Tips on Becoming a Doctor

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 50 Comments

If you are looking for tips on becoming a doctor in the Philippines, then yes, your are on the right page. I do, however, have a disclaimer: becoming a doctor is different from practicing as a doctor.

Getting a doctor’s license is relatively easy if you have the means, the brains, and your family’s support. However, finding the right niche (research, practice, etc.) and specialization are a different matter altogether.

becoming a doctor

Tips on Becoming a Doctor: Why I Would Have Needed Them

I never thought I would need tips on becoming a doctor. I thought all I needed was the desire to become a good doctor and the diligence to study hard. But becoming a doctor in the Philippines means so much more than being smart.

I was very naïve when I first applied for medical school. I had just taken my National Medical Admission Test (NMAT), where I scored 99+. I aced three exams in the NMAT, garnering the highest possible score overall. I belonged to the top 1% of everyone who took the exams in the entire Philippines. I thought to myself, if the NMAT is any indication of how easy medical school was going to be, then it was going to be smooth sailing for me. (Read on to find out how I turned out to be wrong.)

Boy, did I stand corrected! The first three years of medical school were relatively easy – all I had to do was study and listen in class. But clerkship, which was the last year of the curriculum, required more than just smarts. I had to forego sleep, friends, family, vacations, weekends, holidays, noche buena with the family, and many other luxuries which I took for granted before I became a medical student.

I also made one grave mistake during medical school: I thought nothing of work politics. But, as is the case anywhere else, work politics played a major role in how far you got. Skills and brains are definitely not enough; how you fared with your peers and bosses also mattered.

Tips on Becoming a Doctor (Based on My Humble Experience)

So, here are a few tips on becoming a doctor. I hope that my humble mistakes will serve as a lesson to everyone who also dreams of practicing this noble profession.

  • Make friends with professors and other doctors. They are not only your mentors; they are also your potential signatories for recommendation letters. Of course, you should not follow this tip on becoming a doctor as a way of fooling doctors you don’t actually like into liking you; instead, develop a true and lasting teacher-student relationship with them.
  • Study everyday. No, this is not for you to score high in exams. This tip on becoming a doctor is for long-term learning. After your four years in medical school, you shall soon be dealing with patients – and all the stock knowledge you have with you will help you, big time. Cramming does not give you knowledge that you will remember for a long time.
  • Do not forego your social life. Social skills are a requirement if you do not want to be bossed around or bullied. And if you do get pushed around, you can always tell your friends about it, so make sure you have time for them.
  • Make sure you can rely on one or two doctors who will tell you what goes on behind the scenes. There are many trade secrets that you will not be privy to, unless you have veteran doctors who tell you about them. For instance, I did not know that I was to go on duty EVERYDAY for the entire year (and for 36 straight hours every three days), until my very first day on duty. You do not want to be blindsided; luck favors the prepared.
  • Learn work politics. This is probably one tip on becoming a doctor that I would have loved to have heard early on. Learn how to become both a follower and a leader – and that means learning to get along with all sorts of people, regardless of their character flaws.

I shall give more tips on becoming a doctor; check back soon! In the meantime, ask yourself, do you want to be a private practitioner, a clinician, or a researcher? Remember, the notion that doctors wear white coats and go on hospital rounds is a rather foolish and uninformed one. (For instance, I am also a health article writer.) Early on, find out what field you want to be in. And, most of all, enjoy!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and a cat welfare column in The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene. Add her to your circles.

50 comments:

  1. Thank you so much dito.. i2 ung hinahanap ko.. nursing student ako.. balak ko din mag take ng NMAT pag RN na ako hehehe.. :) - www.astigtayo.com

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    1. I realize I'm commenting late, so I hope you did ace your NMAT. :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  2. Your blog post shows a deeper perspective on how the youth can prepare for things to come as a doctor.

    Great blog stef! =)

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    1. Thanks, Ruben! Grateful you dropped by and left a comment!

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  3. I was blindsided and unprepared for medical school; learning the ropes in disbelief is something I don't want to impose on anyone. I only hope my experience, colorful and enriching as it is, can be an instrument of learning for aspiring doctors. Thanks, Ruben!

    ificallyoumine, wow, you're a nursing student! Nursing was also my prememd and I made sure to take the boards before I went into medicine - and I'm glad that's what you wanna do, too! :) Good luck, dear!

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  4. I want my daughter to become a doctor. Thanks for this tips.

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  5. I saw the same thing with my doctor friends who are in their 20s. Halos dun na nakatira sa ospital. Very little sleep. No time even to reply to text messages.

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  6. Yes, an intern usually receives about a hundred text messages in one duty day, maybe even more. :) It's going to be hard to reply to text messages while juggling several errands all at once. It brings to mind one rather misused word and abused word: "toxic". :)

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  7. thank you very much for sharing such experience. i really dream to become a doctor someday, unfortunately my family's income won't be enough for such education. i'm a fresh graduate with the degree BS Psychology and i really want to pursue this dream. i've been searching for scholarships and some of them require a very high score in NMAT. *sigh* again. thank you. i would read this again! :)

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  8. HELLO PO DOCTOR STEF! ^_^.. ANO PO BA ANG DAPAT KUNIN NA COURSE OR BS DEGREE? ANO PO IYONG KINUHA NIYO NUNG FRESHMAN COLLEGE PA PO KAYO NG UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM? NAKAKALITO NAPO KASI.. SABI NILA BS BIOLOGY DAW, SABI DIN NILA BS NURSING AT ANG IBA NAMAN AY BS MEDTECH.. SAAN PO SA TATLO ANG DABEST PARA MAKAPROCEED PO? SANA PO MAKAREPLY PO KAYO AT TSAKA SALAMAT PO DOC! CONGRATS AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU! ^_^

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  9. Hi, Mariz! Thank you for dropping by. I'm delighted to hear from a potential doctor who does not get fazed by hurdles. Keep it up and best of luck to you!

    Hello, Divine! Gosh, why all caps? :) I keep imagining that you're screaming all those words, hehe!

    back to your questions. I took up Nursing. Again - and I will keep saying this to everyone who asks - your choice of premed course will depend on what you want to take up. It's not about choosing what is best for a medical course later. It's about choosing what interests you and what you can use in the future, in case you decide not to take up medicine. Yes, that might happen. Look at me; I graduated with honors from UST yet I prefer writing over medical practice!

    I hope that helps you. Best of luck - and I hope to hear from you again (but this time not in all capital letters, hopefully?) :D

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  10. do i need to be smart to become a doctor? because i am not that smart.

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  11. Thanks a lot madam! for ur valuable tips.. :) i am very glad to get into this blog. i am basically from india, and wanna do my BS & MD in phillipines... i just need a small favour fom u, can u plz tell me the pass marks of NMAT? , does it have any negative marking? & which is the best medical college/university in the phillipines?...your suggestion will help me a lot... :)

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  12. Chikaruth, can you make smart decisions when you have a complicated case requiring recall of the pathology, etiology, treatment, and diagnosis of several cases? Can understand medical literature when researching about diseases you will be dealing with for the first time?

    These questions are not a means to disqualify people who - to quote what you said - are "not that smart". These are questions to ensure that patients receive due care, questions to ensure that if a patient puts his life in your hands, he does so with an assurance that you know exactly how to handle it.

    I hope I've shed light on your question. Good luck on your career! Let me know what your decision is.

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  13. Hi doc thanks po sa tips.san po yung medical school nio po ?

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  14. Angela, I graduated from the royal and pontifical University of Santo Tomas. Thanks for visiting the blog once again!

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  15. SRI Krishna, there is no "passing rate" that applies to all schools. Every school has its own score threshold, I'm afraid.

    I don't think I'm in the position to recommend other schools as I have no first-hand experience with other schools. I graduated from the University of Santo Tomas - it's a good school for doctors-to-be. There's also the University of the Philippines. Try looking for a list of the best medical schools in the Philippines if you want a more extensive list, one that includes schools in areas other than Manila.

    Good luck!

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  16. Do you have to be a medical-related course graduate to apply for med school or any bachelor's degree will do? I'm 25 and am thinking if it may be a little late to start med school?

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  17. Hahnz, that's not necessary. I know people who majored in literature before they took up medicine! As for things being too late, that's all up to you. :)

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  18. hi miss stef dela cruz. I'm also planning to take up medicine in the near future. But i am worried that my family's income wouldn't be enough for the expenses. If you wouldn't mind, how much is the average cost of studying medicine?

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  19. Hi! Does becoming a doctor requires a good grade, honor etc? Im currently on my 3rd year high school or much known as grade 9 and i want to be a doctor. My parents have a high expectancy on me becoming a doctor and im afraid i wont meet that i mean its a lot of pressure for a high schooler like myself. Anyways,maam, it would be mech appreciated if you might share some advice on what to prepare and highlet on the journey towards becoming a doctor.. Thanx doctor.

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  20. hi :) just wanna ask , how long does it take to become a pediatrician?

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  21. Hello, Edrinel! Initially, you asked me about whether or not good grades are important if you want to enroll in a good med school. But I think you already know the answer to that. :)

    It looks like you're expressing qualms about med school and your abilities. Would you mind reading this article on becoming a doctor and parents' expectations? It might help you in your journey. Best of luck!

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  22. Hello, Grace! I think a pediatrician is the best person to answer that. :) I didn't specialize in Pedia, so any answer I give would be based on someone else's! Find a pediatrician who can give you wisdom not only regarding the amount of time it takes, but also on the amount of effort it entails. Best of luck.

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  23. Hi Doc, I'm currently taking Pharmacy as my premed course. My problem is that Pharmacy curriculum doesn't offer zoology subject so we are advised to take it this summer. In our curriculum, we have the following subjects: Human Anatomy and Pathophysiology, Gen/Inorganic and Organic Chem, and Biochemistry (subjects related to medicine). Do I need to take zoology? Cause our department said it is not a prerequisite to med school anymore (but other schools still required it) or it is a prerequisite? Thanks doc! :) Have a good day!

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  24. Hello, Elbert! Hm, that's something you will have to ask the med school of your choice. Last time I checked, extra credits are no longer needed - but please do ask the med school of your choice so that they can give you a more official answer. Good luck! And thank you for dropping by!

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  25. Greetings Dr.stef!
    I want to ask: Do you have clasm8s,friends or know someone that finished medical school at the age of 38, and yet became a very successful physician afterwards?( by successful I mean earning well that is enough for him/her to own a house, feed the family 3x a day etc..just to clear though I don't want to become a physician to be rich)
    I want to know for inspiration as I am a late bloomer in medicine :)
    Tnx in advance

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    1. Hi, Hashirama! I don't have any classmates who were from that age group. Yes, age may be an issue when it comes to practicality, but it's not the only factor to consider when you're trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life!

      Success is never guaranteed, not even among doctors who started early! It's always a gamble, and only you can decide if it's a gamble worth taking.

      Best of luck! :)

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  26. Hi po!!! I'm 15 and nagdadalawang isip pa ba kung magiging doctor talaga ako. Nandiyan na kasi yung k-12 kaya nagwoworry ako na baka tumanda ako at hindi pa nakakagraduate hahaha. Ilang years po ba kayong nag-aral para maging doctor? At kung pupwede po yung sa mga surgeon. Ilang years po yon? Gusto ko po kasing maging surgeon.

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  27. Hello doc. I'm an aspiring 22 year old college student. I'm currently into 2nd year of my BSMT course and I was wondering about the challenges on the financial part of becoming a doctor. Truth be told, dreams are dreams until you make them happen right? So now, I want to make it happen. Tell me then, is it possible to be inching through the medical course and finishing still? What I mean is that for the first semester, is it allowed that I only take let's say just one or two subjects? and then continuing on to the next years with the rest? I know it'll take time, but truly for dreamers, some challenges do extend because of financial incapabilities. Will appreciate the reply. Thank you!

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  28. Hello Ms. Stef Dela Cruz,

    I am a grade 10 student studying at St. Paul. I'm very clueless of what Medical Students do, all I know is that they are all stressed out because of their medical work. My mom is telling me to go take a medical course and she suggested I take the Radiologic Technology. I'm just here to ask for advice if being a Bachelor of Rad Tech makes lot of income? Also add the fact that are Radiologist considered as doctors?

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  29. Hi Dr. Stef! Hearing your story was such an inspiration. I have been dreaming of becoming a doctor ever since. I am a class honor student and I am now in my 3rd year of high school. I have a lot of questions in mind and it would be much appreciated if you could take the time to respond.

    I am still a highschooler yet I am having doubts as to what premed course I will take up. I wanted to take BS Medtech as a premed and specialize in Neurology (or Neuroscience, whatever fits). Quite the dreamer right? I would like to know what school you recommend and what to expect. Thank you so much.

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    1. Well, Gwen, keep dreaming big! We need more dreamers in this day and age.

      It's alright to have doubts about what course to take. My suggestion is always this: Take the course closest to your heart. You will do better in a course you love, than in a course you THINK is best for a medical career but holds no appeal to you whatsoever.

      What do you think? :) Good luck, keep dreaming big, and keep in touch with me on Instagram. I would love to hear from you when you're finally taking up your pre-med!

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  30. Hello, Doc Stef! I'm a second year medical student from Cebu. How much importance should I place on the academic aspect of medical school (grades, honors, and class rank) and how will it possibly affect me in applying for training programs in my chosen field?

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    1. Good question!

      Well, if you were to accept residency trainees, what criteria would you have? I believe your academic performance will be one of the things the admitting committee will be looking at.

      Some training hospitals look at the school, your grade, and your rank. Others will even assign scores (5 points if you're an honor student, for instance) for certain criteria involving academic performance.

      There are other things they will be looking at, but your academic standing will definitely be a major criterion. As to how much weight it will hold will depend on the med school. I hope that answers your question.

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  31. Hello Dr. Stef! Thank you for sharing this article with everyone. :) I got really inspired reading it. Ever since I was a child, becoming a doctor is my greatest dream. I already finished my bachelor's degree and I am thinking of taking the NMAT.

    You scored 99+!! Could you please share with me some ways/ best practices/study tips to obtain a good grades at NMAT. Thank you for your time Dr. Stef!

    P.S You are such an inspiration ^_^ <3

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    1. Hi, Aileen! It was my pleasure to write for everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this!

      You might want to check out this post and also use the search field (this website has one, have you seen it?) to look for "NMAT". You'll see everything I've ever written about this topic. :)

      Best of luck to you! Keep pushing forward!

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  32. Thank you for the tips. I will soon graduate and become teacher but, teaching is not my passion. i just want to ask if my degree is appropriate in entering med schools? i was a Secondary Education student majoring in Physical Science.

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    1. In this post, an engineer asked me if his course would influence his decision to take up medicine.

      He's now a med student, according to a comment left on that post!

      I hope this inspires you to push forward with your plan. :) Best of luck.

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  33. Hi Dr. Stef! I would just like to ask if you happen to know any scholarships for those who did not graduate with Latin honors but has a GWA of 2.0 or better? Thank you very much for all your posts, Doctora. And thank you for helping all aspiring doctors like me. ❤️

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    1. Hi, Rochelle! I'm not sure if your school has the same grading system as we do, so I can't answer based on your specified grade threshold. However, you might find better answers to your question if you list down 10 med schools of your choice and inquire with them regarding available scholarships. :)

      I hope this helps you! Best of luck to you!

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  34. Hi doc. I hope this finds you. I am 33 and it is my dream to become a doctor. However, i graduated from a non medical course. It has been 10 years since i graduated and i am not sure if i will do good in NMAT.
    - is it true that you have to be in med school before you turn 36?
    - is there a school that will consider your application if you get a so-so NMAT score?
    - do your non med courses grades affect your admission?
    This dream has haunted me for so long but I am more afraid of the fact that I won't have any chance of being admitted in med school because of my age, how long since i graduated and how i did with my previouse degree.

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    1. Hi, Barbie! The probable answer to all your questions is this: It is usually the prerogative of the medical school whether or not they will accept you, considering your grades, age, and NMAT score.

      I believe it's best for you to ask the med school of your choice - standards and requirements change all the time and any answer I offer won't compare to the one officially offered by med schools. Good luck!

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  35. Hi Doc! Gustong gusto ko po talagang maging doctor. Pero ang problema po eh wala akong tiwala sa sarili ko na maaabot ko ang pangarap ko. Hindi rin sapat ang income ng parents ko at ang dami naming magkakapatid. Ang mahal ng tuition sa med school kaya kinakabahan ako. Baka Di na matupad ang pangarap ko. Pwede pahingi ng advice Doc? Hindi ko talaga maimagine ang sarili ko sa ibang propesyon. Btw,4th year High School na po ako (grade 10). Gusto ko lang po maging handa. Thank you po. Godbless ����

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    1. Study hard and study smart, map out your education plan, seek the counsel of your parents on how you can all work together to achieve your goals, and set a financial goal so that you know how much you need to spend by the time you're ready to take up medicine!

      There are also different types of scholarships available, especially if you're good at sports or if you have excellent grades. Talk to the med schools of your choice and ask about their scholarships. This can help you pursue medicine without spending more than necessary.

      Good luck!

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  36. Is it true that when you are on your residency you are already being paid? Just a question. Haha.

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  37. Hello Doc Stef. I'm Anthonette. Your blogged is perfect for the aspiring doctor to be. I just wanna ask the particular qualifications to be a doctor? I am a Licensed Pharmacist, and people viewed me as a candidate to be doctor. There some hindrances I am going through right now. I had also a plan. Is it possible to enter in a med school if you are at the age of 29? How about your rate in pre med and licensure exam affect your application in med? And the financial support needed? Please answer. I'm still looking for signs. If being a Doctor would be a great calling to me. Thank you. I really appreciate your respond. Godbless doc!

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    1. Hi, Anthonette/ Antoinette! (Your profile and comment offer different spellings of your name?).

      You might want to read these FAQs for medical doctors - most of the answers to your questions are there.

      It might also be best for you to ask the med school of your choice - standards and requirements change all the time and any answer I offer won't compare to the one officially offered by med schools. Good luck!

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