Friday, March 30, 2007


A doctor recently asked me where I wanted to do my residency or if I had plans already. I said I’d try taking the USMLE first and if that doesn't work out, I’d do my residency at The Medical City (where I currently work). She looked a bit disappointed and said 'aalis din pala ito' (this one's leaving too). I quickly added that I really planned to come back because I wanted to practice at TMC. 'Hmm, maniwala ako sa iyo. Magaasawa ka na dun' (I don't believe you. You'll end up getting married there). I could only shrug my shoulders.

I've always found it hard to 'defend' my decision to leave for the US (not that I need to). I have always believed that the Philippines needs all its best professionals to stay and help build the nation. Some might find my reasons unbelievable but part of the reason why I want to train abroad is so that I can get the best training available and bring it back to the country. I’ve always said that what I really want to do is to teach in a medical school. A US training, I believe, will prepare me best to teach medicine well. This is why I find it frustrating when people question my motives.

I don’t blame the people who are skeptical. A lot of people, doctors especially, leave the country and say they will return only to find them a couple of years later as green card holders. In a way, the nurses are more honest because from the start, you know that their main goal is to work in the US. They don’t deny it. However, people have to see that there are a lot of unsung heroes today -- professionals who train abroad and really do return to share their expertise here in the country. These people decline thousands of dollars in potential income and settle for the meager salaries available here. The gain in returning is that here at home, life is comfortable, not too fast-paced, and most of the values are better than in the US.

Too, who's to say that those Filipino professionals who train abroad and stay there are not contributing to national growth and development? A large chunk of the economy is sustained by dollar inflows from our overseas workers. But that's beside the point I’m trying to make.

After all is said, the one thing that would make me credible is when after training, I really do come home and work here. That’s the plan. In all honesty, however, and this is where the skeptics are partially correct, I can never discount the possibility of remaining in the US for one reason or another. When I talked to my mom about this a few weeks ago, I explained to her my reasons for wanting to leave for training. I said, 'a US training is one of the best and fastest ways to get a teaching post at the Ateneo Med School.' (The Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health is where I want to teach in the future). She then relayed to me what my aunt (a doctor) said to her: 'what if he'll be offered a teaching post there (in the US)?' I had to pause and think.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against professionals who leave for work and migration. That’s their choice and their right to opportunities available in the US. However, this does not change the fact that our professionals are much more needed here than in the US.

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