Ahmad Sampang ibnu Hajiri, MD

A Personal blog by a Tausug medical student (now a doctor!) from Sulu and the stories that inspired him.
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Clerkship Day 253/253

Today is the last day of Clerkship (known to UPCM as Learning Unit 6 or LU6), my fourth year as a Medical students. No, maybe it is not yet the official end of the Academic year as we still have our 5 Final examinations and 2 Comprehensive exams next week... But yes, this is the end of our final rotations in the different departments in UP-PGH. I can't even believe I am all done with all of them!

We started with Pediatrics, then Family and Community Medicine, then Obstetrics and Gynecology then we had a one-month elective, then we went on to Surgery then Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology, then the dreaded Neurosciences, then longest rotation which is Internal Medicine and last came the not-so-fun-anymore "fun four": Rehab Med, Orthopedics, Otorhinolayngology (ORL/ENT) and Ophthalmology.

Wow! It felt like it started years ago! But it still feels like it just happened yesterday! Maa sha Allah!

And as I struggled to "relearn" the art of studying or cramming for the exams, I can't help but look back at the tracks we have left behind. There were indeed moments of joy and fun, of tears and struggles, of inspiration and great learning, of stubbornness and time-wasting... And I wondered, how much have I grown since day 1? Did I actually achieve my goal of preparing myself to become a better physician to serve my people in Sulu?

And as my Clerkship year ends,
I looked back at those times I spent talking and listening to my patients' stories.
I looked back at those times when a pedia patient would cry whenever he see me coming, thinking I would "inject" things to him again.
I looked back at those times when I see him get well, and heard him say goodbye with a smile.
I looked back at those times when a 5-year old patient hugged me and said "Thank you, Doc.", even though I wasn't able to do much if I were to take things into account.
I looked back at those few moments I shared telling stories to a patient who can no longer see at such young age.
I looked back at those times when I first "catch" a newborn and held him in my arms, her strong cries still loud in my ears.
I looked back at those times when a motherin labor held out his hand, asking for someone to hold her, and I was just the fortunate one to be there.
I looked back at those times, late in the nigH and we're still awake, pushing wheelchairs or stretchers along the dark hallways of PGH.
I looked back at those times we talked and learned about their stories.
 I looked back at those times I laughed with them, sometimes got angry with them, cried with them, cried for them.

While the rest of the world is in deep slumber... We stay up and work in the dark... to serve.

I looked back at those times I hopelessly kept on doing chest compressions as my patient's life slowly drained away from his body. "I just talked to him last night! This can't be happening! Please live!" I heard myself shouting in my mind.
I looked back at those times we tried all we could do to save a life only to end up failing.
I looked back at those few moments of silence that we could only offer for our dead patients.
I looked back. And remembered the nameless faces of families, friends flocking over their late loved one who just passed away. Did we fail them? "No," a senior once said, "We did the best we could. But it's never wrong to feel sad. We all know we are not playing Gods here. We can not save everyone."
I looked back at those moments that all I could say to them was "I'm sorry for your lost. Nakikiramay po kami."
And I looked back at those times, remembering too well the pain, the heaviness in my heart every single time I lose a patient right in front of me.

Today is the last day of being a Clerk. And yes, as I looked back... Really, a lot of things did happen. Did I actually grow and learn new things along the way? Perhaps I did, I just can't tell them apart. But it's here. I know it's somewhere here within me.

And so, for all those things that may have helped us clerks become better doctors-to-be, in behalf of my colleagues, I wanted to say thank you to all our patients whom we consider our real mentors.

"Your patients are your teachers," I remember one of our professors in Art of Medicine once said, "They will teach you things you will never learn in these thick pages of medical books. Things that will make you better physicians to them. So always try to learn from them."


Outgoing LU6 Clerk, signing off.
Ahmad ibn Hajiri
posted from Bloggeroid

Joining Muslim Doctors (MD) for a Tuli Mission

Alhamdulillah, a few days ago, a good friend of mine told me that the young medical students from Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine (ADZU-SOM) were here in Manila for a surgical mission. Their group was known as the Muslim Doctors (or M.D.). I went to visit them that day and to my delight, they invited us to join their event last May 1, 2016 at Mahabba Islamic Center in San Andres Bukid, Malate, Manila. I immediately informed the members of UP-Association of Muslim Students (UP-AMS) and Alhamdulillah, 5 of them volunteered to join me. I learned later on that another friend and fellow medical student from another school will also join.

First meeting with the MD team

I was on ER Duty the night before, and honestly I did not get much sleep before the event. But Alhamdulillah, I was not feeling that sleepy maybe because of the excitement! I met with my members right after my duty and went to the venue where we met the team from M.D. and Dr. Afdal Kunting.  A short orientation was delivered by the organizers and then the surgical mission of free circumcision commenced. Later on, I was surprised to see Dr. Jajurie (a very famous physician from Sulu) and Dr. Randy Abdulla (a professor in UPCM, surgeon and UP-AMS’ adviser) who dropped by to help and guide us! The surgical mission went on as the medical students from different Medical schools worked together while learning the art and skills of a proper minor surgery (with the guidance of our surgeons of course!)

Alhamdulillah, it was indeed a short yet fulfilling event!

Setting up the "surgical theatre" plus orientations with the future doctors.
First-timer members from UP-AMS observes a demonstration from one of the MD doctors present.
How does it feel to have a great surgeon and your professor as your first assist, Anisa?
(I'm the second assist, btw haha)

It was in fact the first time for me to meet most of the brothers and sisters from their group, with the exception of a few students I recognized back in high school days. Yes, they all came from the ZamBaSulTa Region where I came from, and maybe that made me feel closer to them because I could comfortably talk with my vernacular language, but there was just something deeper that connected us: Islamic brotherhood. From the get-to-know dinner/meeting until the very event (the Tuli mission), I was indeed amazed by the closeness these group of students have. What I felt and what I saw was not a mere organization with members only compelled to do something just out of necessity or requirement. This is what real brotherhood/sisterhood was supposed to look like. May Allah increase the number of such kind of organizations and guide us Muslim students to join these kinds of groups and avoid other unnecessary groups that would only waste our time and efforts. Allahumma Ameen.

Is it crazy if I keep pon sending the same letter to myself after 10 months? Or another year?

Hey wake up Ahmad! Hope you didn't fail to read this letter again and again!

May 30, 2016 (or anytime in the future after July 30, 2015)

Assalamu Alaykum wa rahmatullah!

Hey dude, it’s me, your pre-clinical clerkship self a.k.a. the self that you had (hopefully will still have) before you started your death-defying ordeal called “Clerkship”. I know this is crazy, but hey, since when did we ever consider things “not crazy” huh?

Perhaps, right now you’re about to begin your most challenging year in Med School. And the anxiety is killing you already—you don’t know what to expect, you feel like you know nothing at all! Don’t worry, that is exactly what you are supposed to feel. Just give it a a few days and you will get used to the feeling, the pressure and slowly you will find yourself adapting to the new environment you have.
Or maybe you are already in the middle of your clerkship year: Now far more confident that you were the past years. Getting your way with all those days that you feel worthless and useless at all. Maybe you are already on your way to another 36-hour duty, another long day huh? Or maybe you are having another endless night working on paperworks and case reports for your presentations the next day—how many times did I tell you not to cram!? Or maybe you are just sitting on a corner in one of the halls of the ER trying to steal some naps, or maybe just sleeping lifelessly in your bed at the callroom after duty. Or maybe you are on your rounds checking your patients. Or God knows, you are being grilled by your consultants about your morbidities right at this very moment! (Good luck bro! Buy a whole pizza for yourself later, okay?) Wherever you are right now, I just want you to read this once in a while. I hope you do my friend, I hope you do.

Anyway, I am here writing this letter perhaps to remind you—yes, the me in the future—about who you are before clerkship. Hoping that you wouldn’t change after all those things that you have been into. Hoping as well that I could shake some senses into you when you suddenly changed and became a monster without you noticing it. So please remind yourself always and never forget these things I am about to tell you.

1.       Bismillah. Begin everything with Bismillah: In the glorified name of Allah. He is the beginning of all good things, and He will surely make things far easier and better if you remind yourself why you are doing all this horrible things to yourself: To please Him, to Worship Him alone.

2.       Never, ever forget to pray. This is your source of inner peace. This is your direct “landline” to Him. This is your only rope to keep you holding on when things become too out of control. In good times and in bad, never forget to pray.

3.       Read the Qur’an. I now you will be too busy to even look at your phone leave alone your books in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Still, find time to read at least a verse or two of the Qur’an or a hadith. This will remind you of your purpose in life. You already know that right? Indeed, you are so blessed to be a Muslim, share that blessing as well.

4.       Read. Read. Read. Do not ever lose that sense of curiosity to know more. Keep that responsibility of being knowledgeable about the conditions your patients have. What is worse than a doctor who doesn’t know what his patient’s condition is? Of course you cannot know everything, but at least do take some extra effort to learn on your own. After all, this is one of your greatest responsibility to your patients as well. You owe them at least that.

5.       Do remember where you came from and who you really are. You are Ahmad, a son of a teacher, coming from a family with humble beginnings. You started as someone down below. Keep your dreams high without raising your voice to others. Keep yourself on the ground, be humble, for you are nothing but a piece of dust. And dust you shall become one day as well.

6.       Remember, always remember your family. Your dear mother who sacrificed everything and suffered all her life for you. Remember her smiles, her warm embrace. Remember to keep her proud by doing your best here. Call her once in a while. Tell her how much you love her. Tell her you miss her, talk with her about anything. I know your time is now limited considering your schedules in between rounds and duties. But please, try to squeeze in a few minutes for her.

Also Remember your late father, the few remaining memories you have of him and the dream that you will see him once again someday in Jannah, ameen. Remember you dear sisters who aer supporting you right now. Remember you siblings and your relatives who have high hopes for you. Remember, you are the FIRST Doctor in the clan if ever. Do not ever fail them.

7.       Treat everyone with respect and kindness, especially your patients. You may be too exhausted with everything and your body is yearning to get a few minute of rest. You are on your verge of breaking down, and then your patient failed to do you expected him or her to do. No, DO NTO BE ANGRY. Breathe in, slowly count to five, and then explain everything again to your patient. Make him understand how important these things are for him to be treated. Be kind, always keep yourself on their shoes before doing anything unnecessary.

8.       You are human. You are not perfect. You can commit mistakes once in a while. Just don’t make it much a habit to do so. If you fall down, remember that these are just part of your training, not just in the hospitals to become a better physician, but in life as a whole—to become a better individual. Learn from those mistakes and commit in improving yourself to avoid making those mistakes again.

9.       In everything that you do, just do your best—that’s how Islam taught us right? Do your best—and put your trust to Allah alone. Remember He knows best what is good for you.

10.   Work with your team with greater dedication and responsibility as well. Make the most of what you have to keep the team working. Do not hesitate to volunteer and help out. Remember that you may be different people altogether but you are all in this together. You either work as one or you all fall as one as well.

11.   Do strive to accomplish your tasks way ahead of time. Yes, I am reminding you again about this! Do not ever wait for the deadlines to come for you to work on your required tasks. Remember how to prioritize things and do what is necessary. You have done this before, surely you can do it again, right?

12.   Don’t waste your time on worthless things. Manage your time wisely. Time is such an irreplaceable things that is borrowed to us. And whatever you do with every second of it will be recorded forever. And they will never ever come back. This is the only life you got, yes you only live once and you die only once as well. Make the most of it with greater purpose.

13.   Treat yourself once in a while. Surely you deserve something that will make you happy somehow. Go watch a movie with friends, enjoy a long trek, or go buy a cone of ice cream. Don’t be too hard on yourself but don’t be too lax as well. Just strike a balance with everything that you do.

14.   Believe in yourself. Yes, believe than you can always do better than yourself. Stop those pessimistic thoughts you always have about yourself. You are here for a reason, and because you can do better as well.

15.   Remember why you are here in the first place. Remember all the people behind you that pushed you up here. Remember the people of Sulu whom you still owe a lot. They need you back here in Sulu. You have to prepare yourself to be of better service to them. Keep them in your heart, they are your inspiration; your shield and your weapon when this war goes from bad to worst.

16.   Of course, with all these things in mind, do not forget about your health as well. You have a responsibility as well with that body of yours to take care of it while you are still alive. Follow the advices that you doctors give to your patients. Live a healthy lifestyle because that is the best way for you to do better things in life.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is going too long already. SO I will stop here. I will send this letter again to you after a month, then after 6 months then after a year just to remind you of these things once in a while. Hope you won't get to used to reading this and just ignore it. haha.

Salam Kasilasa!

Ahmad ibn Hajiri

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just saying. -Dr. Ahmad