MD Story: Lucky Seven

Photo from Travis Dickinson

It was more than a month ago since I heard the news that changed my life. Suddenly my days as a med student and every step that went with it appeared in front of me. It was quite a long journey

Honestly, contrary to most, becoming a doctor was really not my childhood dream. The reason partly was because at a very young age the idea instilled to me was you have to be smart before you become a doctor. I am an average student and as a child I was not exactly the one that gets a medal every year. Before entering UERM, I got rejected twice from another school because of my poor performance in my NMAT (National Medical Assessment Test) this is one of the admission requirement of medical schools. Well, it was my fault then because at that time, I was more focused in reviewing for the medical technology licensure exam. But I never stopped and lose hope so I took another exam just so I could get to my school of choice.

Everything comes with a price… in order for me to invest academically I had to sacrifice my time and my physical well-being. My family have limited means as well and the only way I could continue studying medicine is to study hard and get a scholarship. It has been a big help not only financially but it gave me the boost I need to study and persevere harder.

The process was tolerable but I never really liked it at first. The huge load that we were studying doesn’t quite making a sense.  Realization came in a little bit later when we started seeing actual patients. It became clear that my investment had become fruitful. As a clerk or 4th year med student we are called the bottom of the hospital food chain, taking blood pressure, draining urine bags and changing colostomy bags. Despite the sleepless nights of very toxic duties attending patients of their needs this is the time I found “joy” in my work.

My 4 years of med-school qualified and established me to face these situations taking every circumstance as an opportunity to learn. And this gave me a sense of joy, a sense of fulfillment every time a simple thank you is uttered by my patients. I graduated last 7th in my class last May 2017 and proceeded another year of internship at Philippine General Hospital for another year.

Most of my batchmates took the board exam last September 2018. If anyone would ask me why I took the board exam this March, it is because September boards is usually scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and Saturday is our day of rest and worship. I had a good study habit during my first 3 years in med school. I would attend lectures and go home and rest then study for the rest of the night. This is my routine everyday except on Saturdays. However, during my clerkship and internship years I become too lenient on my study habit. I would only study my patient’s cases and after that my free time would consists mostly of rest. I started going out or just sleep whenever I have a free day, to loosen up after tiring and toxic duties. That’s why I had a difficult time adjusting my schedule. Aside from being a slow reader, I also developed short attention span. During med school I was able to listen to lectures all day but now, I had difficulty listening to 9-hour lectures during our review sessions. I also cannot study alone in one place anymore. I was also preoccupied with other things than the board exam during my review season that’s why I had to change with what I was used to do in medschool. I started going to coffee shops and library where there are other people studying.

We had so much time compared to the September boards, but honestly I had a difficult time studying. There are days that I am really too lazy to get up and would just sleep the whole day. There are days that I am too preoccupied to digest and understand my readings. During these difficulties, the one constant thing that I did was to pray. I also read the bible and searched for inspirational stories and motivational quotes, but among those things, I found a quote that helped me move forward—“Petit a Petit, l’oiseau fait son nid” , “Little by little the bird makes its nest”. Patience and perseverance. Even though I was way behind my schedule, I did not stop reading even 1 to 2 page a day. That’s how slow my pace was during that time. I also pray everyday, asking God to bless my efforts. I believe this prayer brought me to where I am right now.

I asked my friends and batchmates during review season, and honestly there is no one method that is effective for all. Everyone had different study habits and study pattern. Some work well by listening to lectures and some do well by just reading books and handouts.  Don’t be intimidated on how much you’ve read, but rather, put more effort on understanding the concepts and explaining the how’s and the why’s. It took me a while to finish the “first read” of my reviewers. It gave me so much anxiety whenever I hear others that they are on their 3rd reading. I am also very grateful with my friends Jan, Steffi and Shayne, who I get to study with during our board review. I got a lot of motivation from them as well as reassurance and confidence that we can all make it together. Everyone would say you will never feel prepared how much you’ve studied. Honestly I felt contented after landing 5th during my medical technology licensure exam and I was not expecting so much during my PLE. During my entire academic career, this is only the first time that I felt pressured. From my parents, from my friends and former college teachers. I really didn’t know how I made it but I think I did it because of their faith in me. They also prayed a lot for me and telling me that if God wants you to be there, He will put you there, be the head and not the tail. I was honestly feeling down and unprepared few days before the exam. I was more confident with my MTLE. But prayers make miracles. I did my best and God did the rest for me. No words can express how thankful I am when I saw my name on the 7th place  

I know that this is just the beginning of a long journey. As Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” I still don’t know what is ahead of me but whatever my plans are I believe that God will guide me. I won’t be going abroad but I will serve our country. It may be rough, it could be cold and rainy but nonetheless I am not afraid because I know that I am ready. In fact, I am excited. It could be easy for others to see the success in the end, but what I want for others to appreciate is the process. I am sure there are a hundred stories that are worth telling but we all went through the same path. We had struggles may it be financially, relationships, family and many more. There is really no secret, I just prayed. Despite my struggles during my review, passing the board is not just luck but I guess it all reflected by my faith and what I invested during my med school years. This journey is really not a test of how smart you are but more of a test of faith, patience and perseverance and how much you are dedicated to your work.

I always keep this saying in my mind that the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Be patient, be humble, keep moving forward and know that all this hard work you are putting in the day in and day out will produce the results you’ve been looking for. Our time is coming, let us not give up. Thank you everyone. Pro Deo Et Patria. To God be the Glory!

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About the Author

Dale Ivan Bruel
Dale Ivan Bruel
Dr. Dale Ivan Aurigue Bruel is seventh placer in the March 2019 Physician Licensure Examination.
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