One feels humbled when God answers our prayers.
My friend Deonne, who placed fifth in the Physician Licensure Examination last August, had told me, “Kailangan daw specific magdasal.” When I was kneeling down in church during the last Sunday of our four-day exams, I remembered his words. And I prayed, “Lord, sana po pumasa po ang UP College of Medicine Class 2011 – 100% — ngayong August 2011 board exams.”
It happened. And the giddy feeling has not left since.
You see, in medical school, we have yearly class competitions – sports, plays and, most importantly, the Tao Rin Pala (TRP). The last is a festivity held one faithful day in December when the classes get together, sing their dreams, thoughts, and hopes as a class. There are also dance numbers, band performances and quirky emcees. Because TRP has been a tradition since the 1970s, it’s a big honor to win the class choral competition. The performance is judged according to the originality of the composition of the song, the interpretation, and the participation of the class.
We always had beautiful compositions but somehow our execution always wasn’t that good. During the three years we competed for TRP, Class 2011 made it to the Hall of Fame – of those who never won.
I love my class (haha), but if truth be told, we have never had much of a class spirit. Instead of attending practices, we preferred to do our own thing. If one of your friends told you that he wasn’t attending, you were quickly convinced you would be better off doing the same.
This attitude was not only toward TRP practices; it also applied to Christmas parties and almost any class activity. Taking things seriously wasn’t really in our vocabulary. Everyone had his own thing going, whether it was a passion for sports, the clique from college, or the urge to play Dota.
By our second year, a number of our batchmates had already chosen other paths, like flying, banking, or writing. When we got into internship, we were a smaller group and we would go on duty occasionally every other day just to cover the “loss” of an able-bodied groupmate and take care of our patients. As interns, we only had six to eight people in a block (the present batch of interns in the Philippine General Hospital have 10 people in each group). So we spent more time in the hospital than most other batches.
I don’t think we were considered the brightest batch. At the end of each school year, during our comprehensive exams, we would score far lower than what was expected of us. It might have been our happy-go-lucky attitude or just the overwhelming volume of materials we had to study. A medical book ranges from 400 pages to 3,000 pages. If you have 12 subjects in the board exams, the number of pages you have to read—and memorize—range from 4,800 to 36,000, depending on the material you have chosen to dedicate yourself to. The average medical student can only sit for six to eight hours daily to absorb this. Most of the time, we nod off into dreamland.
The board exams are important to any medical student. But to our class, it was gold. Because we were thought to be slackers, we were deemed lacking in preparation for the exams. Someone was overheard saying, “Hindi papasa ang 2011 sa boards.”
If that was intended as challenge, I guess we took it to heart. I have to thank that person – he was an inspiration.
It was the fear of failure that drove us to sit down and read for three long months. The batch that preceded us, whom we revered because they always studied hard, had several graduates who didn’t pass the exams. We thought highly of them: the ones who taught us to “line” (insert an intravenous line), the ones who shared the ins and outs of the hospital, and the ones who spouted out clinical knowledge that would pop out in the board exams. It was scary to find out that some of them didn’t make it. Last year, UP got a 97-percent passing rate, a shocking fall from the usual 99 percent.
Thus, more members of our class enrolled in medical review centers than any other class. When you know you need help, you seek it. I guess none of us was too proud or foolish to know we needed some help. No one wanted to be taled about in whispers because he failed the board exams.
It was good to see many of my classmates during review classes. We exchanged stories, materials and tips. It created an atmosphere of focused learning. I knew that for the others, every day was spent in the library. Others made Starbucks or Coffee Bean their second homes. A lot of us studied in clusters – some “couples” group, some new study buddies, and some study groups formed during our first year in medical school. But always, there was a need for time to study alone when one worked out the intricacies of the classification of viruses or the synthesis of epinephrine from tyrosine. Self-study was the mode taken by some who knew they had enough discipline to pull everything together.
Seeing how hard we were studying, I often joked to my best friend Frances, “Feeling ko makaka-100% tayo.” And she would agree and say, “Feeling ko rin.” And we would end up laughing.
It wasn’t because we didn’t believe in it. It seemed incredible, but somehow we seemed to know.
It had been 15 years since one class had a 100-percent passing rate, and to say we were going to change that seemed batty. But apparently when you want something badly, when you put in all the work necessary and when others are helping you, God listens and makes the impossible happen.
It was not only our class whose prayers were answered. Among all the medical graduates who took the board exams, 75 percent passed, way above the average of 55 percent. Everyone must have worked hard and it paid off.
To all the new doctors, congratulations.
Let us not forget to whom we owe this time of jubilation. First there is the Great Being who have us the privilege to practice the art of healing. Then there are our parents who supported and financed our long journey even as our classmates in high school were paying the down payment for their cars. There are our classmates, friends and loved ones who made our lives bearable during times of trial. And there are our patients who entrusted their ailing bodies and worries to us. May we continue serve them the best way we humanly can.
Every person who has helped us along the way contributed to make that 100 percent.
Mikaela Nikkola A. Jara, M.D., 25, is one of the new doctors from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine Class 2011 eight of whom placed among the Top 10 in the August 2011 Physician Licensure Examinations.
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