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Twins graduate as doctors, call for solutions to Philippine healthcare crisis

Chariza Leen Crudo

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Twins graduate as doctors, call for solutions to Philippine healthcare crisis

The Aldaba twins wearing their togas – Dr. Jose Rafael “Pae” Aldaba (left) and Dr. Alfredo Gabriel “Lu” M. Aldaba (right). Photo below shows the twins with their parents. From Photo Media and St. Luke’s College of Medicine.

After almost a decade full of sacrifices and challenges, identical twins Dr. Alfredo Gabriel “Lu” M. Aldaba and Dr. Jose Rafael “Pae” M. Aldaba finish a key phase of their medical journey together with flying colors

CAVITE, Philippines – Graduations are viewed as the most anticipated event celebrating the end of years spent battling hardships in school. But for the Aldaba twins, it just signifies one successful lap of a long marathon.

Dr. Pae Aldaba, the older brother by 12 minutes, graduated as the valedictorian of St. Luke’s College of Medicine – William H. Quasha Memorial’s batch of 2023 and received the second highest latin honor– Magna Cum Laude. He also received numerous awards such as the Most Outstanding Intern in Pediatrics and Most Outstanding Overall Intern.

On the other hand, Dr. Lu Aldaba finished in the Top 3 of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine Class of 2023 and also graduated Magna Cum Laude. He was awarded several medals such as the Espiridion C. Reyes Memorial Medal of Excellence in Physiology and the Gregor T. Alvior Jr. Award for Academic Excellence in Medicine.

TWIN TRIUMPH. The Aldaba twins wearing their togas– Dr. Jose Rafael “Pae” Aldaba on the left and Dr. Alfredo Gabriel “Lu” M. Aldaba on the right. Photos from Photo Media and St. Luke’s College of Medicine.

They are also the first doctors in the family, which calls for an even bigger celebration for the Aldaba household. However, despite all these achievements, the twins remain humble and never forget to look back at where and how they began.

A sense of responsibility

Wanting to become a doctor is just a childhood dream for many. But for the twins, their desire to enter the medical field stemmed from their sense of responsibility to their community.

Dr. Lu Aldaba particularly recalled a specific moment that triggered his interest in entering the field. He narrated that during his high school immersion in a rural province, he encountered a group of people selling sketchy products that claimed to cure different complications such as diabetes, cancer, and even blindness.

In the country, all medical and food products must pass the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s standard before allowing these for public consumption.

“I didn’t have to be a doctor to know what a scam was but at the same time I felt powerless to do anything even though I knew it was wrong to not speak. I guess that sense of not being able to do anything was the first time that I ever seriously considered going to medicine, and the rest is history from there,” Lu added.

Dr. Pae Aldaba said he was inspired by his brother which greatly affected his decision to pursue medicine. “[Although] We don’t want to be exactly alike, we like to develop as different people but we try to differentiate as much as possible [while] still [going] towards the same goal. It’s like our skills complement each other.”

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS. The Aldaba twins during their high school years with their parents. Photo from Alfredo Gabriel M. Aldaba.
A marathon, not a race

Although the twin doctors went to different medical schools, they shared the same difficulties and faced similar obstacles.

“The sudden transitions into the academic and the hospital-based parts of medicine are the hardest parts for us and usually where people learn that medicine isn’t for them. The other aspect is that it’s really a marathon and not a race. Endurance [and] perseverance is the most important quality for surviving it, not speed or brilliance or any other trait,” Dr. Lu Aldaba emphasized during the interview with Rappler.

Dr. Pae Aldaba shared that he had to learn how to say “no” to hang-outs and family gatherings because medical school had to go first. But for him, the main struggle did not lie on missing out on these moments but more on knowing that their families and friends understood the gravity of their responsibilities. 

“Getting high grades, or acing your tests in medicine isn’t just a nice bonus. It is a requirement both legally and ethically, morally speaking… If we mess up, that’s someone’s life in danger,” Dr. Pae Aldaba underscored.

When asked about how they were able to triumphantly jump all the hurdles they encountered in medical school, the twins said that there was no “secret technique” nor a shortcut to success. What motivated them to continue was a good support system.

“It’s a marathon so having those people who help and lift you up when you need a boost are the most valuable things you can have in this long and difficult journey,” Dr. Lu Aldaba said. “It’s fine to take occasional breaks and rest, but never give up on sprinting towards their final goal.”

A systemic problem

Now that they are halfway through their medical journey, the Aldaba twins said there are still many steps they must accomplish before becoming full-fledged doctors, such as residency, training, and specializations. However, they both expressed their desire to pursue their respective professions in the Philippines.

Currently, our country is experiencing a shortage of medical professionals due to brain drain in the past decades. According to Senator Pia Cayetano, this decline includes not just Filipino nurses but also “pharmacists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and everything that makes a health system sustainable.”

For the twins, the ongoing healthcare crisis is a systemic problem that requires an equally systemic solution. They echo the importance of making smart investments in healthcare to address this issue and if possible, completely change the system for the better.

“The Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program, building large hospitals, [and] training more specialists are mere band-aid solutions. [We should focus on] making medicine accessible physically, geographically, and financially,” Dr. Lu Aldaba said.

Dr. Pae Aldaba suggested that government work more on making primary healthcare accessible in different parts of the country. According to him, it would be more beneficial for people to hear medical advice about prevention instead of going through complicated procedures to treat their health problems that have gone unrecognized and unprevented due to the lack of readily available primary care doctors. – Rappler

Chariza Leen Crudo is a Rappler volunteer from De La Salle University-Manila. She is currently in her last year taking up Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts.

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