Question Number 5

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Question Number 5


Dental Appointments

via Daily Prompt: Tether

I’ve perpetually detested going to the dentist. I schedule these appointments because I know I need them, yes. Yet, if given a chance to do away with them while keeping these teeth okay — I definitely would.

What I’ve learned in medical school has not changed my outlook towards dental appointments. Old habits die hard, you see, and this feeling of discomfort dates back to my childhood. Before entering the clinic, my parents would always tell me to not give the dentist a hard time in administering the procedures. To quote them: nakakahiya. Dental appointments were all about fixing my teeth only, and never about my comfort.

I often enter the dental clinic with a tense look on my face. The secretary would try to reassure me that the procedure would be quick and painless. I tried to smile back, albeit forcibly; for I am certain that it will never be the case. Despite my mental efforts to make visits as short as possible, alas, my oral cavity would not cooperate.

The central chair, which was long and narrow, awaited me. It was a reminder that I was tethered to what lied ahead of me — and because it was so cramped, I had no way out. A few minutes after I entered, the dentist turned on the spotlight to examine my incisors… canines… pre-molars… then finally, my molars. After a while, the damage was discovered — a cavity! Que horror!

The cavity may have looked quite small to the eyes of many, but as the song goes: Maliit na butas, lumalaki. My dentist thought so too, so she got to work at once. She asked me to put on a bite blocker, a tool that tried to make the situation easier. However, the bite blocker did not help at all. Its rubber material provided an awkward sensation to my tongue; it reminded me that I had to stay put at all costs, irritation included.

As the machines were turned on, the sounds of the tools made themselves heard — and how I wish they seemed like music to ears! These noises never seemed to soothe me. They were the little voices telling me that I was no good, that I was inadequate, that all I did was useless — because one of my teeth has changed for the worst.

As I entertained these thoughts, my sensitive gums were bleeding due to the action of the hand scaler; it was as if my vulnerabilities were being exposed, one by one. And I did not like it at all. In an attempt to ease the discomfort of both the bleeding & the bite blocker, my tongue would move around. Unfortunately, that gave my dentist a more difficult experience, which meant longer air time.

Every time my dentist told me to relax my tongue, I would do my best to keep it still — but how do you relax in such a situation? How do you relax when everything is being put in your mouth? How do you relax when your vulnerabilities are exposed? How do you relax when you can’t refuse the pain?

After several tense minutes, the oral prophylaxis part was finally finished! On to the cavity filling portion, one that was even more uncomfortable. I was certain that everything that the dentist did–cavity prep, tooth isolation, filling proper, trimming — was to ensure that the procedure was effective. But did this effectivity always come with much suffering, much pain? Why was it that the way that worked was always the most difficult one?

When I was a child, I would only roll my eyes when I hear the phrase “dental appointment”. Now that I’m a little older, I look at it with much introspection. I realized that everything I find uncomfortable about a dental appointment is also everything I find uncomfortable about life. And just like a dental appointment, I feel that my favorite part of life will be the moment when it’s over.

Thirteen Months After the Med Apps

Wow, has it really been thirteen months since my season of medical school applications? Time indeed flies when you have exams every week! Hahaha. All in a shifting’s work, at PLM College of Medicine 😉

A lot of things happened in those thirteen months–thesis, field work, graduation, first sem of medical school– so I must admit that it’s a challenge to (1)recall the experience, and (2)phrase these tips properly. But because it is more efficient to write an open blog than message those who have requested this, here is my attempt to write these tips down! May you find these of great use, whether you’re applying to PLM or not 😊

  1. Wear corporate clothes that you are comfortable in. Some of my co-applicants were in uniform, so I think that’s acceptable too. But if you choose to not go in your school uniform, wear corporate clothes that you are comfortable in. A short-sleeved blouse + knee-length black skirt combination is a safe option for women, while a long-sleeved polo + black slacks combination is a safe option for men.
  2. Make eye contact. For me, this is of great importance since eye contact is a sign of sincerity & commitment. Having eye contact is also essential as we progress further in our medical education and career, since we’ll constantly be interacting with patients. When I was a dengue patient last year, I really appreciated the residents who took time to make eye contact with me & converse with me. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I say they are also avenues toward better patient care. AND That’s why this tip is of great use in a medical school interview.

If you feel intimidated about making eye contact, the best way to go is to practice! I’m sure your family, friends, or SO (if applicable) will feel the love with your eye contact attempts. Plus, if you feel tired at looking in their eyes, try looking in the area between the eyebrows/eyelids! The brain may process this as eye contact as well.

  1. Know the school’s vision and mission. The school’s vision and mission may give you an idea on what kind of questions the interviewer will ask you. For instance, I was asked about research and community work in my interview, since PLM-CM puts much emphasis on these matters in its curriculum.

Knowing the school’s mission-vision statement is important for it gives you also of what to expect from it, as you enter its hallowed halls. It also may give you an idea  on what to answer, when asked “Why do you choose us, instead of other medical schools?”

(For PLM-CM applicants, your future school’s mission-vision is just near the stairs of the second floor lobby. Just look for the green tarp. Hehe.)

  1. Having an outline for your go-to answers is important. Whether you go for memorization (lest you stutter) or not (lest you look unnatural), what’s important is that you know the main points of what you wish to say. Example, for the question, “how do you deal with conflict”, it’s best to have a go-to situation. It also helps if you write down these main points in an index card or in a small piece of paper. Based on my experience, writing helps facilitate memory work 😊
  2. Relax before the interview. You may glance at that “answers” code from time to time, but trust me, if you are ultra tense before your interview, it will show in your face! Achieve that “I don’t feel any pressure right now” look by doing what calms your nerves, whether it be listening to your favorite song, eating your favorite snack, or reading your favorite book. From my experience, praying & reading motivational articles before the interview uplifts my spirit.

Relaxing before the interview is important because remember: tense doctors & tense patients are not a good combination!

So, that’s it for my attempt! Dear reader, I wish you all the best as you enter your chosen medical school. Remember this, though: you may be anxious about getting in, but it’s always harder to get out (successfully)! For those who wish to enter PLM-CM, see you around 😉




: the quality or state of being human

: the quality or state of being kind to otherpeople or to animals

: all people

plural : the branches of learning (as philosophy, arts,or languages) that investigate human constructs and 

concernsas opposed to natural processes (as in physics or chemistry) and social relations (as in anthropology or economics)”
[Let’s just use Webster’s definition for the sake of convenience.]
Some say that though doctors have the duty to cure the sick and care for humanity, they are the least human people alive. This has been a question I’ve had for quite some time… until I became a med student myself. Here are some of my musings.

A significant number of med students often have to turn down “Tara, movie!” moments, spontaneous dinners to Kahit Saan & spur-of-the-moment trips to Timbuktu… just to keep their backlog within acceptable limits. I am currently part of this number, and whenever I do, people always say: “Aral ka na lang ng aral.” It hurts.

Is my humanity becoming less, in this road?

I am not the best at memorizing faces nor names, and the information overload of med school has compelled my brain to forget many things that are significant to my heart — specifically that pertaining to names of CYA newbies. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized that I am human, and I cannot remember it all.

Is my humanity becoming more, in this road?

One weekday morning, I rushed to the latest Pier15 jeepney, trans in hand, attempting to study for a quiz. Then suddenly, a beggar rushed inside to ask for alms, as he rubbed our shoes with his bare hands. I gave my attention to one, and ignored the other. Nothing else mattered except for the paper in my hands.

Is my humanity becoming less, in this road?

After a grueling exam on a subject I choose to keep silent about, I needed my dose of endorphins. I had two choices: open up my laptop & do some Zumba, or eat my favorite, unhealthy, comforting Choco Butternut. I chose the easy way out.

Is my humanity becoming more, in this road?

One weekend afternoon, I opened up Facebook and saw two notifications — one on the latest trans uploaded, and another on the latest number of extrajudicial killings. I gave my attention to the one I had immediate benefit to, and ignored the one I cannot control.

Is my humanity becoming less, in this road?

Last night, the night before my Biochem exam & proposal due date, I accidentally slept for four hours in the study hall. The moment I woke up, I knew — I’m only human, and my time is running out. And so I brought out my study materials in a seemingly tachycardic state.

Is my humanity becoming more, in this road?

Today, the realities of society slapped my being. I took part in conducting a home visit to one of the urban poor residents of Intramuros, and I had a crash course on the drug war & extrajudicial killings. As I listened to the stories of my informant & as I absorbed what I could in the prayer meeting, I asked myself a question not part of the two questions I have been asking myself:

“Where has my humanity been?”

As I write this article, I realize: it wasn’t a matter of whether my humanity was becoming more or less. It all boiled down to whether I acknowledged it, or not; to whether I celebrated it, or not; to whether I put it to good use or not. And in these three pointers, I knew: I have to do better.

To the Joan who will face 4 MAJOR  requirements on November 3,

The Joan who will finish her second sem of Year I, 

The Joan who will hit up Williams, Nelson and Harrison (Year II books) in less than a year, 

the Year III Joan who will be drowning herself in papers, 

And especially the Year IV Joan who will be pushed to the limit in frequent 36-hr duties….

And so on…

…being human is a beautiful thing. May we learn to embrace it fully, even if it means letting go of the grades we think we deserve. May we learn to celebrate it with other people, even if it means going out of our way. May we learn to put it to good use by learning to love ourselves, limited as we are. Only by embracing, celebrating, and maximizing our own humanity will we fully realize how to take care of the rest of the human race.
With love,

The Joan who has a 7AM Histology Exam tomorrow

First Month of Med School

(/)Survive a month in med school!!!!!!

This may seem like such a small achievement for medical professionals who have already survived years of the med life, or for medical students that have hurdled more exams than I have, but I believe that this victory is still worth celebrating and remembering. We medical students study life – we should also learn how to celebrate it. ;)

“The first year is the hardest,” so they say about med school. It has been difficult, yes; PLM-CM never runs out of challenges to give. But, I am happy to say that it is not devoid of adventure; it is certainly not without many firsts! Some of these new experiences may make med school feel like it has been so long already, but some make me look forward to the next adventures that await. :D

This blog entry about my first month will highlight the firsts that I have experienced so far, not only in med school, but in the crevices of my sanity breaks.

First Time to Stop Calling my PH Upperclassmen as “Ate”/”Kuya”

Being the eldest child in the family, I’ve always wanted to address people older than me (by only a few years) as Ate/Kuya. So when I found out that I’ll be having some upperclassmen back in undergrad as my med school batchmates, I knew that this old habit will die hard. But being in med school taught me that even if these batchmates of mine have lived more years than I have, they are also adjusting to this adventure. I might as well treat them as equals since we are going through the same journey. :)

Here you can see a collage of some PHxPLM friends. Guess who the original upper classmen are! ;)14074952_10206540819188739_1697221838_o

First Time to be Trans Head

Definition of Terms: Trans – short for transcript of the lecture; this is a class notes system, because it’s hard to take notes alone, especially in Med

I’ve never volunteered for anything trans-related back in my undergrad years. I would only volunteer to compile, and this compiling gig was still a challenge for me. Hence, I am known to pass my trans drafts on the last minute before the deadline. I knew myself, and I vowed to never take on trans responsibilities in the future. /that’s what she said/

But alas, that vow was meant to be broken. For I knew that when I asked our class president how our trans system would go, I was inflicting upon myself the burden of making sure that the system would optimally function. I accepted the burden, hoping that things will get better in the long run. And besides, all responsibilities come to an end, right? (I keep telling this to myself, every time haha)

Of course, everyone had to adjust to the trans system – even my fellow PH undergrads who were not used to integrating information from the book into the transcript. Even I had to adjust, of course.  From the girl who submitted drafts at the last minute, I became the one who received them. I also had to remind the Trans Formers (lol) about rotation schedules and trans deadlines. Personal order level up! Meticulousness level up! @-)

It was, and still is, a challenge. My prayer for every trans I receive is that it will be a joy to edit, and that I will have much patience as I wait for the drafts. But although I am challenged, I am thankful for having co-trans heads that are reliable colleagues and God-fearing women. They inspire me to be more patient with others, and with myself.

What I deal with on a regular basis:

trans head pic

First CYA-Lingkod Fellowship!

Otherwise known as my first detox session in this med life, haha! Basically,Lingkod is CYA’s working population counterpart, hence the need to bond more :) I met a lot of Lingkod brothers and sisters for the first time in this detox session, and I am happy to say that my listening skills have been honed! Thank you brothers and sisters for sharing your stories. My listening skills need to be developed so that I’ll be a good doctor :)


First Meeting with “New Friends”

I speak for the bones we had to study for the first Gross Anatomy Practicals. :)) I thoroughly enjoyed the intricacy of the structures, and I appreciated how structural characteristics define a part’s function. I know too that ancient bones are way easier to look at than cadaveric muscles, so I’m happy to say that I have appreciated them! :P

Spot my “new friend” among the new friends :


First Case Conference

Definition of Terms: Case Con – basically, where future doctors gather to discuss medical cases that are of relation to the lecture at hand

My first one was definitely a horror film worth watching – well, from my point of view, at the least. Contrary to what many people think, I easily get intimated in formal academic discussion. When you couple that with a preceptor that forbade us from looking at notes, you get a tongue tied girl whose nerves got the best of her! Haha. :)) But if there’s one thing I learned here, it’s this: great competence leads to great confidence. May my love for learning overcome my fear of doing something colossally wrong. :)

First Karaoke Sesh with the Med Buddies

When is the best time to sing your heart out? After three catastrophic quizzes and a Case Con, of course! And that’s exactly what we did. We may not have fully grasped those Cell Physiology concepts at the time, but we did what our lecturer said: entertain yourselves. Being a musically inclined person, this was a cathartic way to release all the insecurities and negative thoughts about med school. Thank you to the VP Committee who thinks the same way! :))


First Paper

But definitely not the first crammed one! HAHA. It was all about how you envisioned yourself as a five-star doctor. Being a visionary, I tried to make my thoughts as concrete as I can… in a span of two hours, because cram is lyf HAHAHA. Since I whipped up in two hours what others meticulously think about in two days, I definitely did not expect a special mention in class! God’s ways are definitely not ours. Or maybe it was just the karaoke. :))

First Class Bonding Sesh

AKA being honest about first impressions & finding out who’s single and who isn’t over slices of Big Guys Pizza. Haha! We may have crammed it, but it was a great way to break the ice and develop bonds beyond our original barkada. I’m sure the rest of the year will be great for us, as manifested by the great pictures we have! :)

(PSA: Baluarte de San Diego Gardens has such picturesque scenery! Pro tip: Bring along a shutterbug with you. :P)


First Changes in the Action Group Leadership

Definition of Terms: Action Group – CYA’s unit groups

Since I am now a student of PLM & not UPM, I also had to make the big switch as to the AG I’ll be handling! I had to say goodbye to my old group of UPM sisters, and hello to my new one composed of sisters who studied in PLM & Mapua. I must say that God was present in both my goodbye and my hello, and I am assured that He is with my sisters all the way. I am confident that God is leading me to where love can go, so I only hope to be an effective instrument :)

Here’s a collage with my old group coming in first & my new one coming in second!


First Case Con Prep Sesh in Mcdo Faura

Back in undergrad, my curfew was at 9PM. But now, change has come! HAHA. This was definitely a productive endeavor, for I certainly learned a lot from my classmates about how to analyze pathophysiology pathways. I now know how to fix my nerves for Case Con: by learning from PLM’s chosen future doctors :)


First Birthday Celebration in SM Manila

We medical students study life – we should also learn how to celebrate it. ;) and that’s exactly what we did! We began our first toxic week by celebrating James’ birthday in Tokyo Tokyo SM Manila. Nothing ever beats a restaurant with unli rice, for as James said: rice is lyf. Hahaha. Definitely thankful for pauses and sanity breaks like these! :) I hope Tokyo Tokyo keeps on supporting our unli rice diet. :))


First Visit to Intra Mall

Definition of Terms: Lab Con – basically, where future doctors gather to integrate theoretical principles with laboratory results

I definitely did not know that there were good study places in Intramuros! Without that class suspension & without groupmates who graduated from PLM, I definitely wouldn’t have discovered this. :)) It was a productive work session, not only LabCon wise, but also Pokemon Go wise! Thank you to Café Pression for being our sponsor. :))


First LabCon

The challenge here was not knowing which part you’ll report. :)) But even though this was the case, it was less nerve-wracking than I thought. Either that, or maybe it was the assuring presence of Dr.Velasco that saw us through. We were blessed with a preceptor that allowed us to help the groupmates who needed elaborate answers, and who patiently explained to us the concepts we got jumbled up. It definitely went better than I thought for we weren’t that clueless about what was to come. Thank you Lord for a kind preceptor and good groupmates! :)


First Cadaver Dissection

Don’t worry, I won’t be too graphic about this. Main point of realization though: I now get why some doctors work out. Procedures such as surgeries require lots of stamina, and if you get tired easily, you won’t be able to deliver! This I learned while enduring the stench of formalin and the mixed odors in our Gross Anatomy lab. Haha!

I’m also thankful to have groupmates who are eager to learn the ways of anatomy and surgery. I hope to learn from them too; even if I know in my heart that I will never be a surgeon, I will be needing this knowledge too. :)


First YC Study Sesh with the Med Buddies

Definition of Terms: YC – short for CYA Youth Center. CYA’s ultimate tambayan hahahaha

For our last evening study session before the Neuroanat and Physio exams, we chose the YC as our refuge. My classmates certainly enjoyed its amenities, and I am sure that this won’t be the last study session here :)) Even if we were laughing practically half the time, I am still blessed to  have friends who kept me awake for at least a few hours. Haha! :))


First Topic Proposal Defense in Med

But definitely not the first time to get grilled and rejected! HAHA. Main lesson learned: medical research is waaaaaay different from public health research. The learning curve is steep but not totally unattainable. The adjustment phase towards the beast that is PLM Med continues, even for subjects that constitute only one unit of the curriculum. I am thankful still for groupmates that have been accepting of my suggestions, and undergrad friends who listened to my stories! :) Below is a rare picture with the CPH reps to PLM-CM 1D 2020:


First Detox Sesh in SM Manila

Our first day in Med was July 18. One month later, we chose to celebrate our first month by having fun in SM Manila! It was my first time to try the Just Dance in World of Fun, and it definitely released my endorphins! Thank you to my classmates who were game as well!! Lesson learned: Zumba must make a comeback in my routine. :))


And if you think that’s all we did, think again!! Just Dance may be fun, but nothing ever beats a cathartic karaoke session (feat artists from Mandy Moore to Jessa Zaragosa) in Karaoke Hub. Here, we have proven to ourselves and to their staff that fitting 10 people into a room of 5 – and dealing with such arrangement for 2 hours —  is definitely possible. ;)


My first month of Med was definitely a roller coaster ride, and I’m only thankful that I’m not going through this journey alone. Here’s to happier times in the months to come!