Sugar, rice, and potatoes: Should we boycott the sweet and starchy?

Last month, a bill that included excise taxes on sugared beverages was debated in Congress. A couple of weeks later, Senator Cynthia Villar started hinting on banning unlimited rice in restaurants. At around the same time, a study pointed to a link between potatoes and a higher risk of death.

healthy potatoes  
Yep, it’s official: Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, and sugar, are our newest enemy. The question is, should they be?


“Killer carbs”

Why research is for everyone (including Ferdinand Cacnio)

Ferdinand Cacnio’s sculpture, UPLift, started trending shortly after photos of it were posted online. Too bad it became famous for all the wrong reasons.

Cacnio’s brass creation – a female floating in the air with her hair touching the ground – looked a little too much like Elisabet Bea Stienstra’s bronze sculpture in Netherlands. It also resembled many other sculptures all over the world.

Cacnio UPLift

A screenshot of Lei Lois Tolentino Azarcon’s status update on Facebook reveals the uncanny similarity between Stienstra’s sculpture and Cacnio’s “UPLift”.

Netizens cried plagiarism, accusing Cacnio of being unoriginal. Taking to his Facebook page to address these accusations, he denied having ever seen Stienstra’s work, saying UPLift was his “own creation”.

Cacnio isn’t the only artist who has been accused of copying someone else’s work. Beyonce was sued in court several times for allegedly sampling other people's works without permission. Vivienne Westwood had to apologize after someone else’s art was printed without permission on a shirt she was selling. Marvin Gaye’s children filed a lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for plagiarism – and won.

There will be instances when the plagiarism is obvious (check out how my work was copied by another blogger). However, it’s sometimes as simple as people in creatives forgetting to do one basic task: research.


Who came before you?

In the field of medical research, investigators must do a review of related literature before proceeding with their work. It gives researchers a good working knowledge of what has been done in the past, providing them with information that they can use and/or critique for their research framework.

A literature review also saves investigators from the embarrassment of being accused of fortuitous plagiarism.

Unintended plagiarism: arguably the most famous excuse for doing what has been done before.

While a review of literature in the field of medical research is made systematic by a structured database, doing a search of artwork related to yours can be both simpler and more complicated: simpler, because you can use keywords to look for pre-existing works of art that might look like yours; complicated, because reducing images to mere words can lead to translational error.

Related (paradoxical) post:    
Why research is not for everyone… yet.


The relativity of originality

Is anything really original? Can we claim to own an idea if we can’t say for sure that nobody has thought of it first?

When do we say our work is original? Our creativity borrows from the myriad experiences we’ve had, sourced from a highly personal collage of everything we’ve ever seen, touched, heard, read, done, and felt.

Still, it’s just a collage. Or is it really just that?

After netizens collectively called out Cacnio, his daughter Bianca came to his rescue. “It is not plagiarism. Nobody owns a subject,” she said on Facebook.

“Like my dad has made dancers all throughout his career, however he does not own that subject. People have made dancers before him, people have made dancers after him, and anyone can decide that they want to make a work about dance in the future. My dad cannot say, ‘uy akin yan, you cannot make dancers.’ What he owns is his style, his execution, his work.”

Her defense was compelling and truthful. The point she failed to merit, however, was the fact that her father knew nothing of Stienstra’s sculpture, or even of the many other works of art that looked like his own.

As much as Cacnio’s work was original in the sense that he made it from scratch without looking at his proverbial seatmate’s testpapers, it revealed a lack of research. It therefore belied the sincere desire to ensure no inadvertent replication ever took place.

Like many others, I look forward to Cacnio’s next obra. I give him the benefit of the doubt. I choose to believe he’s telling the truth. That’s why it sucks that his newest masterpiece will be forever hounded by controversy: All this trouble would have been avoided, if only someone had Googled.

5 Juicing facts even some doctors don't know

I know many of you are fans of juicing, but lately, it’s been criticized a lot. So, should we say deuces to juices?

In case you didn’t know, deuces is slang for goodbye. (Well, it’s also slang for crap, but that’s just an unfortunate coincidence.) Speaking of deuces, let’s talk about what we do with fruits when we don’t want to eat them: we juice them for everything they’ve got.

I, for one, am a sucker for fruit shakes. No, not the ones with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in them - I’m happy with just plain old fruits blended with ice, maybe with half a carrot in there somewhere.

And don’t even get me started with fruit juice.

Juicing, however, is a controversial health choice. It’s popular, but there has been a lot of criticism about juicing being a healthy habit.

juicingHow do you do juicing the right way?

You might have friends who swear by juicing and its benefits. Some even take juicing to the extreme, consuming only fruit juice for days at a time – they even say they feel great afterwards. Are these proponents of juicing right about their claims, or is juicing bad for health?


The good, the bad, and the juicing

The fear I thought I could never conquer (and how I eventually did)

“Do you know that more people are afraid of public speaking than of death?”

I bet it was supposed to reassure me. It didn’t.

I was talking to a company executive about how I used to be afraid to speak onstage when he shared that bit of trivia, probably hoping it would make me feel better. Instead, it brought back cringe-worthy memories: my voice cracking when I spoke in front of my Leadership Journey teammates, my knees threatening to buckle during a summit on health and social media, and my smile – my quivering, obviously-contrived smile – that failed miserably to mask my phobia.

Fear. Nothing compares to the paralyzing, gut-wrenching helplessness we all feel when we have to do something we’re afraid of.

On the other hand, nothing compares to the feeling we get when we finally conquer one of our greatest fears… which, by the way, I did.


Hold your tongue, hold your career

I have always been afraid of public speaking. Take a hint from the fact that I chose writing – in contrast to speaking – about health.

My phobia didn’t rear its ugly head until I was in my thirties. Before then, I was just too busy trying to survive a developmental disorder, a family tragedy that literally threatened our sanity, and a career choice I had second thoughts about.

Years passed and I mostly outgrew my attention deficit. My father, diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, got better. As for my career, I finally listened to my calling.

It was when these existential storms had passed when many fears started to appear, unmasked by the lack of more urgent matters to attend to. Or perhaps God grew tired of how comfortable my life had become, which was why He threw me a curveball.

Either way, I started to dread speaking in public.

I did everything to avoid public speaking, even if it meant hurting – and downright stalling – my career.

If you’re reading this because you’re afraid of public speaking as well, I hope that this will help you take meaningful steps to conquering your speech anxiety. I can tell you, fellow glossophobe, that it’s worth the trouble.


Triggering an epiphany

Conquering a fear is rarely unintentional. Most of the time, one must take deliberate steps to overcome a phobia.

In my case, however, it started with an unwelcome epiphany.

“The first time I spoke on TV, Noli de Castro introduced me as the next big name in sports commentary. I received my cue to speak but when I did, I realized there was no sound. I was talking but nobody could hear me.” Bill Velasco told me his horror story the first time I met him. Despite the embarrassing start, he pushed forward.

Now, he is a household name – the Bill Velasco we all know.

“I have turned down too many requests to become a speaker,” I told him.
Bill found that unacceptable.

Throughout the night, he tried to convince me to do something about my own fear. Imagine talking to a person for three hours about how you were wasting an opportunity to be a better version of you!

It wasn’t a conversation I was bound to forget. I lost sleep over it. I thought of the many opportunities I could talk in front of people who read my blog and emailed me their problems.

Correction: the many missed opportunities.

Bill was unrelenting yet helpful. I’m happy to say his three-hour oration worked. Slowly, I realized my avoidant approach to glossophobia was counter-productive.

I guess it’s true what they say about Bill: Based on how he talked my ear off until I had a life-changing epiphany, he is a good commentator.


Challenge accepted… sort of

I was asked to speak on behalf of my team during a leadership workshop by Unilab Foundation.

It was a small crowd of about forty. I knew everyone by first name. The odds were not against me at all.

Still, I choked like a loser.

I shook like a leaf, my voice cracking throughout my speech. I looked so scared that I probably scared them, too. What a horrendous ten-minute speech!

There was, however, one good thing about it: I actually said yes to speaking in front of everyone. I didn't have second thoughts.

Three months later, I received an offer to speak in eight different provinces all over the Philippines about a topic I was passionate about: doctors in social media. I knew it was the next step – it was the kind of kismet thing that made you believe you were meant to accept the challenge.

Challenge accepted.

The first leg was a thirty-minute test talk. Every single minute of it, I still shook like a poor canine with distemper. I held my breath during most of it, which meant the crowd could hear me take big nervous gulps of air.

However, my voice didn’t crack anymore. Ah, progress!

Before the second leg, I received an invite to speak at the 2016 Medical Student Summit. Again, I said yes. It was during this affair that I could feel my fears melt away.

The anxiety was mild, just enough to keep me on my toes, and it faded immediately after I stepped onstage. During my 30-minute talk, I felt like I owned the stage!

I was breathing normally, speaking as I would in more intimate conversations, and loving every minute of it.

During the second leg of the nationwide tour, I knew my fear of public speaking was a thing of the past.


Goodbye, glossophobia!

To this day, I can’t believe I said no to so many opportunities just because I was afraid! I am quite relieved I have finally conquered my phobia.

When you stop saying no, the world starts saying yes to you.

Nothing feels as liberating as finally overcoming fear, which was why I knew I had to share my experience. If you are afraid of speaking onstage – or of anything else – I hope you also take definite steps to conquer your fear.

Start by saying, “Enough.”

It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do… or it might be so easy that you’ll beat yourself up for not having done it sooner. Of course, you will never find out… unless you give it a try.

FAQs for future doctors (based on questions sent in by readers)

As much as sickness sucks, it does have its perks: Thanks to an illness that confined me to bed for a couple of days, I finally found the time to look at my blog’s backlog of emailed questions about becoming a doctor.

doctor FAQsOne of the many ridiculous questions I received via email. Should I laugh or cry?

At first, I tried answering each email. I knew I couldn’t sustain the effort – I received more emails in a day than I could read in a week – so I knew it was a losing battle. I did notice a trend in the questions so I might as well make a list of FAQs for future doctors reading this blog.


FAQs about becoming a med student sent via email (some more ridiculous than others)

Ready to run through a few questions and their respective answers? Warning: Not for people without a sense of humor.

Proceed with caution. You’ve been warned.


“Will being a doctor make me rich? I want to be filthy rich.”

Next question. Huwag ako, koya.


“I’m a single parent and I’m afraid that I might not be able to support my daughter if I take up medicine. What should I do?”

Kudos to you for not giving up on your dream while also honoring the dreams of your child. You’re in a tough spot and you deserve all the help you can get.

Unfortunately, I’m not in the best position to tell you what to do next. Every story is different. Maybe yours is different from some other single parent’s who wants to be a doctor.

Not everybody will have the luxury to follow their dreams. But for those who do, it’s a shame if they don’t. As to what you eventually decide to do is totally up to you.

Also, thank you for not being an ass, unlike the person who asked me if being a doctor would make him filthy rich.


“How can I get a better NMAT score?”

Um, answer more of the questions correctly? Teehee.

Kidding aside, try to find out why you’re getting low NMAT scores to begin with. Then, here are a few testmanship skills you might benefit from regardless of your level of preparedness.

There are also a lot of other articles here on the NMAT – use the search field on this website and try to go through all of them, in case you find something useful.


“Can you recommend an NMAT samplex or reviewer?”

Short answer: No.

Long answer: I never bought any reviewers, nor did I ever have any copy of a sample exam. You can look for online sample questions on the different NMAT topics, such as physics and inductive reasoning, just to give you an example of what you questions you might get during the exam.


“Which med schools accept applicants with low NMAT scores?”

The ones that don’t care what kind of doctors they produce? Joke! Half-meant, but still a joke.

Snarktastic comments aside, I’m acquainted only with my own school’s NMAT cutoff scores, so I can’t speak for other med schools. However, you can bet that the best med schools will have tougher cutoffs.

I would start by asking those that don’t belong to the roster of top med schools. (Do share your research with the rest of our readers by leaving a comment, okay?)


“My college degree is not health-related. How do I pursue medicine?”

You can start by asking the med school of your choice about their requirements for enrolment. You may (or may not) be required to take extra science units.

Protocols have changed several times since I applied for med school, so the safest thing for you to do is ask a medical school directly for first-hand information. I did have classmates in med school who majored in literature and political science, and the engineer I once featured here on my blog is now a med student, so things should be looking up for you!


“I’m too old/ too busy working/ too confused to pursue medicine. Is it going to be hard for me? Should I even pursue medicine?”

In other words… you are too afraid, yes?

Don’t be. Listen to your calling. Only you can truly answer the question you asked me. Nobody can dictate what your priorities should be. Nobody can tell you what to do when you’re at that fork in the road.

If becoming a doctor was truly what you wanted to do and I told you it would be the most difficult thing you would do in your life, would you back down?

Remember as well that heeding one’s calling is a luxury not everybody can afford. I always say that if you do have the luxury to do it, it’s a shame if you don’t.


“What is the best pre-med?”

This is like asking, “What is the best college course ever?” There is no Best Pre-Med Course Award. Nope, doesn’t exist.

While others answer this question based on which course can prep you best for medicine, I say take the course closest to your heart. You will learn best from the course you love! You will get higher scores in a degree of your own choosing!

No matter how smart you are, you may actually suck in a course you don’t like… and it will show in your grades, which will be one of the things all med schools will be looking at when screening for incoming med students!

To me, the best pre-med is the one that you know you’ll love. Your passion for that course will show in your grades… and in your answers when you finally get that interview for med school.


“I am so amazed by the idea of becoming a doctor. The way they wear white coats with dignity is so fancy! I want to be a doctor, too!”

You just want to look good in a white coat, don’t you?

Haha. Pardon my sarcasm. I just get way too many emails from people who just want to be called doctors.

Anyway, let’s not romanticize medicine too much. Being a doctor is indeed wonderful – saving lives definitely is – but that’s not all there is to it.

If you want to be a doctor simply because it sounds fancy, you might end up disappointed and jaded. Being a doctor is not a fairy tale. It’s hard work, a life of sacrifice and dedication, and a little bit of ugly here and there.

Without mental and emotional preparation, you can lose that fascination you have for medicine, and we don’t want that! So, here are a few things people won’t straightaway tell you about medicine that you should know.


“I’m deathly scared of blood and broken bones. Should I forget my dream of becoming a doctor?”

Oh, for crying out loud, quit now! Don’t be a doctor! Don’t take up medicine! YOU WILL FAIL, HUMAN!!!

Well, did I convince you not to pursue your dream of becoming a doctor? If I told you that you shouldn’t be a doctor, would you have followed my advice?

No? Well, that’s exactly the point of this exercise. The decision, you see, is totally up to you. Only you can truly define your limitations.

Some doctors are afraid of blood (I’m not; I absolutely love blood and everything gory, and I think doctors in general are a morbid lot), but if your fear is crippling, perhaps you can seek help from a professional who can help you deal with your issues before you finally make your decision.

You might also want to read about how I conquered my own fear before it killed my career. Hope you get something useful out of my shortcomings.


“Give me a list of med schools that will accept me based on my NMAT score of [insert NMAT score here]. Answer ASAP.”

Well, hello, Your Highness. Unfortunately, I’m not your slave and you can’t order me around.

Besides, do you have any idea how much time it would have taken me to ask every single med school about their enrolment criteria? Go do your own research.

And while you’re at it, learn to ask questions like the world doesn’t owe you anything. We don’t need doctors even half as entitled as you.

Oh, and you give millennials a bad name. I love millennials, which is why your behavior makes me froth in the mouth.


“I’m the smartest in my class. I deserve to be a doctor. Can you help me?”

Can I help you learn a thing or two about humility, you mean? I’m too afraid to handle your pompousness as I’m still dealing with mine. I’m so, so very sorry.


“How do you study? I want to get a 99+ NMAT score like you did.”

I’m a perfect example of a bad student with good grades. Don’t ask me for study tips unless I offer them because they might do you more harm than good!

I liked to watch movies the night before major exams. I walked out of lectures whenever I got bored.

I once forgot to set my alarm for a morning exam – the professor literally gave me a wakeup call, saying that I would get a failing grade in my nephro module if I didn’t haul my ass to class in ten minutes. (He huffed and puffed while he watched me, sleep marks still on my face and all, as I answered the test.) But hey, I scored 96 in that test, which once again goes to show that I’m a bad student with good grades.

I think I owe him my grade. Forget the fact that I had to finish an exam with an angry doctor glowering at me from item 1 to 100. He didn’t know me personally, but he was so concerned that he asked a classmate for my number and called me.

But I digress. Going back to your question, my story isn’t something worth modeling your life after. There are many study tips out there that really work. What you follow will depend on your learning style and studying preferences.

I say find the style that works for you! You have a unique brain and it deserves a unique study guide, right?

As for getting the same NMAT percentile score as I did, you can start by finding out how NMAT scores are computed and what an NMAT score means.


Have other questions? Ask away!

Leave a comment if you have any questions. Too shy? Send me an email (although I do get a horrific number of queries through email, so good luck with that). I promise that I’ll do my best to read and answer them all.

Perhaps you didn’t find this FAQs section helpful. I understand; the snide remarks do make it more comical than informative. Oh, well, can’t win them all.

I’m about to faint, so goodbye for now! Until next time, when I’m no longer running a fever. Keep it real, future MDs.

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