Undergrad Course: BS Psychology, UP Diliman
Hometown: Sinoloan, Laguna
Hobbies: Reading, Sleeping
Food: Blueberry cheesecake at Banapple
Motto in life: All for the Glory!!!
Surgeons are artists dazzled by each case presented to them unto the operating table. With every incision they make, they venture into the human body in search of the root of the problem, fix it to make people better, and hopefully, let them live better. There are plenty of calculated risks and there are no shortcuts. More than will power, a subconscious habit of success and extreme patience are needed in the course of every operation. These statements somewhat describe Apol’s current life as a surgeon and her ideals even before she entered the UP College of Medicine.
Apol believes that in life there are no shortcuts. Every step must be planned until one achieves a certain objective. Goals diversify as a person matures. It has been her childhood dream to become a doctor and have never seen herself to be anything else. At an early age, she has been separated from her family in Laguna when she decided to study high school at the UP Integrated School (UPIS). After 4 years, she took BS Psychology in UP Diliman, where she also joined GABRIELA YOUTH. She described her stay in college as happy and tranquil. With a breath of fresh air every time she strolls, the environment was very conducive for studying. There was plenty of free time and more forms of entertainment. Apol was subjected to a totally different environment when she entered the UP College of Medicine. Bombarded by a handful of transcriptions in different subjects, she has been a constant dweller of the side stones, which was, back then, the study place of most UPCM students. She recalled that the MSU 2nd Floor was constructed during her ICC year. Whenever she and her batchmates had free time, they would engage in their favorite detoxification activity, the videoke. Never would a bonding session with her batchmates pass without them trooping to the nearest videoke place. Waiting in Vain and Torete were constant in Apol's repertoire of songs. Apol is also a born leader. Aside from being a former Most Exalted Sister (MES), she also became a Medical Student Council (MSC) Chair. To top it all off, Apol is also assistant chief resident of the Department of Surgery, Philippine General Hospital. All this proves that a Mu is a natural trailblazer with whatever pillar she wishes to stand for.
With every incision she makes, a new door is opened in Apol’s life. During clerkship, Apol had a glimpse of the different fields in medicine. She experienced writing long medical histories in IM (Internal Medicine) which she did not enjoy. After rotating in surgery, she decided that this is indeed the place for her. Ever since medical school, as she described herself as a more “hands-on” type of person. Never dispelling the importance of learning from theory, she finds herself more engrossed with the clinical applications of medicine. With this view in learning, Apol has decided to dedicate herself to the noble and self-sacrificing field (or battlefield, as some would probably prefer to say it) of surgery. Her typical day would start by waking up at 4:30 am and being at the hospital at 5:00 am doing rounds at the pay wards. By 7 am, she would most probably in the operating room until the late afternoon or early evening (depending on the patient’s case). After the OR, she would be trooping to the wards for her usual evening rounds. In between all of these, she must perform her assistant chief resident tasks like submitting the OR list for the following day to the nurse, scheduling pay ORs, talking to drug representatives, and other administrative duties. One will probably be wondering if this Energizer Bunny for a person gets a chance to have some R & R. She shared that the longest rest that she had was for 4 days when she attended a mid-year convention in Cebu.
Since being a usual face walking the battle-worn halls of PGH, Apol's eyes were opened to the reality of some of her patient's conditions, both physically and socio-economically. In a world wherein most of the things that we consider as basic do not come in free anymore, doctor's must do everything in their capacity to let the patients under their care experience the best that the Philippine General Hospital can give. It is a unique trait of PGH doctors, a manifestation of extreme compassion, to refer patients to funding agencies/ organizations. With this in mind, Apol recalls her most memorable surgery to date. It was an open heart surgery for a 7 year-old patient. The consultant instructed her to stitch the atrium and explain to the child’s parents the high probability of death. Being a fresh graduate from medicine, it was her first time to encounter such case, and explaining to the anxious parents the risk was something that had tested her reservoir of strength. In this line, when asked what were needed to become a good surgeon Apol stated, “assertion, decisiveness, exemplary surgical skills, mastery of the craft and always aiming for perfection’. There is no room for mediocrity in surgery, since every step one takes could spell the difference between healing and disability. People may have the same ideals in life but the difference between a successful person and a failure lies on the courage one needs to have to bet in his ideals, taking the risk, and acting on it. Without asking for much, simple tokens of appreciation from her patients never fails to keep Apol going despite the risks and magnanimous challenges that surgery poses.
In this surgeon’s heart, her memories with the Mu family have been engraved deeply. Apol describes the picnic as one of the most memorable experiences she had during medical school. Lots of learnings had been gained during the application process and as part of the Sorority. She also remembers the time when she makes intricate handmade posters, truly a Mu tradition, that cannot be copied, and to this day, remain unsurpassed. Apol describes her batch as one chunk of hard core Mu. She and her batchmates will fight for what is right, fight for the glory of Mu. Apol recalls the common detoxification activities with her batchmates like singing in the videoke, eat outs and coffee nights. Her favorite Mu activities are Sis day, Mu week, Alumni homecoming and medical-surgical missions. Apol shared that during her medical school days, despite the loud clamor and eventual tides of change that had uprooted the tambayans of other CM organizations, the Mu Hut stood strong in its current place, a symbol of lasting strength and glory that will surely stand the test of time.
Nearing her graduation from her residency program, she is now confronted with a dilemma of whether to practice surgery outside of the Metro (Laguna or Albay), or to take a fellowship in colorectal cancer surgery. Despite this, Apol aims of building a family of her own, establishing a good medical practice and becoming a globally competitive surgeon. As for the approaching 80th anniversary of the Sorority, Apol wishes that the Sorority will be able to adopt or sponsor a community, and will continue its service activities like the Mu Caravan.
An example that a Mu sis stands out, Apol has and always will embody the pillars of the Sorority. A loyal sis, a compassionate doctor, an unquestionable scholar, and an epitome of leadership, she has given her family, both inside and outside Mu, so much to be proud about. There is no stopping what great things this surgeon from Sinoloan, Laguna can do.
Dra. Apol Palma Valparaiso is currently a 4th year resident and assistant chief resident for externals in the Department of Surgery. She is a graduate of BS Psychology in UP Diliman and the University of the Philippines Integrated School. She is planning to take up a fellowship in Colorectal CA surrgery or practice surgery in Laguna or Albay.