The guest of honor and speaker Dr. Fortunato L. Cristobal, dean of the Ateneo de Zamboanga School of Medicine, could not make it to the oath-taking of the country’s 1,834 new physicians on 14 September 2013.
Flights from Zamboanga City had been cancelled ever since the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked the city, captured a number of villages and took some 17,000 hostages, and fighting had been raging between them and the Philippine military.
Cristobal himself was attending to the medical needs of evacuees, but he found some time to craft his address where he challenged the new doctors “to help our nation achieve more health for our people.”
He spoke of bridging the gap in the quality of medical services and health care for urban and rural people in the quest for national health equity. “Together,” he said, “let us make our nation’s goal to achieve ‘Health for More’, a reality.”
His school is into this mission. Their integrated curriculum emphasizes improved health in a community, which they have successfully implemented through problem based learning, competency based evaluation, and community oriented education. They take 15 to 25 students each year from the region, mostly coming from low income families, on full or partial scholarships. As early as their freshman year, students deal with patients both in clinics and communities, and for about 18 months, they study and work in remote rural areas under some supervision.
Even if their students spend more time in the field than in the classroom, the Ateneo de Zamboanga School of Medicine has produced competent and service-oriented doctors. Four of their six students passed the licensure examinations of August 2013.
There is another challenge facing this batch of new physicians, which chairperson Teresita R. Manzala of the Professional Regulatory Commission and Dr. Edgardo T. Fernando, chair of the Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine, brought out: the implementation by 2015 of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Medical Practitioners, which the economic ministers of the 10 member countries of ASEAN signed in Cha-Am, Thailand in February 2009.
One of the objectives of the MRA is “to facilitate mobility of medical practitioners within ASEAN.” Hence, the practice of medicine will become “borderless” among the member countries by 2015: a general medical practitioner or specialist who has at least five (5) years of continuous active practice in his country of origin, among other qualifications, may apply for registration to be recognized as qualified to practice medicine in a host ASEAN member country.
“The ASEAN Economic Community [AEC] challenges you to assert your global competitiveness by adopting quality assurance as a paradigm in your practice,” Manzala told the new doctors. “Quality assurance through continuing profession development lends confidence in your calibre as globally competitive physicians.”
“As professionals, it is our duty to pursue Continuing Professional Development [CPD] as an invaluable means to keep ourselves abreast with the new innovations in medicine and be able to maintain the highest standard of excellence in our practice,” Fernando further explained. “CPD is actually not considered anymore a duty but rather a necessity in preparation for the upcoming implementation of the ASEAN MRA for Medical Practitioners and for the AEC in 2015. These developments will definitely benefit our Filipino practitioners, especially our newly licensed physicians, who will join and compete with the workforce of the ASEAN Community.”
The new physicians will have time to think about challenges and opportunities as they go through their residencies in the hospital schools. It may be government service or private practice, the academe, research or employment in companies. Hopefully, the majority will opt to remain in the country and possibly serve in the rural communities even for a brief span of time. It is almost a given that some had set their eyes to work abroad when they enrolled in a medical school.
On the lighter side, this year’s oath-taking had several firsts.
The regulatory board awarded these topnotchers in the board exams with medals and certificates of distinction: Blake Warren Coloma Ang, Cebu Institute of Medicine (1st placer); Daniel Yenko Guevara and Abdelsimar Tan Omar II (2nd placer), both from UP-Manila; Ruth Divine Daguro Agustin, Ateneo de Manila Univ. School of Med. & Public Health (3rd); Timothy Lee Tang Lee Say, University of Sto. Tomas (4th); Abegail Chan Ceralde, De La Salle U-Health Sciences Institute & Co-neil Rebanal Relato, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Ctr (5th); Jason Sta. Ana Arboleda, UP-Manila (6th); Donn Romell Marcelo Bernabe, UST & Alvin Christian Caminade Borbon, Cebu Institute of Medicine (7th); Karen Joyce Go Chua, UP-Manila (8th); Pamela Marie Blanco Imperial, Ateneo de Manila Univ. Sch. of Med. & Public Health (9th); and Paul Anthony Orencia Alad, UP-Manila (10th).
The top performing schools that had 50 or more examinees and with at least 80% passing percentage were also awarded plaques of recognition. The top eight (8) performers were: University of the Philippines-Manila, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Ateneo de Manila Univ. School of Med. & Public Health-Pasig and Cebu Institute of Medicine (100% passing); University of Sto. Tomas (99.53%); Univ. of the East RMMM Ctr (98.26%); West Visayas State Univ.-La Paz (97.14%); Far Eastern Univ.-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation (94%); Saint Louis Univ. (93.94%); Davao Medical School Foundation (90.32%); and De La Salle Univ.-Health Sciences Institute (89.53%).
For the first time, the 1,834 new physicians received their board certificates and professional identification cards immediately after their oath-taking. Licensed to heal!