Negros Occidental

Medical board topnotcher: Nothing makes me happier than patients’ smiles

Inday Espina-Varona
Medical board topnotcher: Nothing makes me happier than patients’ smiles

File photo of Inez Benedicto during her internship. (photo from Inez Beneficto's FB page)

from Inez Beneficto's FB page

'The simple ‘thank you’, the smiles that lit up their faces; seeing how they appreciate you. This is the reason for my vocation,' says newly-minted doctor Maria Inez Sellado Benedicto

Maria Inez Sellado Benedicto, topnotcher in the September 2021 board exams for physicians, chalked up a reputation for brilliance and achievement from her grade school years all the way to medical school.

But the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the confidence of Benedicto, who had placed 7th in the 2015 Medical Technology board exam.

This time she was joint first placer with Jude Philip Pozon Cebrecus of Cebu Institute of Medicine with identical scores of 87.83.

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“I was very prepared then. This time, I was unsure. I didn’t even expect to be in the Top 10, I was going to be happy just to pass,” Benedicto, a graduate of the West Visayas State University College of Medicine, told Rappler in a phone interview.

The exam did not adapt to the new calendar for internship she said, giving them only 40 days to prepare.

“I really wanted to read more,” Benedicto added.

The first half of her review coincided with her last month of internship at the Corazon Locsin Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.

“We did our work until 8 pm, and then I would review,” she said.

“I was able to get a full scholarship from one review center and was able to also attend another,” Benedicto said.

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The internship ended on July 31. The board exam was held over two weekends, September 11 to 12 and 18 to 19.

That gave the exam takers just a little over a month to wrap up their review.

The mid-year COVID-19 surge in Western Visayas had also scuttled the daily ferry services between the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.

It finally reopened but Benedicto and other exam takers had to spend 14 days in quarantine.

Knowing too well the dangers of infection, she kept to her quarters.

“We went out only to buy food, good for a week or two,” she said.

Chill parents

Two things held up Benedicto’s spirits.

Her parents, Richard and Maria Sol, kept her grounded as they did in all the years of reaping both medals and beauty pageant crowns.

“Everyone was saying, ‘number one na, sure na. Top 7 before, Top 1 now’,” Inez told Rappler.

“My parents told me, ‘we just want you to be happy and healthy’, and that took much of the pressure away from me,” she added.

Inez represented the Universityof Negros Occidental-Recoletos, where she studied MedTech, in two 2011 pageants. She was 1st runner-up of Mutya ng NOPSSCEA (Negros Occidental Private Schools Sports Cultural Educational Association) and, later, Mutya ng WVPRISAA (Western Visayas Private Schools’ Athletic Association).

In 2013, Inez was Lin-ay of La Carlota City and a runner up in the Lin-ay sang Negros, winning the Muse of Media and Miss Ma-abilidad (Ms Talent) awards.

She described her parents as chill.

“They were always determined to allow us to pursue our own roads,” Inez said. “They didn’t push me to take up medicine but when I did, they were very supportive.”

She attributed her aptitude for science to her mother, who was a nurse, before settling down to raise a family. Her maternal grandfather was a doctor but did not practice his profession.

Life-long commitment

The other thing that Inez fell back on was memories of her clerkship days in Iloilo.

“That was really an immersion,” she recalled. “I was able to see life, see the poorest of the poor.”

Wherever she felt nervous, Inez would remember the smiles of patients.

“The simple ‘thank you’, the smiles that lit up their faces; seeing how they appreciate you. This is the reason for my vocation,” she told Rappler.

Her advice to students: “If you’re going to take up medicine, know that this is a life-long commitment. So don’t do it because someone tells you to. Do it because you love it.”

Inez plans to get a residency in Internal Medicine.

But in the next months or for the next year, she wants to destress from the very fast pace of the last two years.

This uber-achiever’s definition of relaxation? “Serve as a doctor in our community.” That would be La Carlota in central Negros Occidental. “I want to serve my people first, to get to know them, before I go away for my residency.” – Rappler.com