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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Help! Our kids don’t want to be doctors, Part 2

/ 12:25 AM November 20, 2015

We looked into the dilemma of Worried Doctor last week.  He and his wife are specialists. Both their fathers were also doctors. Naturally, Worried Doctor wants their two children to follow the same path.

But neither child wants to be a doctor. Their son is doing fairly in pre-med, but blames his parents for forcing him into this path.  Their high school daughter, who reportedly has “average grades,” wants to take up fine arts or culinary arts, but Worried Doctor does not agree.

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Last week, I advised Worried Doctor to have a heart-to-heart talk with the children, and focus on their strengths instead of weaknesses.  Instead of nagging them, he and his wife should try to help their kids discover their interests.

The biggest question is this:  Should children of doctors be enticed into the family business, even if their heart is not in it?

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My own parents, both deceased, were medical doctors who first met and fell in love at the University of the Philippines.  Both scholars, they graduated at or near the top of their class.  My maternal grandfather was a doctor, so is my uncle, a gastroenterologist in the US.

But when I told my parents that my interests lay not in medicine, but in math, they acquiesced.

Support Your Children

“We never forced our eldest Eric and our youngest Julianne to go to med school,” says pulmonologist Dr. Josephine B. Blanco-Ramos.  “They tell us that they had never thought of any other field, but we did not pressure them to follow us.”

Eric and Julianne are thriving in the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health in Medical (Med) City, and their parents are just as proud.

“We support our children, not just in medicine, but in whatever they pursue,” says their father, cardiologist Dr. Eugenio Jose F. Ramos, Med City director and vice president for medical services and Medical Arts Tower Inc. chief operating officer. Their middle child, Nicole, is into fashion.

“Many doctors are artists.   Nonoy Zuñiga is a doctor and a singer. As doctors, we love life, we love to create. What Nicole is doing is really not that different from what we do.”

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But many Filipino families urge their children to be doctors, not artists.  Doctors are perceived to strike it rich, while artists supposedly scrounge for a living.

“But is medicine a business?” asks cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist Dr. Gina Villarama-Alemany.  “Most doctors have a steady income, but you don’t become a doctor because of the money.  You do it because you care.”

“Those who treat medicine just like any other plain business are prostituting medicine!” Dr. Eugene says.  “Medicine is reduced to a transaction, which it is not.  Good doctors do not just push pills, but they take the time to view patients holistically, to analyze what will make them truly well.”

Life’s too short

“Life’s too short,” says Dr. Gina. “Don’t we want our children to be happy?  We only have one life. They only have one life.  If they are forced into something they hate, then they will be miserable.”

Dr. Gina relates experiences of several classmates (not just one or two) who went into a crisis during fourth year, the time when medicine goes beyond classroom theory and into the real world.

When I tell Dr. Gina that fourth year sounds exciting, she agrees, but also adds, “For many interns though, this would be when the truth would sink in that medicine is not for them.  They are exposed to patients.  They are stressed out by hospital rounds, procedures.  They are overwhelmed.  Not just the students, but also their parents, because so many years were spent financing and training to be doctors, only to stop in the middle of the journey.”

“I know what it takes to be a doctor.  I have been through it.  If you are not set on becoming a doctor, chances are you will probably not finish med school.”

Dr. Gina’s daughters are in grade school and are doing well.  Doesn’t she want them to take over her and her neurologist husband’s practice?

“Only if they want to.  As for our practice, we can always find other ways.  What is important is that our daughters love what they do.”

Next week:  How an Iloilo doctor and his wife raise resilient children

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center.  Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press ([email protected]).  E-mail the author at [email protected]

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