Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 9 - Page 16

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surveyor father and teacher mother encouraged all six of their children to be physicians . Four opted to follow the plan , two preferred journalism and psychology instead .
To everyone ’ s credit , after undergoing the rigors of prolonged education , all six found satisfaction in their “ chosen ” careers . We shared our goal : to help the fellow man . I graduated in 1956 , and I have never regretted my choice after having practiced in the Philippines and Kentucky , U . S . Now , retired !
It likely comes as no surprise that there are many expectations for an Asian family . My grandmother attended medical school at the University of Santo Tomas , a medical school that was founded in 1611 , before the U . S . even existed . She did her residency in pediatrics at UofL and then practiced in the Philippines for 15 years before moving to Louisville permanently with her family . They made the ultimate sacrifice , leaving the lives they knew to move to a new country .
My mother and father emigrated from the Philippines to the U . S . at the respective ages of 7 and 11 . They had to adjust to a completely different culture and lifestyle all while in grade school . Nonetheless , they persevered in their desire to become physicians , eventually returning briefly back to the Philippines for medical school .
It was a long shot for me to get into medical school from the start . Immigrating to Kentucky from the Philippines at the age of 11 was the worst experience of my life . It was the biggest cultural shock for this English as a Second Language kid meeting new classmates , being placed in a new school at the end of sixth grade and expected to participate in a totally foreign environment . It went downhill from then on , almost failing math in the seventh grade . My parents believed in the public school system and thought that every child was going to get the best education according to their potential . I had no idea that I needed to take a standardized test to enter college . Neither did my parents , and they had no idea that I was very poor in reading comprehension , which finally showed up in the standardized testing . All along they encouraged me to keep trying so that I could someday enter medical school . I did fairly well in high school and was in several organizations like the National Honor Society , as well as president of the Beta club . I also graduated in the top 1 % of my class .
Like so many immigrant parents , their dream was to have their children become physicians . They got advice from their medical colleagues and friends , and they gave advice not knowing my limitations . The undergraduate university that I attended did not have knowledgeable counselors , and I took random electives in philosophy , political science , German , Spanish and world history . It was also liberating for me to finally be comfortable with the party crowd after being immersed for six years in American culture . Biology , chemistry , physics and the humanities took a back seat . I thought that scoring well in the MCAT would overcome my GPA .
I finally realized that I was not going to be accepted to a U . S . medical school after taking the MCAT the second time . I had to make the sacrifice of leaving the American dream if my goal of becoming a physician was to continue . I packed my bags and studied medicine in a reputable school in Manila , Philippines . That was the second worst experience of my life . But I learned to adapt and to be independent and passed my Step 1 , 2 and 3 Boards ( FMGEMS- Foreign Medical Graduate Exam in the Medical Sciences and FLEX-Federation Licensing Examination ). I started a neurology residency three months after I graduated , and ultimately became the chief resident at the University of Louisville after graduating from a foreign medical school . I took my specialty boards after I finished my fellowship and have since recertified twice . I fulfilled our family ’ s dreams . I also met my wife while studying in the Philippines , and she also passed her boards and started residency at the same time I did .
The love my grandmother and father have for practicing medicine is evident . It ’ s clear from the connections they form with their patients and communities . They shared their passion with me as I grew up and encouraged me to pursue a career in a field in which they found so much joy . Because of their experiences in the medical field , they were also able to be honest about the difficulties of the profession . It is because of the sacrifices of the many generations before me that I have gotten where I am now . I never felt pressured by my family to attend medical school . Instead , I feel inspired and privileged .
I am currently in my pediatrics rotation and am learning so much from my patients and their families . I see the innocence of these children ; their only hope wanting to get better and go home . I also see the effects of COVID-19 , ranging from a mild bronchiolitis to severe disease to MIS-C . Many of these young patients are not a candidate for the vaccine due to age . Finally , I see the gratitude of each parent , thankful for a caring team watching over their loved child . I feel the joy my grandmother did when she cared for these patients long ago . At this point in my career I ’ m still undecided about my future specialty . I ’ ve had unexpected setbacks in school because of board studying . But if my parents and grandparents have taught me anything , it ’ s that perseverance and resilience pay off . I ’ m excited to progress through the rest of my clerkships and follow in the footsteps of my parents to inspire future generations . Dr . Teresita Bacani-Oropilla is a retired pediatrician and psychiatrist .
Dr . Joseph Oropilla practices neurology with Baptist Health Hardin . ( KMA and Hardin County member )
Gabrielle Oropilla is a third-year medical student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine .