Monday, October 30, 2023

Narrative medicine


I spoke at and moderated a lunch symposium of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) annual convention. Credits to Kgel Bebero—wellness advocate, world traveler, medical oncologist from Trento and Tagum—for the catchy title. Soul-scription—Writing for Our Well-being. With me on stage were Drs. Honey Abarquez, no less than the conference organizer herself, Will Liangco, bestselling author whose book, Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer, is selling like hotcakes (where are the hotcakes my father used to buy from palengke—yellow, doused in margarine, and sprinkled in refined sugar?), and Joti Tabula, whose gift is not just heart-expanding poetry but the generous encouragement to doctors and opportunities to share their stories. We were thrilled that the medical humanities and narrative medicine were given the time of day—at a prime time slot at that—in a prestigious meeting that normally features lectures on new data about treatments for cancer. That people stayed until after lunch to listen to us read our pieces was a surprise. I told Will, who sat beside me, “Andito pa sila!” So we talked about our motivations for writing and how it helps us as doctors make sense of our experiences. Many thanks to the leadership of PSMO for the kind invitation.

In the evening, I, together with 22 young medical oncologists, were inducted as PSMO fellows. Lining up outside and waiting for our names to be called, we reminisced the harrowing moments of the written and oral exams two years ago. “Ayoko nang ulitin ‘yun,” one of them said. Praise God for His goodness in being with us this far in our careers.

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Right after the customary handshakes with the PMSO leadership onstage, I rushed to another venue to attend the 2023 Rotor Literary Awards. I met met Prof. Marjorie Evasco (so radiant and elegant in her Filipiniana), Dr. Noel Pingoy and Dr. Joti Tabula (who co-edited the new anthology of medical narratives) as well the leadership of the Philippine College of Physicians. I also met Mark Siñagan, who practices in Maitum, Sarangani. He was in my PGH internship batch. He won second prize in the creative non-fiction category. I also saw the poet Dr. Elvie Razon-Gonzalez (whom I'd just met in Bohol a few days ago), the podcaster-writer Dr. Ella Masamayor and the pediatrician Dr. Mitchie Gonzales, who joined the La Salle Creative Non-fiction writing for doctors last year. I also met Dr. Su-Ann Locnen, Dr. Regina Berba, my consultant in GenMed at PGH, and a host of bigwigs from the leadership of the Philippine College of Physicians. I arrived just minutes after the program had ended but I was able to get a sense of the excitement and joy of being in a crowd that celebrates medical humanities.

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