Saturday, March 5, 2011

Master Teacher

One of the country's strongest pillars of cardiology passed away today. In faithfulness to this creepy law of nature that requires most great doctors to usually succumb to diseases of their own specialty, he died of heart failure after battling against it for the last decade or so. Few days ago, while giving a lecture to more than fifty budding cardiologists, Teacher had a ventricular fibrillation that was initially aborted, but that eventually led to his rapid deterioration and subsequent demise. After many years of listening to him and looking up to him with awe during my training, and finally, my recent heart-to-heart conversations with him this past year, I am quite sure that that was how he wanted to go. The man literally died teaching. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Many months back, after his lecture with the students that left him almost out of breath, he told me, "Jean, gusto ko pa kayong turuan. Malapit na akong mamatay. Ang dami ko pang gustong ituro." I remember him holding my arm that day, as he slowly walked the hallways of the wards, while telling me, "Noong araw, lahat ng pasyente dito, pinakikinggan ko ang puso. Ganun ako natuto." His frail hands used to grip my arm for balance as we climbed the stairs that time at the College of Medicine when he insisted on teaching first year medical students the art of heart auscultation. At that time, I used to tell him, "Sir, magpahinga na kayo" but he told me, "Kelangan kong ipasa ang alam ko."

Leora, Jill, Teacher, and me. July 2010.

I last saw him last October, when, after his preceptorials with the students, he gave me his old book on cardiac physical examination and told me to write a summary of important points as guide for students. I still have the book to this day. Our last conversation was about growing old - how you must love and enjoy medicine, because when you're old and when your children have lives of their own, Medicine is where you get solace. Doing and teaching Medicine will be your source of satisfaction and fulfillment. A week later, during our last OSCE, as we were about to start, Teacher called me, and in a very weak voice said, "Jean, kumpleto na ba consultants mo? Sorry ha, di ako makakapunta ngayon. Ang sakit ng likod ko. Pero kung kulang ka pa, sabihin mo lang. Pupunta ako jan."

I never saw him again. During the past months, he had been in and out of hospitals. Together with some co-fellows, I have been planning to visit him, partly to talk about the old days and the birth years of PGH Cardiology but partly to just hold his hand and thank him for everything he has taught me. I never had the chance.

Now, he is gone. But all over the world are hundreds of Filipino cardiologists and internists, and thousands of other physicians he had taught. Many generations of UP graduates will forever remember his green jokes, his witty antics, his logical comments when everybody thought he was fast asleep during a conference, and how he always goes back to the basics (even claiming that the echo or the xray is wrong!).

Dr. P was already old enough to quit teaching, but he never did. Today, our teacher, our physical examination guru, our human 2D-echo has finally retired. His legacy will live on.

Teaching rounds with the great cardiologist. "The best diagnostic tools that a doctor has are his senses." - Dr. Gregorio Patacsil, Jr.

I have thanked him many times, but I have never thanked him enough, and I never will. All I can give him is a promise: that I will teach as I had been taught. Sometimes, the only way we could ever pay someone back is to pay it forward.


Rheuma Jr. said...

I still remember that one session I attended when I was cardio resident rotator... he taught us how to differentiate mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation using only our hands! And after that he wow-ed us all when he was able to do a better job of diagnosing a complicated heart condition (I forgot what but at that time only the consultants understood each other)by just using his hands and his steth - he beat the 2D Echo in doing this.

A great pillar nas passed away... and it is up to his students to carry on the legacy.

mary jessa said...

Hi Ms Jean. I came across your blog about Dr. Gregorio Patacsil, and it's very apparent that you had a close tie with him. I am Jessa Caritativo, Editorial Assistant and writer @ FAME Publishing. I'm working on a story about Dr. Patacsil's life. And I'd like to ask if I can interview you or quote you from your blog(due to limited time) as regards Dr. P as a teacher. Relative to my request, can I get your email address or contact number? Thank you!

Walking on Water said...

Hi, Ms. Jessa. I had several chances of working with him for our section's activities with the UP med students. My email address is I would love to help.

Ed Noblejas Jr., MD said...

Hi Jean! You have so aptly described a great man. I too, look up to him not only as a teacher but as a second father. For he has not only taught me about medicine (he was the Chairman of the IM-Dept. at Capitol Medical when I was a resident), but i have always come to value his fatherly advice which he spontaneously gave whenever an opportunity to dish it out came.
He is a mentor and dad whom we shall all miss.

Joy Tomas said...

Hi, I'm Joy Tomas, we've never met but Dr. Patacsil was our doctor for three generations in our family (my grandparents, my parents and us) although we have never had the privilege of being around him as you have, our visits at his clinic are sometimes like going to your homeroom teacher, with a cardio check up on the side. we just came from arlington tonight, unfortunately we couldn't get inside to listen to the stories about him, but having read your blog entry is consolation enough, and i also feel that i can't thank him enough for going beyond what a doctor is called to do for his patients. we will truly miss him.

catherine kaye Gapasin said...

Hi jean.. thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about Dr. Patacsil.. i was too late to know about his death.. I am a nurse who used to go with him in his rounds especially in my ward., i admired him so much for being so nice to his patient and for giving free service., Because of my curiosity of his background i accidentally found out that he is my grandfather's cousin =)) .. such little time knowing each after 4 years of working with him.. i'll truely missed my Lolo Dr. P. which i used to call him.