For this blog entry, I’m going to give my ego an indulging massage and do something really narcissistic bordering on mad. Yesterday, I poured my heart out to a crowd in the PGH Science Hall during the graduation ceremonies of the residents and fellows of the UP-PGH Department of Medicine. Today, I'm posting that speech in this blog.
I know only great people get their speeches on blogs, posted by other people. I'm one of those hugely pathetic ones who posts her own speech in her own blog. Arrogant and vain. But what the heck. Other people might pick up something good from it. My main purpose however is this: to give credit to where it is due. Some of the people I am truly grateful for were not in the audience.
(Though the great Dr. ALD (TD) was there. wohoo!! =)
And the great Dr. ADM too. Yes Emeritus Professors RFA and EOD were there. But just to speak in front of your 2 greatest mentors, whew!)
Please indulge my big headedness and my lunacy. Here goes...
To say that this is an honor is an understatement. Few people will ever get this chance – to speak in front of such a great and honorable audience and be sure that she’ll be heard. If I take too much of your time, please Dr. Reyes and Dr. Nicodemus, go ahead and drag me out of this stage.
It was in August of 2007 when discussions about the next chief resident who will succeed the great Mark Sandoval were hot in the SRO. Maybe because I was one of the youngest in my batch and the only one then more eager to be a farmer than to be a doctor, my batch mates were badgering me to get the job. Even if it was just call room talk, I thought about this seriously. Chief residency is probably the biggest intellectual and emotional challenge a resident could ever imagine, that it would take a super human to do it. I did some research and listed down the names of the previous chief residents in the department: Tangco, Dans, Jorge, Isip-Tan, Nicodemus, Ona, etc. Wow, super humans indeed! So in the end, I made up my mind: No way! Chief residency is just too grand and too fancy for me.
One day, however, a brave well-meaning soul, a very good friend, approached me and said, “If they ask you to be chief resident, would you take it?” “Sabi ko, “Hindi ‘no! Di ko kaya ‘yun!” Then sabi nya, “Hmmm, that’s funny. Because I never thought you’re the type of person who’d say ‘no’ to a chance to do something good.”
I was speechless. All of a sudden, chief residency as THE ultimate daunting task was transformed and simplified into a chance to do something good. The thought became so tempting that I could not resist it. I figured, how bad could it get? The worst I could do was lose my head in the middle of it all, be yelled at, turn out to be a hilarious catastrophe nobody would ever forget. But at best, I could actually do it!
So a few days later, when the EXECOM asked “Are you willing?”, I said, “Yes.” And the rest was history.
I’d like to share three very important things that I learned during my one year as your chief resident.
First, the notion that chief residency is a sacrifice is false. Up until my last day in office, I never found any evidence that would qualify it as a sacrifice in any way. True, I had to spend extra hours in the office doing paperwork, but I also learned important skills I would never have learned anywhere such as: using the fax machine, photocopying, paper shredding, etc. Every time Dr. Mejia asks me to draft a communication, I consider that as a special lesson in writing, something like a crash course on English as a language, that I began to appreciate writing again. True, I had to spend sleepless nights constructing exams for residents, but if not for those exams, I wouldn’t have bothered reading Harrison’s (hehehe) and I wouldn’t have realized I’d want to spend the rest of my life as a teacher. True, I had to hear complaints from consultants, fellows, residents, nurses, patients, and other departments everyday. But I was able to get a better perspective on things, I had the chance to listen to strange people and to talk to them, when that used to be impossible for me. One of the best perks from being chief resident is that in the soap opera called PGH Department of Medicine, I got the best seat in the house.
Instead of a sacrifice, I’d like to believe that chief residency is a gift – a chance to grow as a person and as a doctor, a chance to teach and be taught, a chance to touch lives, a chance to be forced to do things you never thought you can do, to know your limits, to make mistakes and be better because of them. It’s a gift given only to a few people. And I was one of those lucky enough to get it.
Second, there is no such thing a stereotypical chief resident. So you need not change who you are to be able to be one. During an interview, a candidate for chief resident asked Dr. Mejia and Dr. Jorge what the typical chief resident should be. They said there’s no such thing. You need not be a geek who knows every page, diagram and table of Harrison’s, or a super-sungit dude willing to get into fistfights with anyone, or an obsessive-compulsive neat freak who won’t sleep until every piece of paperwork is done. They said that the department adapts to each working style. The EXECOM picks up the rhythm and works according to that rhythm. Every year, the chief resident is different. And it’s okay to be different. When they said this, I was so relieved. The way I understood it, I could get drunk once in a while or indulge in occasional backpacking trips and still get my job done. Buti na lang.
Third, I learned that the initial reason why I accepted this job, which was “to do something good”, was arrogant and even silly. I started out self-assured and convinced that I will do great things and change the world. But then real life came. Good intentions are never enough. In fact, huge chunks of my already minute self-esteem crumbled and everyday I was humbled. This supposedly hotshot chief resident barely got through each day praying, “Lord, just please give me your best today and I will give you mine” True, there was probably a little good thing done once in a while: a task completed, a resident comforted, a conflict resolved. At the end of one year, I demanded to myself, “What did you do? Show me.” There was nothing. I couldn’t identify one big thing, one permanent, concrete and tangible monument to my good intentions.
But then I look at myself. I have come a long way since that first day I sat on Mark’s chair. That timid, beer-guzzling, occasionally hot-tempered resident from God-knows-where in Mindanao who can’t even talk to consultants without melting, managed to write letters and talk to VIPs straight in the eye, send emails using Dr. Mejia’s personal account, attend meetings and speak out on behalf of the department, pester fellows into submitting reports and completing pay charts, call consultants early in the morning to drag them out of bed into the residents’ orals – things she never would have done if it’s all up to her. That girl who can’t even talk to anyone on the phone without peeing, is now talking in front of you, and loving every minute of it. Therefore, that concrete and tangible monument to my good intentions is me.
I agreed to be your chief resident because I had hoped I could do something good for the department. I didn’t realize that all the while, it was the department that was making something good out of me.
I’d like to end my talk by thanking everyone who helped. Dr. Mejia, ma’am you’re the coolest boss anyone could have. Dr. Jorge for the patience and gentleness, the rest of the EXECOM for the unwavering support and indulgence.. To the staff in the office: Ma’am Gina, Ma’am Cris, Ma’am Hazel, Ma’am Nilda, Sir Alfred, Mang Dan, thank you for the friendship. Thank you Mark S. for the helping me with so many things and for showing me the ropes. Dexter, thank you for accepting the challenge. I know you’d do so much better than I did. I’d like to thank the fellows from the sections and Dermatology for your support and quick action whenever we needed anything. I’d like to thank all the consultants for your tireless and selfless efforts in offering a huge part of yourselves for our patients and our residents. I’d like to give my special appreciation for the Section of Adult Medicine, to Dr. Dans, Ma’am Lia, Homer and everyone, for being my conscience, my mentors, and my touchstones whenever I aimlessly drift around.
I also would like to thank my batch mates, for bringing the five o’clock club into the chairman’s office, for being my gripe buddies and whining walls, my eyes and ears in the department. But above all, I’d like to thank the residents. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your growth for one year, for giving your all even if you’re tired and underappreciated. I’ve always known I got the best people. I only hope I gave you justice.
I think every chief resident would want to be remembered for something. Last night I was brainstorming on how I’d want to be remembered. I will never be the best chief resident, it’s easier for me to be known as the “Most Relaxed” or the “Most Forgetful” or the “Most Unlikely”. Maybe you can think of me as “The One Who Never Cried On the Job” or “The One Who Gave the Longest Graduation Speech”. That would be fine with me. But if it’s okay with you, I’d like you to know that I’ve been the most blessed. So I want to be remembered as the “Most Grateful”.
Thank you very much.
Oh, by the way, I meant everything I said. Really.=)