Vince Camangeg: What’s it like working in the college?
Vice Dean Susan Nagtalon: I’ve been an active consultant since 1987 [in the SLCM OB Department], so I also partake in training the residents before I assumed the office of Assistant Director. I started in April last year [in the College]. It came as a surprise to me; I thought my job was in the hospital. I told myself that this is just another job for me, I’ll give it a try. The reception has been very good. In fact, they welcomed me. [Looking] at it in a management perspective rather than as a teacher or as a mentor, there’s not much difference.
VC: What improvements in the school would you like to focus on as Vice Dean?
SN: We started to get inputs from the students because we wanted to see how else we can make the curriculum better. Exposure to clinical skills early in the program, [and] provision of [a] Skills Lab. We are trying to have a representative dummy for each of the clinical skills so students can rotate during their free time or even as part of their preceptorships or SGDs. It’s going to cost a lot [but] we need to have it for the students. We are also considering exposure to research in the first year, just the basic knowledge. We are coming up with a research manual for the college so that the students can have a reference book.
VC: How do you find the students of SLCM? How was your experience teaching?
SN: Parang hyperactive! The students here are good and I’m so surprised that despite the load, you guys still have a lot of time and effort for extracurricular activities. Tsaka, because it is a small school, there is an effort to get to know the students who come to ask [something]. The students here, hindi sila nahihiya. If they want to ask something from you, hindi sila naghe-hesitate. In teaching, I found that the interactive style gets more attention. I give a case and then I give them the learning points. Then when I come to class, lahat gusto sumagot. So we finish on time! For [gynecology], I give the learning points and then pretest, so mas madali na nila ma-grasp yung ideas.
VC: How would you describe medical school during your time?
SN: I belong to the traditional curriculum: the teacher is the boss in the classroom. You come to school, listen to the lecture, make your own notes, and memorize as much as you can. Most of the [exam] questions were recall questions, very few analytical. Very few professors did clinical correlations. Gusto ko ‘pag dito, clinical correlates should be part of the lectures. [On student life], we had to read the book; stay in the library until 8 in the evening and go back to school by 7 in the morning. So wala kaming buhay kundi mag-aral. We only got to go out with our classmates after the periodical exams.
VC: Why did you choose OB-Gyne as your specialty?
SN: I wanted to be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon because during my time, there was only one female orthopedic specialist. I said, ‘what if I take up orthopedics pero sa mga bata?’. So I enjoyed my rotation in Philippine Orthopedics Hospital and then, when I rotated in surgery, I also wanted to take up surgery. But when I had to finally decide what specialty or training to embark on, I told myself, ‘Do I want to be a surgeon waiting for cases, or do I want to do a combination of medical and surgical, and at the same time have clinic hours?’. OB answered that. Kasi [in] OB you have clinics because you have prenatal and follow ups. And then you have deliveries and surgeries. I want to satisfy both and I know that being an OB [would do just that].
VC: Do you have any advocacies in life?
SN: I am an advocate of immunization for women. I strongly believe that a woman should maintain her health, so that when she gets pregnant she would not have complications related to vaccine-preventable diseases like rubella. It still happens in this day and age.
VC: If you were to become the next DOH secretary, what would you want to implement?
SN: Immunization for all! That should be a good program for the government and PhilHealth can actually shoulder that. The repository of vaccines should be centralized. Any clinician who wants to administer vaccine will send the patient to that center and dun na sya [i-vaccinate]. So ako [as physician], wala na ako sa cost kasi centralized. And so the price is cheaper and is controlled.
VC: If not a doctor, what would you have become?
SN: I [took] AB Math and Economics because I wanted to be like my father. He was a banker then. I said ‘I’m going to be like papa.’
VC: You’re obviously a busy woman. What do you do in your leisure time?
SN: I enjoy cooking. I still cook for my family if I have a chance. I have a son and a daughter who are interns, fifth year; kapag from duty sila, I cook for them. Kapag Sundays, we go to UP Diliman; brisk walking, jogging. And I [also] enjoy going to music bars, yung retro. It’s my generation eh. Marami akong pinupuntahan. I explore. I go to Solaire but not in the casino, doon ako sa music bar.
VC: What would you like to say to the students of SLCM?
SN: You have to do your best and give your best because it is not wrong to be the best. And I know that you have the ability and capacity to do that. It is a choice that you have to make. You have to think about your future and what kind of person you want to be for yourselves, for your family, and for the universe! Be the best!