The Trail We Blaze by Dr. Stacey Aquino-Cohitmingao
One of my earliest memories was of mini scrub suits. In the late 80’s, little scrubs were not common. My brother and I would wear them and our parents would bring us around to the hospital. Sometimes we would wait in the lounge, while our dad did his surgeries. My child-like brain knew two things: he was good at what he did, and that he was respected among his peers.
We fast forward to the time when I was I had just passed the Philippine Physician’s Licensure Examination. The question was never “what specialty shall we choose for training?” but “which residency training in Ophthalmology are we going into?” There was no other option. It came down to a choice between my father’s alma mater, the Philippine General Hospital, and the Cebu Velez General Hospital, where he was the immediate past Chairman of the Department. In the end, the decision was made to have my education in close proximity to him, so that he may have a hand in teaching me the skills needed for microsurgery.
Residency was a confusing time. Everyone around me thought that I would get special treatment, being the daughter of the Chairman of the Department. The truth, like most children of doctors will tell you, is that I had a worse time than most. Everyone expected a certain level of performance from you. They expected you to be exactly like your father. On more than one occasion, I was treated rather unfairly; because everyone expected me to get special treatment, they would go out of their way to make things difficult for me, so I “wouldn’t get spoiled”. It didn’t matter that none of these people knew who I was, it was easier to make the assumption. This mind space, combined with my initial lack of interest in the specialty, made me resent Ophthalmology as a whole.
But here I was, a first year resident in Ophthalmology. It seemed to me that I had 2 choices: spare myself the grief, and transfer to another specialty; or be master of this one so that all prior accusations would sound ridiculous. Everyone had a different goal in training. Mine was competence and meticulosity. I knew I wasn’t the most brilliant of students, but I was a dry sponge, and I was ready to absorb everything they were willing to teach me. I would make extra efforts in the subjects that were either uninteresting or complicated. The way I saw it, a lazy genius is worth nothing.
The phrase is “Stand on the shoulders of giants”- most people think it’s to give you leverage, so you can see higher than what you’re currently able to. When I think about it, some people are able to stand on the shoulders of giants. Their responsibility is to make sure that they use their time there wisely, to further learning and achievement; but also, to make sure they know how to balance, so they don’t make the giant fall.
My father blazed an amazing trail, it is my responsibility to keep it going.