How to become a pediatrician in the Philippines

Hola!

Before I start drowning you with medical stuff, let me first take you on my memory lane. What does it take to be a pediatrician in the Philippines? The millennial jeje in me was soooo tempted to make the title “How 2 b u po?” But you might block me from your reading list so i’ll be demure and sophisticated for the first few posts. LOL.

FIRST and foremost: You HAVE to want it. Want it like you really mean it. Not the “I want it because it will make my parents happy” or “Medicine as a profession is a stable source of income” or “I tried IM, OB, surgery, ENT, patho already… so let’s try pedia” excuses. Why do you have to want it for YOURSELF and not anyone else? Because on those wee hours of your 24-36 hour hospital duty, without any sleep, bath, or food, with a case presentation coming up in a few hours and 10 more patients you have to see in the wards… YOU will ask yourself WHY.

For me, it wasn’t a straight answer. I’m a first generation doctor in our family so I didn’t have anyone in a white coat that I could look up to. I knew I wanted to become a doctor ever since my elementary or primary school days (that would mean K12 today) and I was obsessed with Doogie Howser,MD and ER. I originally wanted to be a pediatric surgeon. I only had 1 Barbie doll because I wanted more of those stuffed dolls I can “open up” and stuff with leaves instead of cotton. I’m not a psychopath, don’t worry. Although I have vivid memories of watching Dr. Giggles when I was kid. Haha. I was already dead set to pursue surgery up until I was offered a job in the government (PhilHealth then FDA Philippines) right before graduating medical school. I worked for a year then I went back to residency training but instead of surgery, I chose pediatrics. Why? Because I knew I wanted to work with kids ever since. They make me happy and it doesn’t really seem work when I play with them. Even if I have a sh*tty day in the hospital, as soon as I enter a child’s room, I automatically turn on my high pitch voice and jolly demeanor when I talk to them. I just love the innocence of a child. They can be so blunt with their opinions but they can get away with it. In other words, you’ll know a career is for you when it doesn’t suck the juices of energy from you at the end of the day. If you already have the answer to that WHY… continue reading.

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My career roadmap (I presented this to medical students 2 yrs ago during a career talk)

The road to medical school begins after your K12 education. You have to choose your pre-med college course, the most common choices are Bachelor of Science (BS) Biology and BS Psychology. Some go into more medical related college courses like BS Nursing and BS Pharmacology and those might level you up in medschool subjects. Other schools offer a “special” course intended for those deadset to go into medical school. University of the Philippines (UP) has an accelerated medicine program called Integrated Medical – Arts Medicine or INTARMED (Read up “How I Got Into INTARMED” by Dr. Ron Baticulon) and Ateneo de Manila Unversity offers Health Sciences Program which is geared towards building health professionals to have broader view and deeper understanding of health issues pertinent to the Philippine health care system and global health sector. Graduates of this program may continue their medical education in Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, wherein they will graduate with a dual degree of Doctor of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration. If you want to stay away from the hustle of the city (and save yourself from the horrendous Manila traffic situation), you may want to look into Cebu Institute of Medicine in the Visayas, Saint Louie University – College of Medicine up north in Baguio, and Davao Medical School Foundation in Mindanao (see list of top performing medical schools during September 2016 Physician Licensure Exam).

After four to five grueling years in medical school and passing the Physician Licensure Exam… yay! Time to celebrate because you’re already a General Practitioner! You can already see patients in a clinic, be a hospitalist in, uhm, a hospital, or if patient interaction is really not your thing (disclaimer: it’s ok, doctors are not just confined in clinics/hospitals!) you may want to go into research, government health sector, health administration, corporate work, and the list goes on and on. The world is your oyster. Haha. But if you really want to work specifically with children, read on…

If you have decided that you really want to be a pediatrician, you have to go into residency training in either a public or private hospital. Which one is better? It really depends and in the same way that you have to pass the requirements of the training program in your chosen hospital, that hospital has to suit you as well. That will take three more years of training and another board exam, this time under the Philippine Pediatric Society. You have to pass the written exam first then wait at least two years before you can take the oral exam for you to be a full diplomate of the society. You can already see pediatric patients in between those two years but if you really, really, REALLY love to delay being an adult learn more, you can still take further training and go into Fellowship Program. This means you’ll apply in a training program that is more specialized to specific areas of child health, for example, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Oncology, Pediatric Allergology, etc. Another board exam for your chosen subspecialty and after that… tada! You may now start your private practice (this topic is a whole other universe which I’ll talk about in a later post).

By now, you might already be counting how many years the entire process will take. Needless to say, it will take a LONG time and a LOT of patience. That brings me back to my question at the beginning of this post. Ask yourself again (and again, and again)… WHY do YOU want to be a pediatrician? Will it be worth it? Only YOU can tell. Enjoy!

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