What Lies Ahead

What Lies Ahead

August 15, 2022

By: Karl Gerard Crisostomo

In the three years since the pandemic came, many changes have come and gone throughout the country and the world as we know it. In the interim, seasons have changed, lives have made their full circles, and everyone is settling towards a new normal, a new beginning, a new chance to make things right. After three years of struggling against the coronavirus, we have reached a point where there is a settling status quo; a new way of experiencing life in the post-pandemic world. Schools around the country have been told to prepare for face-to-face classes starting this academic year [1], finally providing students who have spent months in Zoom classrooms the opportunity to meet their peers and faculty and experience education as it was before all the commotion [1]. Independent research from the OCTA Research Group has even indicated the possibility of mask mandates in the country being made optional once COVID-19 reaches endemicity [2].

The improvement of the pandemic situation and loosening of restrictions provided opportunities for medical students to catch up on clinical skills which were deprived during the online set-up. Featured are some UPCM 2024 Block 5 students during their surgery skills training. Photo by: Beatrice Querol

As modern civilization finds its footing, we must never forget the contributions of those in our profession — as well as the medical field at large — towards ensuring the progress towards protecting our communities. Despite the difficulties from the changes brought about by this unprecedented situation, we were able to mobilize ourselves in the national scene. Healthcare workers of all ages and stages in their medical careers opted to volunteer in various capacities. Some volunteered in the various vaccination drives set up by organizations such as the Philippine Red Cross [3] and offices such as the Office of the Vice President, as well as vaccination drives by local government units [4]. Some took part in voluntary teleconsults such as the Bayanihan E-Konsulta, an initiative set forth by former vice president Leni Robredo near the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts of those in our profession have not gone unnoticed, as the former president Rodrigo Duterte conferred the Presidential Merit Awards to various healthcare professionals who contributed towards the country’s pandemic response [5].

The unique cases encountered in the clinics is evidence that medicine is best learned by the bedside. Featured is an SVD case attended by ICCs, OB residents, and interns. Photo by: Deirdre Puño

With all these in mind, what now? As the country is slowly settling towards a new normal, we must then remember that the fight is not over yet. While the dust is settling and we are slowly getting accustomed to a life where COVID-19 looms ever-present, our contributions should not go unnoticed. As we in the health sector have been tasked with holding the line against this invisible enemy, we have made many sacrifices. We have lost colleagues, friends, and family in service of the country and its people. In our efforts to make this world a better place, we have given up so much. The main thrust that galvanizes those in our field, other than to heal the infirm and ensure that everyone is of good mind, health, and body, is that we dispense hope to those in need during their darkest, lowest points. Our profession is one of sacrifice, yet also one of service. We are regularly tasked with giving up precious time and exposing ourselves to the newest variants of the coronavirus, all while actively combating exhaustion, burnout, and the deepest darkest recesses of our mind that call for an end to all the suffering and difficulties that we experience on a day-to-day basis. Yet, we must do what we can to trust in ourselves and our colleagues, that we will support each other through all these moments and ensure that we render the best care possible to those in need.

Beyond the cases encountered by medical students at the busy halls of the OPD, are the patients’ stories which humanizes every clinical encounter. Photo by: Steffi Francisco

As the world that we live in has changed, for better or worse, so has our responsibility. It lies not only in healing those who are sick, or ensuring that the world moves on from the pandemic, but also in mobilizing ourselves in differing capacities towards our various advocacies, all working towards a common goal. Over the course of this past year alone, we have seen a massive shift in the perception of doctors. This was seen throughout the recent elections, where doctors from all over the country mobilized for their own political candidates, volunteering their time, talents, and services to ensure that their beliefs and their actions were heard and understood by many. This best exemplifies one of the core tenets of what Dean Charlotte M. Chiong terms the Six Star Physician: one where we are Scientists with Nationalist Fervor. The call to serve not only lies in the service of the people, or the country, it also lies with how we are empowered on a national level to let our voices be heard.

Throughout the years, the medical profession has often been associated with the idea of hope. Indeed, one of the more recent interpretations of the abbreviation PGH no longer refers to the hospital or institution, but rather, the people who kept working tirelessly to ensure that the institution maintained its status as a beacon of hope in one of the most trying times of our country's history. PGH: People Giving Hope, as they say. Thus, we must use this platform to the best of our ability, as the fight is not over yet. Our duty as social mobilizers has just begun.

What lies ahead then, is not a return to the status quo. We doctors are now at the forefront of shaping the country in many ways. We are where we are today due to the tireless efforts of our cohort in offering themselves to the best of their capacity to meet the needs of the Philippine nation. Hence, moving forward, we must find it in ourselves to move towards this brighter future, for we have finally been given the opportunity not only to heal individuals from their medical conditions, but also to make a palpable difference in the national stage through our advocacies, as well as our actions in the coming years.

We are relevant.

We continue to make a difference.

[1] Galvez D. DepEd orders all schools to shift to face-to-face classes by November 2 [Internet]. INQUIRER.net. 2022 [cited 2022Aug2]. Available from: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1626494/deped-orders-all-schools-to-shift-to-face-to-face-classes-by-november-2

[2] Staff CNNP. OCTA: Optional face mask use possible once covid-19 reaches endemicity [Internet]. cnn. 2022 [cited 2022Aug2]. Available from: https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2022/7/11/OCTA--Optional-face-mask-use-possible-once-COVID-19-reaches-endemicity-.html

[3] Pagkalinawan AJ. Philippine Red Cross Bakuna Centers Open to walk-in clients who are qualified to get the second COVID-19 Booster Shot [Internet]. Philippine Red Cross. 2022 [cited 2022Aug2]. Available from: https://redcross.org.ph/2022/05/20/philippine-red-cross-bakuna-centers-open-to-walk-in-clients-who-are-qualified-to-get-the-second-covid-19-booster-shot/

[4] Community vaccinations help overcome stigma and practical barriers [Internet]. World Health Organization. World Health Organization; 2022 [cited 2022Aug2]. Available from: https://www.who.int/philippines/news/feature-stories/detail/philippines-community-vaccinations-help-overcome-stigma-and-practical-barriers

[5] Geducos AC. Duterte honors IATF members, health experts for pandemic response contribution [Internet]. Manila Bulletin. 2022 [cited 2022Aug2]. Available from: https://mb.com.ph/2022/06/17/duterte-honors-iatf-members-health-experts-for-contribution-to-pandemic-response/