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Getting Younger

Posted on September 27, 2019 | No Comments on Getting Younger

Getting younger—that phrase has reaped me so many smiles over the last few years. Somehow, it makes reality seem easier to accept. Nobody wants to grow old because accepting it may open the flood gates of aches and pains that come with age.

Doctors, just like everyone else, will eventually go golden too. Not many will readily contemplate the prospect but no one can avoid it. Retirement, or some semblance of it, can assume many forms. Some may cling to portions of their professional life. Some give up their profession and simply turn around to engage in a new one. Some slowly fade away, but majority just don’t…retire, that is.

My father, Dr. Marcelo D. Cruz, Jr., was a devoted physician and teacher for several decades. He had dedicated himself to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Far Eastern University (FEU) Hospital since its inception, soon after finishing his training at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH). He delighted in the young minds that he helped to shape, the clinical skills he helped to develop, the programs he established, the patients he had helped and treated. He even earned himself the reputation of having the most accurate fingers in the department, rivaled only by the ultrasound machine when it came to estimating the sizes of gynecological masses and tumors.

The years flew by and retirement soon came his way. His strong and virile body was slowly being ravaged by age but his intellect remained as sharp and agile as it was in his youth. He continued to challenge himself, consuming eight to 12 books monthly, and keeping abreast with medical progress by surfing the internet. But nothing gave him greater joy than attending the weekly departmental conferences and conventions where his skills and clinical decision-making talents could engage the other bright minds in that forum. It did not matter if he needed to wake up at 5am to attend a 7am conference in the other end of the metropolis—he just had to be there.

We could not understand why he insisted on taking that early two-hour trip to attend his weekly conferences, especially when illness was beginning to occur more often. But he would be visibly desolate whenever we tried
to restrict his activities. In retrospect, we realize that teaching was his life and he derived joy and validation whenever he could contribute to scholarly discussion. We feared that his colleagues might have viewed him as a nuisance, or as an unimportant old man who blended with the wall paper. It was only after he passed away when we learned that his community at the FEU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology did value him and regarded him with great esteem—and for that our family is thankful.

Getting older does not necessarily mean retiring into oblivion.There have been many doctors who eventually became renowned for their second career—whether it is in horticulture, like Dr. Romeo Gutierrez, or in painting, like Dr. William Chua. Others remain active in the lecture circuit, sharing their wisdom and insights with the younger colleagues. Dr. Ramon Abarquez is one such example, still increasing his value in the marketplace, just like a good bottle of wine.

So how to face up to the years? Plan ahead—build up a comfortable nest egg for security. Keep yourself at the top of your field now so that your value in the industry remains high and can be converted into other viable activities, such as consultancies and managerial positions. Study a new field or learn a new skill—these may come in handy when your hands are no longer as steady as they should be. Most importantly, think positive and look forward to the future—you never know when you may reap even greater g success in your later years.

In the meanwhile, keep a smile on your face and remember that you always want to look you -st, no matter what age you are.

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