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We Asked Med Practitioners: What Motivated You to Become a Doctor?

A dermatologist, medical oncologist, and neurologist share the defining moment when they knew medicine was it for them—and what keeps them passionate after all these years!

National Doctors’ Day, an annual day to honor the valuable work and dedication of doctors, varies in date from country to country. India celebrates it on July 1, Brazil marks the day on October 18, the United States holds it on March 30, Canada on May 1, and Cuba on December 3. In the Philippines, Physicians’ Day is commemorated every September 27, while World Family Doctor Day is observed on May 19.  

No matter the date, it is quite fitting to recognize medical practitioners especially as the world battles the novel coronavirus. They are the literal lifesavers of many patients—along with nurses and other vital frontliners, of course!

What motivates a person to pursue a career that puts him or her in charge of someone’s health and life? Three doctors recall that defining moment when they knew medicine was it for them, and explain what keeps them passionate about their profession after all these years. (Read: The medical intern who saved a woman during MRT mishap)

Dr. Adrian Buensalido, Dermatologist

Dr. Adrian Buensalido is a Dermatologist at the University of Perpetual Help Medical Center, Las Piñas, who has been in practice for 37 years now. (Photo courtesy of subject.)

What was your motivation to become a doctor? 

Alarmed at my having facial tics (rapid eye blinking) when I was 10 years old, my mother brought me to a famous ophthalmologist in Manila to have my eyes checked. We had to wait for several hours with several patients before I was attended to by a tall figure dressed in immaculate white. His examining room was filled with Star Wars-like instruments, and he would command his assistants to do this and that with such authority that they responded with robotic precision and speed. (Read: Star Wars-themed clinic in Manila gives hope and comfort to young cancer patients)

All these impacted me. And with a juvenile decision, I wanted to be like this bigger-than-life hero. From then on, I did not want to be anybody else, not Tarzan, not Hercules, nor The Phantom.

What made you choose your specialization?

In medical school, as I rotated in the different specialties that often required being on-call even in the middle of the night, I decided to choose one which did not entail waking me up from my sleep. There was research, radiology, or clinical pathology to choose from. These were daytime jobs and did not require patient contact. (Read: Let these three Pinoys inspire you to live out your purpose—despite the odds!)

But since I wanted to live the experience of actually interacting with patients—talking to them about their medical problem, knowing a little about their private lives, gathering data, making a diagnosis, suggesting treatment, following up their progress—choosing dermatology as my specialty was not a difficult decision. Besides, it was a very young field with very few practitioners at the time. It was surprisingly not hard to start a practice.  

What is the best part of your job? 

The best part of it is, at the end, with a gentle, appreciative smile, patients say, “Thank you, Doc, for helping me. I’ve been suffering for years and you got rid of my problem in just a week or two.”

Dr. Anita Lacuesta Jesena, Medical Oncologist

Dr. Anita Lacuesta Jesena is a Medical Oncologist at the QualiMed Hospital. She has been in practice for 34 years now. (Photo courtesy of subject)

What was your motivation to become a doctor? 

I have always wanted to become a doctor as I always looked at medicine as the best among the professions. Right now, I can say that the best part of my job is touching people’s lives and knowing that I made a difference. 

What made you choose your specialization?

There was no cancer specialist in our province of Iloilo at that time, and patients had to go to Manila or just suffer and die without the needed management. (Read: 4 Millennial Frontliners Who Are Making A Big Difference)

What would you like people to know about doctors? 

Doctors are compassionate and courageous people who do their best to help others. They too deserve to be respected and appreciated as they also feel tired and can cry at times. Doctors also need to stay safe, because just like the rest of humanity, they are not God.  

Dr. Hazel Zuellig, Neurologist

Dr. Hazel Zuellig is a Neurologist at the Centre Medicale Internationale, Cardinal Santos Medical Center. She has been in practice for 18 years now. (Photo courtesy of subject.)

What was your motivation to become a doctor? 

When I was young, I actually wanted a teacher, and perhaps someone who worked in a nuclear physics lab. But because of some twist of fate, I was gifted with a full scholarship to medical school so I decided to change my path. (Read: Pope Francis Before He Became a Priest) It’s been a blessing, though. I have always considered it as God’s way of leading me to a profession where I could use my talents in ways that I could deeply impact people’s lives. The good thing is I have been able to teach and do research anyway as a doctor. So I do feel my professional dreams did come true—and more. 

Why did you choose your specialization?

Neurology was academically challenging. Very few medical graduates go into neurology because as one of my students put it, “It is so cerebral!” I found it immensely interesting as a subject. And of course, there were very few neurologists in the country at the time I was starting. And I could tell neurological conditions like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, and others that were becoming more prevalent.

What is the best part of your job? 

The best part of being a doctor, for me, is having an emotional connection with patients and their families. Medicine gives one the opportunity to help families make decisions, resolve conflicts, and heal. (Read: 3 Uplifting Prayers for the Sick and Healing) I have also long realized that doctors are also instruments in the pastoral care of their patients. As a doctor, I could converse with patients about their faith, their fears, their concerns about illness and death. I believe it is a calling and that makes the medical practice very meaningful to me. 

What would you like people to know about doctors? 

Doctors are healers, counselors, teachers, researchers, leaders, and administrators. It is a unique profession but a truly rewarding one.  


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