Esteemed oncologist and mentor Dr. Miriam Calaguas shares life lessons for success at the largest Universitas Doctors Forum
by Louie Dy
“Wisdom for Success: Finding and Developing Mentoring Relationships”, the second Universitas Doctors Forum (UDF), was held online last May 23, 2020 8:00pm (PST) via Zoom, with Dr. Miriam Joy C. Calaguas as the inaugural speaker. At least 160 participants – 108 in Zoom and 56 at Facebook Live – attended the event, including University of the Philippines (UP) Manila Chancellor Padilla, and UP College of Medicine (UPCM) Dean Chiong. It is the largest Universitas gathering to date.
The UDF is the Foundation’s lead program dedicated for doctors. It is an event designed to gather young physicians and medical students and provide them a venue to encounter and learn from established doctors who embody competence, character, compassion and integrity — values which lie at the core of Universitas’ leadership formation.
Francis Perez, deputy director of the Universitas Fellows Program, showed a video to all the participants introducing the Universitas Foundation, highlighting its mission and vision, activities, programs, and international linkages. Dr. Cary Amiel G. Villanueva, project manager of UDF, then proceeded to introduce Dr. Miriam Joy C. Calaguas, one of his medical school mentors and the webinar’s guest speaker.
Dr. Calaguas, shared four indicators of success: leadership, legacy, learning, and life balance. She shared her journey throughout and beyond medical school talking about how the wisdom of the Lord sustained her even in the most trying of times. She related how she went on a leave of absence during the very first year of medical school, taught as an instructor in Zoology at the College of Arts and Sciences at UP Diliman, returned to UP College of Medicine (UPCM) to graduate as a doctor, then specialized in Radiology and subsequently Radiation Oncology.
She notes how important leadership is in every step of the way – having a goal, utilizing wisdom and looking at problems at a three-dimensional way and solving them. Legacy is imparting lessons learned, sharing life experiences to mentees; it is a continuous process, as she was mentored from the very early stage in her life from her parents, to becoming a mentor to doctors and doctors-to-be. This continuity is exemplified in learning, which is a life-long process. And equally important to these three is life-balance; she makes sure to spend adequate time with her family and herself (“me time”).
The inspiring talk was well-received by the participants. Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Manila, and Dr. Charlotte M. Chiong, dean of the UPCM, gave their insightful reactions on the talk. Dr. Padilla congratulated Universitas Foundation and expressed optimism on the future highlighting the importance of the foundation’s advocacy for principled leadership. The UP Manila chancellor also emphasized how Dr. Calaguas described mentoring as a spectrum starting from the beginning of our lives, with our parents as first mentors, and how mentoring can be structured or unstructured with actual medical career topics to anything under the sun. Dr. Chiong recapitulated how important mentoring is given this COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of several doctors who are also mentors as well.
Esteemed guests joined the question and answer forum. Some of the questions touched on student issues such as “What is the first step you would advise a medical student who doesn’t know what specialty to choose?”, “How do you deal with failure”, and topics relevant to mentoring like “How do you deal with mentoring fatigue?”, “How do you choose your mentor?”.
Dr. Padilla shared how she initially wanted to pursue neonatology without thinking of detouring into pediatric genetics. She eventually became a proponent of the Newborn Screening Act. “It’s nice to plan, but if ever there is a detour, you should take it positively,” she said. Dr. Padilla also shared how she believes there is no such thing as “failure”, but these are instead “challenges”. The university professor believes that mentoring is a two-way relationship and making the most of this relationship matters. During this COVID-19 pandemic, she asked her mentees, “How often would you like to meet [online]?” They agreed to meet via Zoom every other week.
Meanwhile, Dean Chiong shared how she failed in her first Zoology exam, got into an accident during her clerkship rotation in Surgery, almost did not get accepted into residency in otorhinolaryngology, then took a turn into skull base surgery and cochlear implantation. Like the chancellor, she played an important role in public health in the country by helping write the law on newborn hearing screening.
Another panelist, Dr. Reynaldo Santos, who heads the Department of Ophthalmology at East Avenue Medical Center, shared how important body language is in the mentor-mentee relationship, and how urged to keenly observe them. He noted that some of their resident doctor mentees who struggle may not initiate speaking to their mentors regarding personal or private problems. Instead, the mentor should take initiative to check on his or her mentees’ well-being. An example he cites is how the ophthalmology residents are redirected to other kinds of work during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Towards the end of the event, Atty. Ma. Angela G. Butalid, CEO of Universitas Foundation, and Dr. Villanueva gave their closing remarks and thanked everyone, particularly the speakers for a providential and successful event. Atty. Butalid, who also headed the Universitas mentoring program, invited students and young professionals to seek mentoring based on “No Holds Barred”, a book authored by Universitas founder and President Atty. Oliver M. Tuazon. The CEO also invited everyone to upcoming events such as the “Back to Basics” online course on principled leadership.
Dr. Miriam Calaguas is Vice President of the Federation of Asian Organizations in Radiation Oncology (FARO) and is the National Project Coordinator for Radiotherapy of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). She is also former president of the Southeast Asian Radiation Oncology Group (SEAROG), Philippine Oncology Society, and the Philippine Radiation Oncology Society. She led various departments in several hospitals including the Department of Radiotherapy at Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, and the Department of Radiation Oncology at St. Luke’s Medical Center in both Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City, and most recently the Department of Radiology, UP Philippine General Hospital as immediate past chair. Throughout her years of teaching, Dr. Calaguas has mentored several medical students from UPCM. – universitas.ph
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
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