equivalent to the United States’ Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) but is not a computer-based exam like the latter.

The National Medical Admission Test or NMAT is described as follows:

The test consists of Part I and Part II. Part I is a 200-item test with four subdivisions, which are on Verbal, Inductive Reasoning, Quantitative and Perceptual Acuity Skills and is a three-hour exam. Part II is a two-hour-30-minute test in the field of basic sciences such as Biology, Physics, Social Sciences and Chemistry, all of which form 200 items. Qualified test takers are graduates and graduating students of degree programs. So that is 5 hours and 30 minutes exam in a day. Generally its results come in about 15 working days, and a candidate can get the admission as per college requirements. The grading system is percentile ranking from 1- to 99+ and marks are given ranging from 200 to 800.

In the past, third year and fourth year students in any Bachelor’s Degree program were permitted to take the exam. But the Commission on Higher Education issued their Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 10, s. 2006 or the “Updated Policies, Standards and Guidelines for Medical Education” which amended the requirements for those who want to be medical students. They are as follows:

Bachelor’s Degree (including those who will graduate by the end of the term, i.e., fourth year students)

National Medical Admission Test (NMAT)

Certificate of Eligibility for Admission to a Medical Course (CEMed)

Applicant’s Acceptance in Medical School

As you can see, the NMAT is very important before you can follow your dreams of becoming a doctor. I was blessed enough to have a good rating in my NMAT exam and was able to enter the medical school of my choice. Even though I was not an achiever back in my undergraduate days, I was still able to get a good score!

It’s NMAT season once again and if you were not able to know the schedule and more requirements for the examinations, visit the CEM web page dedicated for the NMAT here. The Center for Educational Measurement, Inc. (CEM) has been commissioned since 1985 by the CHED through its Technical Committee for Medical Education, to develop and administer the NMAT.

With the information given above, it is clear that you need to prepare your requirements first before doing other things. So, how do you prepare for the NMAT?

 

Enroll in a review class

People say that not all information you need in life can be found inside the classroom (haha) and that’s what review classes are for! Since your baccalaureate degree may not be strictly pre-medicine, review classes offer you a more focused venue for your goal of becoming a doctor.

Reviewers may offer essential tips or recommendations that you’ll surely use in answering your exams. The lessons are concentrated on topics that will cover all examination questions. Plus, your review centers may even give old test questions or exams patterned from the real thing that will give you a hang of the exam.

Some centers even claim that you can ace the exams through their help. Many have proven this and joining one will surely help you.

 

But if you can, self-study!

Not everyone can afford to pay for review classes and it is quite understandable. I was not able to attend any review session but was able to get good scores. This method is okay with those courses related to medicine, either directly or indirectly. I am a BS Biology graduate so I was able to use my course for the exams.

Although those with non-science degrees can still self-study if they have the resources. Since NMAT covers general subjects, one can find textbooks, even those from high school, to be good sources of information for review.

Others will even say that Wikipedia and Google helped them in their review.

 

Buy a review book

Since we’re on the topic of self-review, you may want to get copies of NMAT review books available in bookstores nationwide. Like the review centers, these books may contain old exam questions and exam sets that may have been patterned with what is given during the NMAT.

Some review centers would supplement their students with review books and larger review centers even sell review books under their names. The important thing is not to rely too much on these books. Again, these are just guides and memorizing the questions and answers may get you to nowhere. The best thing to do is still study.

Familiarize yourself with the exam types

NMAT has two parts and Part 1 is given in the morning while Part 2 is given after the lunch break. Part 1 exams cover the following: Verbal, Inductive Reasoning, Quantitative, and Perceptual Acuity. Each subset consists of 40 items and tests the mental ability of the student.

Part 2 exams include the following: Biology, Physics, Social Science, and Chemistry. Each subtest consists of 50 items and this part tests the academic proficiency of the student.

Remember that these tests have time limits!

 

Study your basic sciences

As mentioned above, the Part 2 of the examination covers the major sciences that most aspiring medical students are well aware of. Even those in non-science courses may be familiar with these subjects as they were also given in high school.

Biology. They say Biology students or those with health sciences degrees have an advantage with this subtest. Even though this may be true in some aspects, the questions given are general and surely lives up to its purpose in testing the proficiency of the student.

Physics. Many people say this is the Waterloo of most NMAT takers. Even though Physics is required as an appreciation course in many degrees, most of my friends and acquaintances tell that they forgot most of their earnings in Physics. I myself found the exams to be hard but thankfully I memorized the essential formulas for the test and thankfully survived.

Social Science. This came as a surprise to some of my acquaintances as they though NMAT would only focus on health and sciences. (They probably forgot to read the NMAT guide which you can get here.) As a Social Science junkie, I found the questions enjoyable to answer. Better be aware of everything around you. They might come up in the exams.

Chemistry. They say this belongs alongside Physics as the hardest tests in the exams. But Chemistry is an interesting topic and if you are planning to be a doctor, you need to appreciate it now before you’re shocked about how important the subject is in medical school!

One of the things that people are confused about the NMAT is its scoring scheme. I was also confused about this years ago. Here’s what CEM got to say about it:

The NMAT yields the following set of scores: (1) Part 1 subtest scores and a composite score called APT, (2) Part 2 subtest scores and a composite score called SA, and (3) a full composite score derived from the eight subtests called the General Performance Score (GPS).

The score on each of the eight subtests is expressed as a standard score (SS). The SS has a range of 200 – 800. The test results of examinees are compared to those of the norm group which has mean scores of 500 and standard deviations of 100.

The NMAT GPS is reported with a corresponding percentile rank (PR) that ranges from 1- to 99+, with a midpoint of 50. The PR indicates the percentage of NMAT examinees who has NMAT scores the same as or lower than the examinee.

The PR will be evaluated against the PR cutoff prescribed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) or by the medical school. This PR cutoff is the minimum score that qualifies an examinee as a bonafide applicant for admission into his/her preferred medical school.

 

 

Memorize important formulas (especially in physics!)

I have said this before but I need to reiterate this. I would have finished my exams late if I was not able to grasp some formulas both in Physics and Chemistry before taking the exams. I got this technique from a friend and was truly thankful for it. It is a simple trick but it will surely help you.

Of course, most students who want to be doctors are already enrolled in science courses or are working as health care providers. This means that most are already learned in Biology. Maybe the best approach to this is to assess which subject you are not comfortable with. Giving more effort to that area would truly help you.

 

Research about the medical school you want to attend

Even though I did not see it coming while I was an undergrad, I felt blessed that I was accepted in the medical school that I want to attend. I have this rocky journey with my school but the point is, I would have done better if I thought over the means for me to be accepted to the school of my choice.

Some medical schools have tough requirements and cutoff scores. Here comes your NMAT score to play. You need to make sure that you are cut out for the slot that will be given to you. Yes, you may not be sure about your performance in the exams. But knowing that your chosen school has stiff requirements can pump you up and inspire you to study hard.

Not all medical schools, though, have high requirements for NMAT scores. If you were not able to be accepted in your desired school, you may always seek for alternatives. Medical schools have different requirements and they have their reasons for that. Yes, there is a ranking for medical schools in the Philippines but I think that will never define you or your future in any way. Getting to schools other than those with prestigious names and ranking is by no means a measure of being a medical student.

Of course, like all other aptitude exams, the NMAT will never define your capability or even your IQ. With the time constraint that you’re in during the exam, you have a great chance of giving the wrong answers even to questions that you know by heart. The important thing is to never waver and give up. If you think you have done enough, just try again and again. If you’re meant to be a doctor, with effort and timing you’ll surely get your goal.

 

Set your goals; believe in yourself

The best thing to prepare for the NMAT is to remind yourself of why you want to be a doctor. Yes, the NMAT is still far from the medical license that you want to get. But at the end of the day, your interest in having a high NMAT score would still rely on what made you decide to take it in the first place.

Set your goals and make sure that those goals are for the common good. The medical school journey starts at the moment you decided to take the NMAT exam. This is the best time for you to believe in yourself. This journey has many rough roads and sometimes these can be reasons that will lead you to doubt yourself. The way of the medical doctor is a blessed calling and those who even just want to be one are blessed in their own right.

If you have a hard time on believing in yourself, find other who might become your sources of inspiration. Faith is important; you may rely on God on this venture. Find hope from your families, friends, and acquaintances. Just remember that you are not alone in this and you can do it!

 

Final thoughts

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This is in no way an authority on how to prepare for your NMAT. I am not an expert in medical education. I have written these to perhaps help you in your own journey towards medicine. I have my failures in this journey but I wish that you, my reader, will have a better road and may you become a successful doctor in the future!

Please see the official NMAT website for information about the exam including the fees, the venues, and the requirements. Make sure to remember the dates! God bless!

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