board exam results

Lone Mindanao topnotcher in med license exam hopes to help Filipinos in far-flung areas

Khaela C. Vijar
Lone Mindanao topnotcher in med license exam hopes to help Filipinos in far-flung areas
Now that he is a licensed doctor, Christian John Capirig wants to give back to his community by becoming a rural physician in Davao

For Christian John Capirig, earning his license to be a doctor means repaying the community that pushed him to become one.

Capirig, who is from Davao City, was the only topnotcher from Mindanao in the November 2020 Physician Licensure Examination (PLE). 

In 2019, he graduated with a medicine degree from the Davao Medical School Foundation (DMSF). He was a cum laude when he earned his undergraduate degree in Biology back in 2015 at Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU). 

As a consistent top student, he was granted a half-tuition scholarship. He was also the recipient of the 2015 BPI-DOST Best Project of the Year Award. His submitted work was chosen for its potential to protect the Philippine banana industry from getting wiped out by a fungal disease.

While in med school, Capirig worked as an anatomy and physiology teacher to 1st year nursing students. He took the opportunity to earn a little money and used the experience to review for the board exam.

Capirig’s dream to become a doctor first sparked when he was in high school. His biology teacher back then inspired him. It was because of this that he took the same course in college.

“Biology opened my interest because it made me appreciate how wonderful God’s creation is. The complexity of life made me realize that I want to study life and that I want to become a steward of maintaining life by becoming a physician,” Capirig said.

What started as an appreciation for the discipline soon became a goal to serve his community in the best way he believed in – through medicine.

For the community

It was during his community medicine rotation in his fourth year in med school when he told himself that he wanted to become a rural physician. 

“That experience really struck me because we were assigned in a geographically-isolated location in Marilog, Davao City. The patients there were traveling every Monday from distant places, spending around P200 just to go to the health center, [just to see a] doctor,” he said.

“At that time, I was struck because what if we weren’t there? [What if there were] no doctors? Their effort and money would be wasted,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

It was the lack of doctors in Davao which convinced him to become a full-fledged rural physician to serve his community. For him, it was the grassroots level of interaction that allowed him to be fully immersed with the community.

“That’s the reason why I want to serve the rural areas, I saw its enjoyment and importance,” he shared.

Now that Capirig is a licensed medical doctor, he hoped to give back to the community that pushed him to keep moving forward. He planned to practice primary healthcare in rural areas outside of the city such as Marilog district.

He said going into the field of medicine required passion and dedication. He believed that people should not be forced to take this path.

“No one should force you to medicine because it will be really difficult for you to take that path if you don’t love the field.”

“You’ll even sacrifice the golden age of your life. You’ll be in your 20s and your batchmates are earning money already, they’re already married, meanwhile, you’re still studying,” he joked in Filipino.

Though the schedule of the PLE was postponed because of the pandemic, Capirig did not stop preparing and studying harder.

“Aside from the review I was getting from [the] review center, I also made my own schedule and really stuck with it … I would wake up at 7 am and study until 3 am but with breaks in between,” he said.

Topping the exam only a “bonus”

Etched forever in his memory was the day he became the first doctor of the family. 

“I immediately ran upstairs to my parent’s room when I found out. They were so happy, my mother was jumping for joy,” he recalled.

Both of his parents are retired government officials. His two older sisters work overseas. One is an industrial engineer in Canada, and the other a management accountant in New Zealand. Both careers are far from the medical path he took. 

“I think it brings them honor and pride that I am the first physician in the family and that there will be someone who will be taking care of their health needs,” Capirig said.

Landing among the top 10 of the grueling board examination was only a bonus for him. To simply pass was already a huge blessing.

When the results of the board exam were released last November 25, Capirig admitted he was surprised when a classmate sent a screenshot of the topnotchers which included his name.

“I was so surprised that I saw my name because I really didn’t expect it. It was a very difficult exam that when I left the examination room, I thought I only had a few sure answers, so I just prayed that I would pass,” he said.

Aside from specializing in primary healthcare, Capirig said he was going back to teaching before taking his residency. Given the opportunity, he planned to train abroad.

Having been a student and a teacher at the same time, he shared a message to aspiring doctors: “It will test your character, it will test your patience, your grit. The desire to go into med and touch the lives of people should come from you.”

He also urged them to keep going. 

“It’s an opportune time to go into medicine because we need doctors now. Eventually COVID will, hopefully, lay low in the future. We need to replace the fallen doctors and healthcare workers to continue the healthcare function of our society,” he said.

“Don’t be idle and take the opportunity to learn – if you can. I know that the current situation is very difficult but keep yourself educated… If you feel tired, then take a break, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop,” Capirig said. –