FAQs for future doctors (based on emails 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)

The dangers of robotic surgery

“Gone [are the times when] surgeons had no choice but to open up patients,” said Dr. Michael Dennis dela Paz, currently part of a minimally-invasive surgery program in the Philippines. We have come to rely heavily on technology and robots, even in matters of life and death.

robotics surgeryUsing robots in surgery: an accident waiting to happen?

While moving forward in the field of surgery may require robotics, it is not without its drawbacks. How dangerous is robotic-assisted surgery exactly?


Why we like robots in surgery

“Through minimally-invasive surgery, we [have a] less harmful approach to abdominal, thoracic, gynecologic, urologic, neurologic, solid organ, orthopedic, and many [other types of surgery]. Studies have shown it is beneficial with less post-operative pain, faster recovery, and superior cosmetic outcome, hence the better quality of life of patients.”

A more recent type of minimally-invasive surgery is robot-assisted surgery, often nicknamed robotic surgery, which uses a DaVinci Machine to perform complex procedures with more precision, flexibility, and control than is possible with conventional techniques.

“The advantage of this modality is that the machine filters [a surgeon’s] tremors, so movement becomes smoother and finer. The [machine] has all the freedom of movement of [a surgeon’s hand] – it’s as if you are operating with your actual hands, unlike in laparoscopy where [you can only go] up, down, left, right, and rotate.”

“In contrast to laparoscopy where there is just one lens, robotic surgery uses two lenses to give you a three-dimensional view of the operative field,” said Dr. Julius Cajucom, head of The Medical City (TMC) Robotics Surgery Program.

“There is wrist movement, unlike in laparoscopic surgery. This will be very useful for obese patients and also in procedures that involve tight or narrow spaces, such as the pelvic cavity,” said Dr. Cajucom.

What would have been an incision several inches long could be as small as 1.5 centimeters, with the help of robots.


Why we don’t like robots in surgery


Bullies: Rapists of the mind

Bullies are rapists of the mind. Bullies rape your mind over and over through their microaggressions, taking your sanity from you piece by piece.

Bullying kills.

It is horrible that rape and bullying share a culture of shame perpetuated by the very people who witness it. Real shame lies in discouraging victims from speaking up, taking action, and pointing a finger at their aggressors.

expose bullies

Don’t take bullying lightly. It isn’t likely to go away unless you expose and confront the bully.

Please think twice before you tell a victim of bullying to keep quiet or let things go. Bullying isn’t something anyone should try to silence.

We have to speak out. We have to stand up.

We have to fight the bully.

Fighting back

Many of us are under the impression that exposing a bully is a form of bullying itself. It is not. Exposing a bully is not bullying.

Of course, that doesn’t stop a bully from claiming that you’re the one being the bully if you expose him. Case in point: The cyberbully I mentioned in a previous post tried to twist things around, saying that exposing him was akin to humiliating him. (Here’s more on why a bully will try to claim you’re bullying him instead.)

If you don’t want to be exposed publicly for being a rapist, pervert, or bully, then don’t be one.

As long as you refrain from ad hominem attacks and name-calling, you’re not bullying anyone. You’re protecting yourself, not to mention his future victims.

According to Mental Health Support in the UK, “Bullying [behavior] cannot continue to have its desired effect if the intended victim successfully stands up to the bully. Once you have identified a bully and know what to expect from him or her, you must choose not to be a victim, if you want the bullying to stop. Expose the bullying for what it is. Take a stand, and don’t back down.”

It continues to say, “Confrontation and exposure, with evidence to support a victim’s accusations, are what the bully tries hardest to avoid. Once exposure happens, the bullying is likely to stop.”

The stigma of the non-practicing doctor: a study in mythology

These are some of the myths I eventually debunked as a doctor who chose to write for a living. (If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you click that link and read it first.)

follow your dream

If you’re a doctor who’s on the fence about being one, this is for you. If you’re someone who might not know how to act or what to say if you meet a doctor who tells you s/he’s not practicing medicine, then this is for you, too.

Myth #1:

Doctors who don’t practice medicine are wasting their education

The day I finally decided to stand up to bullies

Not so long ago, a group of nasty girls bullied and intimidated me in private. I was told by a lot of people not to do anything about it.


They said that I shouldn’t make “patol” (go down to their level), that I shouldn’t call attention to what was happening or I would look weak, that I shouldn’t give it a label and call it bullying or I would be exposed for what I was at the time: a victim.


“Huwag pumatol (don’t engage)”

I endured a month of nonstop bullying. I was shamed, ridiculed, pushed around on a daily basis – privately, silently, with me doing very little about it – because I followed the passivist, pseudo-pacifist advice that well-meaning people gave me.

What made it worse was that nobody really knew (except a handful of people who witnessed everything just as silently as I experienced it) that I was being bullied. To everyone else, these bullies were nice girls: As “charismatic” bullies, they were popular and well-loved. (By the way, that’s one of the many ridiculous ways apologists try to justify bullying.)

I was unaware at the time that adult bullies could find ways to hide their nastiness. Some of them would grow up to be popular. You’ve probably met the type – they were the typical mean girls, yet everyone still wanted to be their friend.

“The charismatic bully’s charm is likely to mask any hint of anti-social behavior, thus making them difficult to identify. The charismatic bully can be a student leader, athlete, business executive, or even a politician, for example.” -- Dr. David Rivera, Psychology Today

My flaws and mistakes, which were many, were used to justify these bullies’ microaggressions. Slowly, their snide remarks and the bad things they said about me chipped at my confidence until I started to believe them.

I didn’t want to go to med school anymore. I refused to be on call for days at a time, staying at home and earning 7-day demerits for each day of absence, simply because I was too afraid. The more I skipped my duty hours, the more I gave them reason to bully me.

It was a cycle I couldn’t break.

It was a cycle that broke me.

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