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Joining the front line: How new Thomasian doctors won their first battle

Set to join the front line of the COVID-19 battle, new Thomasian doctors first conquered their physician licensure examinations (PLE)—the sole exam to continue under the “new normal.”

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Thomasian Topnotchers—(From left to right) Mark Dumago (9th), Henrick Ryan Fong (3rd), Florence Maramba (6th)

Set to join the front line of the COVID-19 battle, new Thomasian doctors first conquered their physician licensure examinations (PLE)the sole exam to continue under the “new normal.”

Three of the four Thomasian topnotchers in the November PLE, Henrick Ryan Fong (3rd), Florence Maramba (6th), and Mark Dumago (9th) had to go through a series of obstacles before and while facing PLE this November.

Dumago and Fong, like any other students taking online classes, struggled with self-discipline and their mental state while preparing for the exams.

“Ang biggest adjustment is yung online na review,” Dumago told TomasinoWeb. “I actually thought na mas madali siya since hawak mo lahat ng time mo, but it’s so much harder pala dahil kailangan mong disiplinahin yung sarili mo.”

Reviewing online, according to him, was more taxing, in addition to the difficulty of trying to sustain his enthusiasm for a long period of time after the boards were delayed.

“Talagang makakaramdam ka ng burnout and may added emotional burden pa na sobrang uncertain ng lahat,” Dumago said.

Fong, the class valedictorian of Batch 2019, shared the same struggle but according to him, he used it to his advantage.

“With the extra time that was given to us, I used that to mentally prepare myself for the exam,” he told TomasinoWeb in an online interview. “I balanced my time between studying and also relaxing to keep my mind and body healthy.”

Maramba started his preparation as early as during his post-graduate internship, and as the community quarantine hit, it gave him the chance to “recalibrate” and “refocus” his study priorities.

“Our residents also helped us at this time by giving us zoom lectures and activities. During the review season, I had the chance to enroll in review centers which really helped us in preparing for our exams,” he shared with TomasinoWeb.

Battle day

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Fong said that taking the exam during a public health crisis is not the ideal situation for anyone, adding that it certainly took extra measures to prepare for it.

“It was a challenge especially for us who took the exam in a gym with no air conditioning and with the mask and face shield on, but it’s definitely not a big factor,” he said.

Before taking the PLE, according to Maramba, examinees were required to undergo a 14-day quarantine or submit a negative COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

Even though there were safety protocols enforced, Dumago expressed that he was anxious because he still can’t help but fear acquiring the virus.

“Nakakaparanoid na baka may maramdaman ka biglang symptoms which might stop you from taking the boards so masasayang yung pinaghirapan mo for the past couple of months,” he said.

Health and safety protocols were in place, such as physical distancing, disinfection, and wearing masks and face shields all the time except during meals. 

“It was not easy, sometimes I go home with my face feeling greasy. But it is understandable that it is the only way to protect not only us but also the ones we love,” Dumago shared.

Fong admitted that the exam proper was an unforgettable experience given the additional inconvenience of all the safety protocols.

“[B]ut it’s definitely not a big factor. It’s just a small sacrifice we have to do so that we can serve our country and everyone who needs help in the healthcare system,” Fong said.

Fong, Dumago, and Maramba are joined by Adrian Emmanuel Teves (2nd place) among the 436 newly-licensed Thomasian physicians.

The University’s Faculty of Medicine and Surgery placed fifth among the top performing schools with a 95.61-percent passing rate. Coleen Ruth Abiog

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Prioritize mental health, youth leaders urge

Youth leaders on Saturday, Jan. 23 called on young leadership aspirants to prioritize mental health and emotional intelligence in service and personal circumstances.

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Asean Youth Engagement Summit Chairperson Josuard Gonzales and former UST Psychology Society President Karen Frances Aquino stressed the importance of mental health during the leadership webinar “SINAG 2020.”

Youth leaders on Saturday, Jan. 23 called on young leadership aspirants to prioritize mental health and emotional intelligence in service and personal circumstances.

Former UST Psychology Society President Karen Frances Aquino stressed that leaders should prioritize their mental health aside from serving their fellow youth.

“[B]ago kayo isang leader, tao kayo. Alagaan niyo [ang] sarili niyo and yung mental health niyo, tsaka mo [niyo] mas maalagaan yung iba at yung komunidad niyo,” she said during a youth leadership webinar.

According to Aquino, youth leaders should also be advocates of mental health to influence their subordinates on the same matter effectively. 

She also stressed the importance of creating projects to generate awareness about mental health. 

“[I]ts very important nga na magcreate tayo ng mga projects raising mental health awareness…[D]oon mo makikita a hindi ka leader lang, ang dami mong pwedeng gawin as a student leader,” Aquino told TomasinoWeb. 

Mental health issues are ‘valid’

Asean Youth Engagement Summit Chairperson Josuard Gonzales urged the youth to validate mental health obstacles as it will hone them as aspiring leaders. 

“[P]eople will lead through emotions and they reason after. Recognize muna natin na totoo ‘to. ‘Wag natin itago,” Gonzales said. 

According to Gonzales, it is vital for mental health issues like anxiety and depression to be a rising topic amid the lack of understanding about it. 

“It’s valid and it’s important that it’s valid. Bakit? If it’s valid then it’s talked about, and if we talk about it, then we can understand […] and then master it,” he said. 

“Totoo ‘to, importante ‘to at kailgnan pag-usapan,” he added. .

The webinar titled “SINAG 2020” is a two-part online leadership camp spearheaded by the University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council with a theme “Pagkilala at Kamalayan sa Sarili Bilang Isang Kabataan Lider.”

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Human rights advocates protest dismissal of progressive students

Several student councils and human rights groups urged the University administration on Sunday, Jan. 24, to uphold democratic rights after dismissing three students due to alleged involvement in “unrecognized organizations.”

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UST–Senior High School (SHS) Student Council representative Ruth Dizon (left) and Kabataan Partylist (KPL) –Katipunan Chairman Marco Mañaol (right) call on admin to uphold democratic rights during the League of Filipino Students press conference.

Several student councils and human rights groups urged the University administration on Sunday, Jan. 24, to uphold democratic rights after dismissing three students due to alleged involvement in “unrecognized organizations.” 

“While it is understandable that we need to abide by the existing guidelines and policies as much as possible, it is to take not that the 1987 Constitution […] shall remain the highest form of constitution by nature,” UST–Senior High School (SHS) Student Council representative Ruth Dizon said in a press conference organized by the League of Filipino Students.

According to Dizon, the UST administration should revise its policies suppressing student activism in the University.

“Nanawagan kami sa administrasyon na isaalang-alang muli hindi lamang ang mga paglabag ng mag-aaral, pati na rin ang mga patakaran ng Unibersidad na nagbibigay daan sa pagpapatahimik sa mga mag-aaral,” she said. 

‘Critical mindset’

Human rights groups stressed the importance of having a critical mindset due to the country’s current political situation. 

“[K]inakailangan ang pagiging kritikal at makabayan na kaisipan. Kinakailangan ang pagpuna sa mapaniil na administrasyon dahil kung walang pupuna, sino?” Kabataan Partylist (KPL) –Katipunan Chairman Marco Mañaol said. 

Manaol also urged the University to overturn its decision on SHS student Shoti Ampatuan’s case. 

KPL–UST is expecting that the administration will continue to issue show cause notices to some students in the following days. 

“We hope the administration sees the fear and intimidation that they cause and stop issuing show cause orders,” KPL–UST said. 

In a span of two days, the UST–SHS administration barred a student from enrolling next academic year, while two more students were given show cause notices for allegedly joining unrecognized groups. 

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Thomasians promote youth engagement in nat’l affairs

Several Thomasians from different youth organizations pushed for the inclusion of youth participation in shaping the country in an online protest on Thursday, Jan. 21. 

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Online youth protest, "“Sulong Tomasino!: First Day Fight!” streamed via League of Filipino Students-UST official Facebook page on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Several Thomasians from different youth organizations pushed for the inclusion of youth participation in shaping the country in an online protest on Thursday, Jan. 21. 

Rights for Education representative Jay Santos stressed that the academe should also join the youth in this agenda. 

“[S]a panahon natin ngayon at  sa kasaysayan pa ng ating bansa, kinikilala natin ang kahalagahan ng papel ng kabataan sa paglahok at pahubog ng ating lipunan, at dapat katuwang natin dito ang ating paaralan,” she said.

According to Santos, the continuous suppression of the academe towards students also mirrors the government’s way of silencing its critics. 

Meanwhile, journalism major and one of the petitioners of the controversial Anti-Terror Law Mark Geronimo, encouraged the youth to use different social media platforms to educate and criticize the government. 

“[Y]ung mga platforms katulad ng Twitter, Facebook gamitin natin ito para mag educate at mag criticize sa mga maling gawain ng gobyerno,” Geronimo said.

Despite receiving several threats from online trolls, Geronimo still urged the youth to educate themselves in the current issues faced by the country. 

The online protest titled “Sulong Tomasino!: First Day Fight!” was streamed last Jan. 21 at the official Facebook page of League of Filipino Students – UST.

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