Five Facebook Posts for MD-PhD Students

6:13:00 PM

I was invited by MD-PhD Batch 7 to give a short testimony about my experiences in the MD-PhD program in UP College of Medicine. I decided to create five Facebook posts that will summarize all the things that I learned so far.

We can only self-teach so much! We all need mentors to help us grow and achieve our potential. It is very important for us budding researchers to get a good mentor that will guide us in our MD-PhD journey. Do not look for an adviser, look for mentor. An adviser will direct you without considering your personal situation, needs and passion. A mentor on the other hand will allow you and even encourage you to choose your own direction and always takes into consideration your personal situation, needs and passion. I am blessed that I found several mentors inside and outside UP College of Medicine.

Dr. Nina Gloriani is my research mentor in the MD-PhD program. The MD-PhD scholars owe the program to her because she was the person who toiled and labored to make this program a reality. I praise God for her life because God really used Maam Nina to guide me with my research project, comfort me during the times that I always get negative results and encourage me to always dream big. I feel so honored every time I share my achievements to Maam Nina and she will say that she was so proud of me. I am also thankful for the mentorship of Dr. Sharon Villanueva. She recently came back to the Philippines after finishing her studies and research career in Japan. I always a lot from our conversations about research and life as a graduate student. In fact, we have an upcoming medical microbiology research collaboration.

I always say this, "you are never too young to mentor". Always look for opportunities where you can apply all the skills that you have learned from your MD-PhD journey. After grant year 1, I started training high school students and teachers in Bataan about research. I taught them the how to formulate research question, conduct literature search, basic statistical analyses and a lot more. I serve as research consultant to some students in Bataan. As an MD-PhD student, I also want to do my part in strengthening the quality of research in the provinces.

I also took the challenge of mentoring undergraduate students for their thesis. It's a blessing that I came to know Prof. Elena Ragragio of UP Manila Department of Biology. Our research collaboration started when we received a research grant from the National Institutes of Health. We accepted BS Biology thesis students under the research project and since then, six BS Biology students already graduated from our mentorship. Some of them have already published their study in an international journal and some of them have presented their research in local conferences. 

The difference between a member and a stakeholder is that members do not take part in the management of the company or organization. A member is a person whose name is entered in the register of members of a group. Usually they join the group so they can put it in their resume. On the other hand, stakeholders are people who are invested in the organization and their input can directly impact the outcome. If the organization or the group fails, stakeholders consider that they also fail as individuals. We are all stakeholders of the MD-PhD program, let's act and be like it!

The program is still young. There are still a lot of things to be improved. But let us not always blame the committee, the system for everything. We're also part of the system. Let us always do our part to help improve the program. Let us prove to the country that MD-PhD program is not an expense but an investment, a great investment.

With great power comes great responsibities. To whom much is given, much will be required. We are not just regular medical students. Do not compare yourself to regular medical students. Do not grumble just because you have to spend your summer vacation in the laboratory while your batchmates in medical school are already spending their vacation in different countries all over the globe. Last time I checked, no one forced you to apply for this program. And I am pretty sure you fully knew what you signed up during the contract signing. We are scholars of the country and we should give justice to the taxes of the Filipino people spent on our medical education. There's no problem with having "me time" or giving yourself a break from time to time but please do so after finishing all your responsibilities as MD-PhD student.

Be there for each other. Have a good relationship with your batchmates and other MD-PhD students. You are going through the same journey so most probably you will be able to understand each other. It's hard to survive graduate school alone. I wouldn't have survived NMR and MS lectures in grant year 1 without the help of our BS Chem and BS Biochem batchmates. You will also have a lot of group reports, papers and research projects. It's hard to do these things if you don't have a good relationship with each other. 

I'm just amazed by the relationship and dynamics of our batch. Despite all our differences, we still managed to be good friends. We easily became comfortale with each other. We celebrate birthdays and victories together, we encourage one another whenever we feel so down because nothing good happens in our research, we give sound advices whenever someone has a problem in love life or life in general.

Always settle conflicts within your batch. Be sensitive especially with your actions and words. Do not think of your batchmates as your competitors instead treat your greatest allies. Also, remember that they will also be your research collaborators and colleagues in the hospital in the future. So might as well start forming good relationships with them. Your greatest enemy in graduate school is yourself. It's a battle against complacency, mediocrity and lack of self-discipline. 

Do not let medical school take your LIFE away from you. You are just a human being. You need an outlet for all your stresses and frustrations in medical school otherwise you will just breakdown. I continued blogging even while in medical school. And since I already have knowledge about health and diseases, I started creating health articles in Filipino. There are a lot of health articles online in English language but very few in our native language. Health promotion and education through social media has become my personal advocacy since then. I am very thankful that I have mentors in healthcare social media who guide me and encourage me to continue what I am doing. Thank you to Dr. Willie, Dr. Liza and Dr. Iris.

Some of my batchmates are great musicians and singers. And even while in medical school, they still continue with their passion for music. Eric was awarded as the best pianist and Fed as the best bassist during a college batte of the band two years ago. Nadine has been to different countries in Europe for international choir competitions. Fed wrote the song and Joker led our class in the chorale competition during Tao Rin Pala last year and we won! Continue with the things that you love doing, these things will keep you sane. 

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