Saturday, September 8, 2012

Of doctors and our future

"Twenty-five percent from our batch left the country. Those that you would label as altruistic and stayed are increasingly growing frustrated and there are those who decided to stay closer to home in the provinces." The writer was chatting with a couple, both of them doctors, over a fiesta-like baptismal gathering of Pinoys that was capped, to everyone's delight given Metro New York's 95-degree blazing summer heat, by the authentic Filipino "halo-halo." The only foreign twist about it was the white-American young man who made sure there was shaved ice for everyone.

"In fairness, there were professors who kept abreast of developments and updated their materials but it was not uncommon to stick with outdated ones, and the students were expected to keep still – because of the unwritten rule of hierarchy. And mentoring especially if that meant putting a professor's practice at risk was foreign – they would ensure that their patients don't get to look at other doctors. So the option is to be employed in a hospital but the salaries won't give even for a couple like us the means to raise a family.

"These barriers are erected at practically every turn. Dengue is something we want to address but we would rather have Thailand do the drug development instead of partnering with foreign drug companies. The funny part is Thailand will have to do the testing in the Philippines. There is a score of next-generation HIV drugs but we're still limited to a handful of first-generation ones because we want to stick with the cheaper drugs. [Another attempt at social engineering that is shortsighted and counterproductive?] Even foreign aids face barriers and so we can’t take advantage of them. For example, beyond the taxes we impose on modern equipment that we sorely need is the bureaucracy that we seemingly accept, and so we've become our worst enemy!

"Science has brought about an explosion of challenges and opportunities in the field of medicine. Between these man-made barriers and our lack of resources, we are being left behind – putting us on a downward spiral. A truly dedicated leadership, say, in a university hospital must be committed and single-minded to fight the status quo."

The writer could not help but be reminded of President Aquino's personal fight against corruption. But as the writer shared his thought a friend who just returned from Manila overheard him and quipped: "Who are we talking about as the next president, another corrupt politician"! And so the writer shared the belief he had growing up that Filipinos are smart; he looked up to the bright students during his school days as well as those in the business world and Philippine society in general. "When we get to speak to those in our batch, their frustrations have grown so much that they've become part of the status quo," chimed the doctor-couple. "We can also talk about what's wrong with the American culture, but the bottom line for us is we would like our children to have a better environment than what we had to go through."

The writer could almost hear his Eastern European friends who’d been sharing their desire for a better world for their children. And so he explained to the young couple that the one thing he learned in the West is how progressive enterprises have made mentoring inherent. When he was with his MNC employer, he experienced working with three CEOs who came from different parts of the world. And it is not surprising because mentoring which starts from the time college students are tapped as interns goes on through their careers – where training and development and succession planning are valued, not paid lip service. [And to the writer's delight, his Eastern European friends have embraced the practice. Because they would be the better for it and it already shows in their ability to compete head-to-head with Western behemoths.]

And so in this blog, meant to challenge Juan de la Cruz to reinvent himself if we are to attain economic prosperity, the themes revolve around the imperatives of investment, technology and innovation as well as education or talent, product and market development. Not surprisingly, Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P., writes: “. . . Hope takes work.” [Manila Bulletin, 11th Aug 2012]

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