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Perspective from Abroad

UPCM '89 graduate Dr. Martin Bautista who ran for senator in the last May 2010
elections shares his insight on the following issues.

On living in the United States

The reason I went to the US was to acquire superior graduate medical education and to
attain a degree of financial independence. Teaching hospitals in the US continue to pay
clinical attendings to read, research and teach full-time. These teachers devote all their time
to mentoring interns and residents. My wife (a classmate) and I were clear about this. We
never intended to stay in the US for good. UPCM tuition in 1984 was PhP 175 a semester and
we never forgot our obligation to our country. The US enabled us to return in 2006 and we
have never charged a single Filipino patient.

I don't agree that love for the Philippines is uncommon among Filipinos overseas. Most of us
would rather be with our families, our classmates and friends; to live in the secure and
comforting neighborhoods we grew up in. Most of us constantly think about the people we
left behind. It is a sad reflection of the desperate conditions prevailing in our country that
3000 Filipinos continue to seek employment in other countries every single day.

Don't idealize living away from our country. The main reason we were able to train in an
excellent teaching hospital was because in 1990, the AIDS epidemic was at a peak and US
medical graduates stayed away from inner city hospitals. We would personally draw blood,
sample bronchial washings, collect colonic effluent from patients with full-blown AIDS, wheel
them for ancillary tests and before they restricted work hours, routinely stay in the hospital
for 120 hours each week. Now, realize we are physicians. Think about those domestics,
laborers, illegal immigrants who have to contend with abusive employers, violence and
profound loneliness, not to mention the permanently impaired family dynamics which result
from these prolonged separations.

I think as UPCM graduates, we each have a responsibility to provide more dignity to millions
of our fellow Filipinos who are frantic to escape such deplorable circumstances.

On expatriate UPCM graduates giving back

In the first place, $20 billion was remitted by overseas Filipinos to the country through
official channels in 2009. International think tanks estimate the real amount to be between
$30 to 40 billion. This is much more than the PhP 1.54 trillion total 2009
appropriations budget. Most of us who were fortunate enough to have trained in UP got here
because of industry and aptitude. The UPCM is an institution that exists because of the taxes
paid by our parents and relatives. In a functional meritocracy, you cannot legislate gratitude.

Many of our alumni are eager to give back and try to assuage this desire with annual
medical missions and charitable donations. What has prevented these disparate and
scattered trickles into becoming a flood is the lingering suspicion that government will never
reliably channel this assistance to the suitable recipients. And this is why we personally
travel to the Philippines and literally hand over our contributions so we can be assured they
are properly received.

The government must find a way to coordinate all these various efforts to produce long-
lasting and
sustainable improvements to our feeble healthcare system.

On physicians filling public offices

Physicians deal with evidence-based medicine. Our country is in such bad shape precisely
because we do not evaluate the performance of all these lawyers, actors and comedians
with the available evidence at hand. The legislative process will only benefit from a more
scientific analysis of existing data. The difficulty is in trying to get doctors involved. Most of
us [physicians] are comfortable and prefer to focus in providing excellent care to our
patients. We would rather leave the corrupt and rough world of politics to our entrenched
class of traditional politicians. Proof is the embarrassing paucity of physicians in Congress.
We must understand that to those much is given, a lot more is expected. We shouldn't
expect transformative change to take place in our country if we continually default on our
civic responsibilities.

On the dominance of "professional politicians" in the political arena

What's important is we continue to dream for a better, more productive Philippines.
Professional politicians shouldn't count us out. We need to serve them notice that they do
not have a monopoly on love for country. The stakes are too high for us to simply stay in the
sidelines and reassure ourselves we're helping enough people. Millions of Filipinos don't
have access to potable water, less than 10% of households in parts of Sulu have sanitary
toilets, 100 die each day from TB - the stats can roll on and on and we all have a part to do.
We all must do more.

On choosing a life path

I've seen so many of my patients here in my tiny corner of the US, the wealthiest country in
the history of our planet, die alone, not literally alone but figuratively bereft of what truly
matters at the end of one's life. My wife and I were blessed with a great medical practice but
we've attended enough UPMASA reunions to know that we won't work our lives away for all
those vacation homes, fancy vehicles, million dollar estates and children graduating from
Ivy-league schools who are totally clueless of the screwed-up country their parents came
from, because these do not matter.

You will be your own most stern judge. And for as long as you keep your eyes closed to
those who are left behind and you do not commit your heart and soul and life towards trying
to give more dignity to our fellow Filipinos, the gnawing void will only yawn wider.