By Ronnie Enriquez Baticulon, MD
(This speech was delivered on 15 December 2014 during the residency and fellowship graduation ceremonies of the Department of Neurosciences of Philippine General Hospital)
Dr. Aida Salonga and other guests of honor, Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim and consultants of the Sections of Adult Neurology, Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery, alumni of the Department of Neurosciences, parents, co-residents, medical students, and guests, good evening.
What common experience binds all of us doctors here tonight? I thought about this and realized that aside from Emergency Medicine, no other specialty confronts the fragility of human life head on like the Neurosciences.
As neurologists and neurosurgeons, we experience the most dramatic recoveries, but at the extreme end, we also face the most heartbreaking deteriorations — whether acute or chronic, painful either way. Our errors in judgment lead to unacceptable deficits and significant morbidities. And we all know that our most difficult lessons are learned at the cost of a life.
There is no denying that ours is a hospital of despair. Some scenes have just become too familiar: A mother or father wailing over a dead child’s body; a husband or wife trembling as he or she signs a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) waiver; a son or daughter regretfully, but respectfully explaining the family’s decision that they would not push through with treatment and have decided to just bring their patient home. The phrase “due to financials constraints” is unarguably the most commonly used statement during case presentations and written reports.
This hospital has seen us at our best and at our worst. The everyday challenge of being a resident physician of Philippine General Hospital is to give the best possible care, despite the known limitations, and to do so with utmost compassion, even when you are weary, sleepless, and hungry, even if you have been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours, or repeatedly questioning yourself, “Bakit ko nga ba ginagawa ito?” (Why again am I doing this?)
Where pain and suffering abound, we can always choose to be kindness and hope to our patients.
I have once been told in the operating room: You are being trained in this hospital not to meet the status quo. When you graduate, the goal is to elevate the standards.
As graduates of the Department of Neurosciences, we stand before you, knowing that we cannot do everything. We leave, knowing that every day; we have to strive to be better, because when we are at our best, the ones who will ultimately benefit are our patients, who would get to live their extra years, months, or even just an extra day with their loved ones.
At this point, I would like to ask my fellow graduates to stand. Let us now clap our hands for the giants, on whose shoulders we stood up: Our consultants. Without you, we are nothing, and we would like to thank you for imparting your knowledge and skills during the last four or five years. To our families, who have the common experience of asking the question “Pang-ilang graduation mo na nga ito?” (How many times have you graduated in all?), thank you for patiently taking care of us. To our co-residents, nurses, nursing aides, utility workers, paramedical and administrative staff, we give our sincere gratitude.
Now I am sorry, I was not aware that I was supposed to deliver the response in Filipino (Note: I would have, in a heartbeat), so let me just say this as my closing paragraph:
Kami po ay tatak Philippine General Hospital Department of Neurosciences. Ipinapangako po naming kami ay magsusumikap na maging mga magagaling na manggagamot. Pero higit sa pagiging magaling, ipinapangako po naming maging mabuti. Maraming salamat po at maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat.
(We have the mark of Philippine General Hospital Department of Neurosciences. We promise to strive to be excellent doctors. But beyond excellence, we promise to be compassionate physicians. Thank you very much and merry Christmas to all.)
Dr. Ronnie Baticulon is a neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer. He blogs at http://ronibats.ph
Vital Signs Issue 72 Vol. 4, February 1-28 2015