By Gene Nisperos
The forum dubbed “Giving: Join the New Revolution” held at the UPCM last Tuesday left a bad taste in the mouth. It was, at best, an exercise that was rude, myopic, uninspiring, disturbing, deplorable, and a host of other adjectives too embarrassing to invoke.
It was rude because even though the name of Professor Solita Monsod was plastered on the posters of the said event, she was not the main speaker. In fact, Prof. Monsod barely spoke and only to correct the so-called “evidenced-based” presentation that essentially cut her down under the pretext of disputing certain parts of her famous speech (the one that went viral on youtube).
The actual speaker was an alumnus of the UPCM, the valedictorian of the Class of 1979 and a renowned dermatologist, who allegedly went through great pains of conducting a survey and research to prove one point: that you can have your cake and eat it too.
His presentation was a rather tasteless defense of something that should not have to be defended in the first place: the decisions UPCM graduates make at the end of their schooling. He seemed to believe that he can justify decisions made in the past by being charitable now. Thus, what followed was a shameless display of self-aggrandizement hypocritically sub-titled “the merits of expatriate-ism and reciprocity”.
The shabby treatment of Prof. Monsod was wrong on so many levels. Worse, it reflected very poorly on how we comport ourselves when faced with judgment we deem unfair. Rather than be gracious and act with honor and integrity, we only managed to reveal to Prof. Monsod how sorely lacking we are in both.
The forum was also disturbing because a big part of it was all about money – charity money being doled out by the alumni for various projects or “needs” of the college. After the head of the PGH Medical Foundation read a very lengthy laundry list of projects that have been funded by donations, especially those from the UPMASA, some alumni started pledging to donate hundreds of thousands of pesos. It felt like an auction and our dignity was up for sale.
The myopic assumption was that giving money back to the college is equal to or sufficient to connote “serving the Filipino people”. Rather than address the issue of why the UPCM has NOT been able to instill enough values for its students to stay after they graduate to serve the underserved, the forum only highlighted our continuing refusal to sincerely acknowledge our shortcomings and change – change our values, our notions of excellence, our concepts of success – to something more relevant to the many who are still waiting for us to serve them.
I saw the look on the faces of the students and young alumni – many of whom came to hear Prof. Monsod speak and perhaps, listen to an intelligent discourse that would ensue. But that did not happen.
Instead, they saw the inability of the college to rise beyond its own self-interests. Prof. Monsod virtually threw the gauntlet, a challenge for us to confront issues larger than ourselves and to commit and be part of genuine national development. Yet the anemic response of our alma mater was DONATION?
We are better than this. We should be better than this.
I am not a fan of end-of-the-year speeches extolling this or that virtue. During our graduation in 1993, then health secretary Juan Flavier gave an impassioned speech akin to the one of Prof. Monsod. My reaction then is still my reaction now: a 30-minute speech, no matter how eloquent, cannot undo the distorted values ingrained by five years of med school. Graduates who went on to serve the underserved did so in spite of, not because of, the kind of education they received.
Someone once said that physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor. UPCM graduates who stayed behind, including those who tried to insulate themselves from our sad state of affairs by concentrating on their practice, cannot but see the face of suffering every time they treat the poor, who seem to have grown more numerous and impoverished over the years.
That some UPCM graduates have chosen to stay and suffer the daily grind of life in this archipelago of our despair is a measure of solidarity that cannot be experienced vicariously by those who have chosen to leave, even if some of them occasionally look back to see how we are doing.
I have no judgment on those who left the country. They have their reasons. I thank them if they help the people back here, but love them anyway (particularly my friends and classmates) if they do not. Yes, I sincerely wish that they did stay but cannot fault them for their decisions. However, I cannot say the same for a very few who did stay but managed to only make life here more miserable.
The forum last Tuesday reminded me that there is still a war being waged. It is a war being waged here, although everyone can help pitch in. It is a war for the hearts and minds of medical students. It is a war for the soul of this nation, for the future of our people.
THIS is the REVOLUTION.
(Editor's note: Dr. Gene Nisperos is a graduate of the U.P. College of Medicine. The link to his Facebook note was sent to us by U.P. Kilos Na, which also commented thus about the same forum: "Rather than address the issue of why the UPCM has NOT been able to instill enough values for its students to stay after they graduate to serve the underserved, the forum only highlighted our continuing refusal to sincerely acknowledge our shortcomings and change – change our values, our notions of excellence, our concepts of success – to something more relevant to the many who are still waiting for us to serve them.")