By Patricia Margaret Victoria
De La Salle University
It was a chilly Monday morning when I first stood in front of the Stanford Medicine Building. I pictured this moment countless of times in my head and even as the building towered over me, I still could not believe it. Unlike the halls back in De La Salle University (DLSU), this place was unfamiliar and I felt my heart skip a beat.
I applied for Stanford Medicine’s inaugural Science, Technology, and Medicine program. Being the very first of its kind, there was no available opportunity to ask past students on what to prepare beforehand. We were exposed to these different strains in order to help us through our capstone projects. These projects served as our individual outputs for the program with options such as the: 3D Printing Track, Research Track (in which we analyzed a particular paper, and Clinical Track (in which we pursued research on a topic of our own choice and present it through a video).
I arrived in campus an hour early for my first day; the excitement was continually coursing through my veins. All my hard work—from studying, doing applications, and waiting for more than a year—finally paid off.
This excitement, however, was not without worry and nervousness. Being the only participant from the Philippines, I was on my own, in a different time zone, and 7000 miles away from home. “Will I be making friends? Would I do well enough? Is there something I should be reading? How many pens should I bring?” were questions that rattled in my head. I did not feel prepared at all.
I could presume, however, that we are never truly prepared—just hopeful.
All of my doubts were thankfully dispelled when I met the people who were joining me in the program. Affinity was not a problem and this assured me of a great experience ahead. Coming from different parts of the globe allowed us to have very interactive discussions and I was elated to be with people who shared the same passion for health care as I did.
DIFFERENCES IN THOUGHT
During our lectures and panel discussions, I saw the disparity between the problems of a developed country and a developing one. I found myself having different opinions from my peers from developed countries because the problems that they were experiencing were dissimilar compared to the problems we have.
An instance of which was a discussion concerning ambulance response times. In the United States, it should only take seven minutes for the ambulance to arrive. I told them that it is not the same in the Philippines given our issues with heavy traffic. Many of them marveled at what I said. To them, this situation is unheard of. They did, however, commend our strong sense of community and resilience as Filipinos.
A TASTE OF THE LIFE OF A DOCTOR
Aside from the lectures and panel discussions that we had each day, I also had the opportunity to shadow a doctor in his daily routine. This experience gave me a whole new perspective on the field of medicine.
I think with all the science that goes into medicine, I forgot how much heart was required to become a doctor. I realized how their career was not only about the science of cure but also the relationships that they make with the people involved.
While in the operating room, I realized that it was not just a technical procedure. I was not just meeting someone who had an ailment that needed treatment. I was meeting a person with a story—a person with actual feelings and sensibilities. I interacted with them, saw their operations, and witnessed them awaken during recovery. I was in awe in those moments because in those hours, I was present in the advent of saving a person’s life.
Despite the grueling conditions of the profession, I found it amusing that the doctors still made jokes and played music in the operating room (a particular favorite of mine that they played was “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz). Even though the work was serious, they did not treat themselves seriously.
Having chosen the clinical track, I decided on a project entitled “The Effects of Music on Pain Perception and Tolerance.” Though a rather unusual topic, the idea came to mind because of an experience I had of being sick and stuck in a hospital bed when I was 11 years old. Lying there for days on end was pretty boring. I only found solace and relief from my illness when I watched music videos on MTV. This is due to the fact that I absolutely love singing and I would dare say that it is well embedded in our culture as Filipinos. Through this project, I wanted to discover if other people had similar experiences and behaviors towards music as I did.
Developing my project was a challenge and I remembered being really frustrated in the lab because I was the only one left working while other already went home. As I was staring blankly at my laptop, my mentor, Dr. Chu came in and handed me an ice cream sandwich—the solution for all things unpleasant—and mentioned that the first rule that I should learn was to “with hold judgment.” I was critical with my work which was why I was stuck and his words moved me to trust myself a little more and pour my heart into what I do. After all, nothing great is done half-heartedly. I was able to finish my project and present it to a panel of Stanford faculty the next day with the confidence that I needed.
Graduation Day came and as my adventure at Stanford was coming to an end, I made an effort to make my last day like my first. I went an hour early, got myself a cup of coffee, and sat by the bench in front of the building. I watched as people bike around the campus and look out for the couple I saw everyday jogging while pushing their twin babies in a stroller. It was this landscape with its people that brought me a sense of repose I needed at the start of my final day.
As I walked to the platform to get my certificate, I heard my name: “Patricia Margaret Victoria, with Distinction” and I was in disbelief. I would not have made this achievement if it were not for the people who shared this journey with me. My family, my friends, my professors, and my alma mater, DLSU fueled my passion to exert my best effort in all my endeavors and for that I am very grateful.
I went to Stanford to fulfill a dream. I came back home with a purpose.
Patricia Margaret Victoria is currently taking up BS Psychology in De La Salle University, Manila. The 20-year-old student is also active in school activities such as the Hult Prize which focuses on creating avenues for social entrepreneurship. When she is not busy with academic and extracurricular activities, she spends time singing, figure skating, and watching Korean dramas. She sees herself in the field of healthcare in the future.
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