Saturday, May 17, 2008

Why I Have Two Bold Letters After My Family Name

I'm a medical doctor.

It is in large part because I passed a quick-entry program. My family was understandably ecstatic, and vowed to give me full support. As for myself, I did not have exact career plans at that point in my life, so I took the plunge knowing that my parents would support me.

It is a direct result of the efforts of my parents. Even though I spent a lot less than most medical graduates, I still spent a lot of money getting through medical school. And the ridiculous amounts of money were a big factor in my requests to shift midway in my medical course. My dad reassured me that we were not going hungry yet, and by God's grace I finished without any big financial storms (to my knowledge).

I am the first doctor in the family, and my sister followed me to the same path (but only up to the point of getting licensed). This fact puts into perspective my parents' love affair with the medical profession, as the noblest and most lucrative. Later would we find out that the lucrative part would come much later, if at all.

I have not started my own family yet, because it is so expensive to live comfortably during these times of economic hardship. Seeing a lot of poor patients who live a hand to mouth existence will make anyone think twice about setting out of the nest. Those two letters do not mean much in society anymore, thanks in part to the low regard for health care as a priority.

We did not experience the typical extended Filipino family scene. For the most part, we were independently living miles away from a second degree relative. This instilled independence into each of us, as well as giving importance to the priorities of the nuclear family unit. Simply put, we would care only on what we needed to care about - perceptions from other people come much later. Medicine did not change that. It only intensified the fact that at the end of the day, you can only run to your closest friends and family for genuine support.

Today I work 40 hours a week taking phone calls in a new building, surrounded with the latest equipment and a nifty ID entry system. I commute every week on the ferry just to go home and create all these blog posts. Do my parents mind? I remember what my dad always said - "Just set your career on the direction you want to take." My mom, after I had explained that I would be getting roughly the same salary for half the work, is hoping that this would just be a passing fancy, and I would return to don my white coat again. But they both respect me enough as a human being to give me free rein on my career choices, just as long as I can defend them with logic.

Being a doctor is something that I can never disown. And I will never regret becoming one. But my family and I realize that to remain one would still require so much from us, even though at this point we have already paid a lot. So even though it would require some major retooling of my skill set, I have asked my parents to support me towards a more technology-heavy career. I am thankful that my family continues to be there as I look for a more suitable path that I can take.

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