A doc­tor’s life be­gins

For Dr. Al Pa­trick Ala­jas, top­ping physi­cians’ ex­ams just the be­gin­ning

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Front Page - By Deneb Batucan

HARD WORK does pay off in the end. Just ask Dr. Al Pa­trick Ala­jas, who topped the March 2016 Physi­cian Li­cen­sure Ex­am­i­na­tion with a rat­ing of 88.67 per­cent af­ter toil­ing through days and nights of study­ing. “Hon­estly, I was vy­ing to get a spot in the top 10,” he said. “But top­ping the ex­ams... I couldn’t be­lieve it.”

Hail­ing from Punta Princesa in Cebu City, Al stud­ied nurs­ing as his premed at Cebu Nor­mal Univer­sity where he grad­u­ated in 2010. Dur­ing his fourth year in col­lege, he heard about the schol­ar­ship for medicine of­fered at the South­west­ern Univer­sity – Ma­tias H. Az­nar Me­mo­rial Col­lege of Medicine. Al im­me­di­ately grabbed the op­por­tu­nity and started tak­ing up medicine in 2010. Al, as he would say, was a nor­mal, av­er­age stu­dent. As a scholar, his tu­ition fee was al­ready cov­ered, but the nu­mer­ous, ex­pen­sive medicine books still burned a hole in his par­ents’ pock­ets. “Ev­ery sub­ject has a re­quired book, which costs a lot. So what I do is I study in the li­brary. But the down­side was I could only bor­row books dur­ing the af­ter­noon, so dur­ing days when I only have morn­ing classes, I had to wait un­til 5 p.m. so I can bring home the books and study at home,” Al shared.

Even with some strug­gles, Al was de­ter­mined to fin­ish medicine. “I al­ways bear in mind my schol­ar­ship, that I should not put it to waste. Not every­body is given the priv­i­lege to study medicine for free. I also think of my mom and sib­lings. In the fu­ture, I want to help them have a more com­fort­able liv­ing,” he said.

Aim­ing for a spot

When Al was tak­ing the Physi­cian Li­cen­sure Ex­ams, he aimed to earn a spot in the top 10. But

I al­ways bear in mind my schol­ar­ship, that I should not put it to waste. Not every­body is given the priv­i­lege to study medicine for free. I also think of my mom and sib­lings.”

when he was tak­ing the test, he wasn’t a hundred per­cent sure that he would get a spot. “The exam was so hard. It was five days of ex­ams with over 1,200 mul­ti­ple choice items,” he re­called.

Af­ter two days, the exam re­sults were re­leased. Al didn’t have an in­ter­net con­nec­tion at home, so he was re­ly­ing on his friends and class­mates to give him the good news. “I thought that if some­one called me, I knew I passed,” he said.

But come six in the evening, his phone still wasn’t ring­ing. He didn’t think much about it and just went on and ate din­ner and hung out in their sala. But when he went up­stairs to check on his phone, he was shocked. “There were so many missed calls and text mes­sages. That was when I learned I topped the board ex­ams,” he said.

Al couldn’t be­lieve it. “I can’t re­ally de­scribe what went on in my head that time I learned the news. Every­thing around me seemed to go very fast. It was over­whelm­ing,” he said.

Read­ing and more

Al’s se­cret to his suc­cess is con­sis­tent hard work. He con­tin­u­ously learns about his field by read­ing, read­ing and read­ing some more. But that does not mean that Al never rests. “I study a lot, but when I feel like I’m al­ready sleepy or tired and what I’m read­ing isn’t go­ing in­side my head, I take a break. It’s im­por­tant to take a break from time to time. Study­ing be­comes use­less when your brain is tired. All your read­ing won’t stick to your mind,” he said. “When I’m re­freshed, my brain works faster.”

As of now, Al is tak­ing a well-de­served break and rel­ish­ing the fruits of his la­bor. He’s con­sid­er­ing in­ter­nal medicine or ra­di­ol­ogy as his spe­cial­iza­tion. And even when top­ping the board ex­ams is a great feat in it­self, there’s a greater chal­lenge when he goes out into the world with doc­tor now at­tached to his name.

It’s im­por­tant to take a break from time to time… When I’m re­freshed, my brain works faster.”

GOOD FOR­TUNE, HARD WORK. Mak­ing the most of a schol­ar­ship for medicine, Dr. Al Pa­trick Ala­jas stud­ied day and night, mak­ing do with bor­rowed books from the li­brary, and keep­ing his eye on the prize. Amid all the strug­gles, he dreams of giv­ing his fam­ily a more com­fort­able life.

UP TO THE CHAL­LENGE. Af­ter tak­ing a well-de­served break, Dr. Al is prep­ping up for greater chal­lenges ahead, in­clud­ing the pur­suit of a med­i­cal spe­cial­iza­tion.

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