THESE MEN ARE OUT to debunk the growing notion that many Filipino doctors are leaving the country for greener pastures.
To prove that dedicated medical practitioners still exist, the Phi Kappa Mu -- a fraternity of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine -- has launched a search for unsung heroes in the medical field today.
Dubbed ?Diamonds in the Rough,? the nationwide search focuses on young doctors who not only opted to remain in the country but have also served in depressed communities.
?Our goal is to discover and recognize these rare gems -- these diamonds in the rough -- and present them proudly as modern day heroes,? said Vincent Varilla, Phi Kappa Mu?s superior exemplar.
?These doctors shine the brightest in the communities -- maybe in far-flung barrios or among the urban poor -- where they are needed,? he added.
?That?s basically the principle behind the project?to look for these rare jewels in places where we probably don?t expect to find them,? he told the Inquirer in a recent interview.
According to Varilla, one of the reasons that prompted them to conduct the search was the exodus of Filipino doctors abroad.
He cited figures from a Health and Lifestyle study in 2005 that placed the number of Filipino doctors leaving for abroad to as many as 3,500, with reasons ranging from economics to the desire to pursue further studies.
Enrollment in medical schools has also gone down by 40 to 50 percent over the past few years, he added, saying that even the pursuit of specialized fields among medical doctors has decreased by an estimated 50 percent.
?With this project, we seek to call attention to what these selfless people are already doing,? Varilla said. ?We want to show our countrymen and the rest of the world that these doctors are actually here and that we can appreciate and applaud them and tell them that they?re doing a great job.?
?It?s just like giving these doctors a pat on the back because of their extraordinary perseverance and selflessness that serve as an inspiration to everyone?an inspiration that exceeds the boundaries of medicine and social service,? added project spokesperson Raffy Marfori.
Varilla said that nominees for the search -- part of the activities in celebration of the fraternity?s 75th anniversary and co-presented by the Rotary Club of Paco -- should be men and women doctors 40 years old and below.
?We are targeting this age bracket so they can be role models for the youth, doctors whom young people can easily relate to,? he explained.
?And when you?re young, you can choose to go abroad to further your skills or specialize [in a field] or grab the chance to earn a bigger salary. But if you think about it, these guys chose to serve and let go of these opportunities,? Marfori said.
The search?s criteria focuses on the doctor and his community, according to project chair Alvin Anastacio.
?The doctor should have made a significant impact on the community he serves and he should be an effective leader and community organizer,? he said.
On the other hand, the community will be evaluated based on its location, accessibility and availability of medical resources. Residents in the area should also have worked hand in hand with the doctor in initiating progressive change in their health and well-being.
Three winners from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be chosen and each will receive P100,000 worth of prizes.
?Their contributions may be in research or scholarly activities, improving hygiene, sanitation, nutrition or environmental conditions, or dedicating their time and talent to public health,? Anastacio said.
He added that another P100,000 worth of prizes would go to the doctors? community for sustainable projects.
?We want them to know that we are one with them in promoting their efforts,? said Varilla. ?At the same time, we want to empower the communities they serve.?
The screening and evaluation of qualified nominees will be conducted by a panel of judges composed of project partners, among them the Department of Social Welfare and Development, World Health Organization, Philippine Medical Association and Philippine National Red Cross.
Awarding ceremonies will be held in December.
Varilla was quick to add, however, that the search was not meant to judge medical practitioners who opted to leave the country or decided to shift to a different career path.
?Whatever reasons they may have, we respect that because we know that every doctor is also a father, a family member, a provider. We are here not to judge but to recognize those who stayed,? he explained.
Members of the fraternity admitted that they themselves may also consider leaving the country someday but only to undergo training, further their knowledge or bring home something useful.
At the end of the day, it?s always the question of who you want to serve that matters, they stressed. ?And we?re certain that it?s right here where we want to practice, it?s our countrymen who we want to serve,? one of them said.
Nominations can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries should be submitted on or before Nov. 15, 2008. For more details, visit www.diamondsintheroughsearch.com.