Monday, May 19, 2008

Blog Rounds: The Doctor's Family

The Doctor’s Family is the topic for the week. This from the host:

Some guide questions as follows. Remember, you are not limited to the guide questions. These are just questions for you to ponder on. But I’m sure you have your own creative way of expressing your thoughts!

What was your family’s role in your decision to become a doctor? Did they encourage you? Did they discourage you?

Was there a doctor in your family that influenced you to take the same path?

How did your family show their support during the time that you are still pursuing your training? Did that support continue after the training and when you started your practice (knowing how little a starting doctor earns)?

For those who have shifted gears and turned to another profession, how large was the family’s influence on that decision?

If you are single, do you think that this is because of your pursuing medical studies and training?
If you are married, at what age did you get married? Did you marry a fellow doctor? Or somebody in another profession? At what stage of medicine — in school, clerkship/internship, residency/fellowship or when you were already practicing? Did medicine enhance or hinder your relationship with your spouse and children?

What family decisions have been altered because of your obligations to Medicine?

What career decisions have been altered because of your family’s needs?

What is your current priority?


All my close friends know that the very first time I saw this classmate in Medical School who would turn out to become my best friend and wife, I went to her and told her that I was going to marry her someday. I don’t want anyone to think that I was some kind of Lothario, we went out a total of three times that first year of school. Lunch at the now defunct Cosa Nostra, supper with a group of friends before the Christmas break and one real date before we adjourned for the summer.

It was always clear to both of us that we needed to focus on our studies if we wanted a ticket to the real learning ahead. We never bothered to apply to any of the local residencies because we wanted to begin living on our own resources as soon as we could. We knew we could never be truly autonomous in the Philippines and fortunately, we matched to the same hospital in Brooklyn, NY. As soon as we had an employment contract, we got married. 18 years ago, May 26.

Many say, training in the Philippine General Hospital is toxic, with all the poverty and disease and frustration in treating patients amid rudimentary facilities. Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn was the second largest county hospital in the US with a 90% AIDS rate in the medical wards in 1990. My wife and I look back often and remember that we were very happy during all this training. All those years were very happy ones.

We decided to stay on in a sparsely populated town in the Oklahoma panhandle because we felt it was the best place to raise our children. Safe and quiet, where most everyone knows you. Our daughters would be out there playing until 9 in the evening.

It was difficult bringing our kids back to the congestion, heat, violence, corruption and mosquitoes but we felt a more important lesson was to be learned. We saw older, successful physicians and it no longer became sufficient to raise Harvard graduates, live in a gated community nestled in an exclusive golf enclave, own a Bugatti.

Family teaches you what matters. The brevity of our lives makes it vital that we begin as soon as we can to find meaning through serving the never-ending line of people in dire need.


azron said...

very nice reflections - I imagine the move for the Philippines to NY city must have been a real culture shock -

I gather you and your wife are both doctors - what a wonderful service you provide for a very needy area I am sure - as rural America is suffering for lack of doctors


Anonymous said...

Earlier this month, my 11 year old daughter brought home her project. Her class was studying poems and they were making Haikus. She gave me a booklet full of her wonderful work. She received an excellent grade for it. Boasting a bit, she asked me to read it to see what I think. She was waiting for me praise her for a job well done.

Not to lift my own chair, but she really did a good job. I did praise her for work but also told her that there is something missing in it. She took it back and read it again from cover to cover. Later that night , she came back to me and asked what was missing in her work because she was not able to find it.

Casually, I told her that there was something about her mom, another for her brother , two for her younger sister but nothing about her Tatay ( this is how my kids call me despite being born in the USA).

A week later, I called her back and asked her if I spend enough time with her and her bother and sister. She hesitated for a little bit and then tears start falling from her eyes. It confirmed my fears.

I am a doctor but I am also a father and a husband. Balancing my work with my duties at home is not easy. I am not able to draw the line as to where one ends and the other begins. I realize that I am not spending as much time as I want to with my family but what am I supposed to do? Most days, I will leave before they wake up and I would return home late at night, too exhausted to even talk to them. Some days I have to go back to the hospital in the middle of the night to attend to sick patients.

I am not yet resigned to the fact that the situation at home and in my office will not change. Each day, however, that goes by without me atttending my kids spring concert or go to their basketball game or even just read a book to them before they go to bed brings me closer to the father described in Harry Chapins " Cats in the Cradle".

Cats in the Cradle
by Harry Chapin


A child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, "Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?" I said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do." He said, "That's ok."
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
Said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I'm gonna be like him."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
"What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."

I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."

She could not believe that she has forgotten about her Tatay.

underside said...

it's really nice to hear personal stories from bloggers..i mean writers without faces. at least whenever personal stories are shared, you get a glimpse of who they are outside their virtual pens.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed in Central California last year. A doctor needed a partner for his busy - very busy practice. He admitted basically working 24/7. Getting home after midnight, on-call everyday. His colleagues from different specialties were the same. They had nice homes, cars etc.

Wasn't for me. I work to live and provide livelihood for my family. I don't live to work. What's money if you don't have time to enjoy it? Or making it keeps you away from the very people you make it for?

J.A. said...

Hi! Call for entries to TBR 11 is here:

pian said...

Happy anniversary!

Joey said...

TBR 10 is finally up!

Thank you so much for participating! :)