CEBU CITY, Philippines — The topnotcher in the recent Physician Licensure Examinations (PLE) wants to train in a government hospital to help overworked healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did my internship in a public hospital and have seen first hand how difficult it is for patients with no finances. I want to serve in a public hospital even if it is more tiring and demanding because the satisfaction you get at the end of the day is greater when your patients recover,” said Maria Inez Sellado Benedicto of the West Visayas State University-La Paz in Iloilo City.

“COVID-19 is all the more the reason we should serve because the workforce is decreasing. While I fear for my own safety and that of my family, at the end of the day this is the profession I signed up for,” she added.

Benedicto tied with  Jude Philip Pozon Cebrecus of the Cebu Institute of Medicine in Cebu City in the top spot with a rating of 87.83 percent.

Benedicto, 26, and a resident of La Carlota City in Negros Occidental said she had contemplated not taking the exams since she felt overwhelmed with the workload.

She pointed out that the academic workload itself was already overwhelming as their batch was given only 40 days of exclusive preparation, probably the shortest time ever given to prepare for a national licensure examination.

The COVID-19 pandemic, she said, also made things difficult for them.

“(We had our share of hardships) from the processing of our documents, application to PRC (Professional Regulation Commission), and the canceled trips because of lockdown in different parts of the country. We also had to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine prior to the board exams,” Benedicto said.

“I did not feel prepared at all to take this examination and I personally did not expect to top the examinations,” she added.

Benedicto graduated valedictorian from the College of Medicine of the Western Visayas State University in Iloilo and was the 7th placer in the September 2015 Medical Technology Licensure Examination.

She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from the University of Negros Occidental–Recoletos in Bacolod City in March 2015.

She has one message to the other aspiring medical students:  “Hold on to that dream and put in the work and you will surely reach your dreams.”

Cebrecus, for his part, said sharing the top spot with Benedicto was quite a surprise since his intensive review period was curtailed from the usual two months to a month.

“In that month, we had to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of our exams pushing through or not. It came to the point that I resigned myself to taking the exams regardless of the feeling that I was inadequately prepared,” he told the Inquirer.

“Although people believed that I would top the board, I wasn’t feeling that confident myself and decided that I would be satisfied with a passing mark. But I constantly prayed that if the Lord has greater plans for me, then I would gladly rise up to the challenge to make the most out of the opportunity He has blessed me with,” he added.

Asked what his recipes for success are, Cebrecus said there are no guaranteed ingredients “because just like respect, success isn’t freely given but earned.

“For future PLE takers, it’s very important that you trust in yourself and your capabilities. One can never be fully prepared for the licensure exam so taking it requires a huge leap of faith. You made it through medical school which is a huge achievement in itself so you have to take the time and appreciate how far you’ve come.”

Dickson Laude said all he wanted was to pass the medical board examinations.

But the graduate of Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Medical Foundation (RTRMF) based in Tacloban City, Leyte was pleasantly surprised that he was in the number 2 spot with a rating of 87.67 percent.

“A classmate called me at around 6:30 p.m. last Friday to inform me that I landed in the number two spot in our board examinations. I was so ecstatic and praised God,” he said in a phone interview.

Laude, a native of Talalora town in Samar, is the eldest of the three children of Police Executive Master Sergeant Danny Laude, and Marita, who works at the Talalora municipal government social worker.

His father could not be prouder of his son who worked for two years as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and then joined the Philippine Red Cross in 2015.

“He is really a good son and a religious person. He gave my wife and me a Bible. I even entrusted my ATM card to him so he could buy all his school needs,” said the police officer.

Laude, who was among the 35 successful board examinees from their school, planned to take a break before taking his residency. At least 44 graduates from RTRMF took the exams.

According to the PRC, 1,084 of the 1,546 who took the exams passed.

The examinations were held in the cities of Baguio, Cagayan De Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lucena, Tacloban, and Zamboanga.

The date and venue for the oath-taking ceremony of the new successful examinees will be announced later, the PRC said./reports from Carla Gomez, Hazel Villa, Joey Gabieta, and Ador Vincent Mayol.


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