Happy Endings on Hospital Rounds – Drs. Lopao and Ellen Medina

You’re at a family reunion, making your way across the room to greet everyone there. You go up to an aunt, smile, kiss her on the cheek. She remarks on your appearance, asks about school, and then –

O ha, mag-aral muna. Wag munang mag-love life.

“Yes, tita,” you nod. And then you excuse yourself to continue your journey of cursory greetings in the sake of decorum. You go up to another aunt, that aunt, smile, kiss her on the cheek. She remarks on your appearance, asks about school, and then –

O, wala ka pang boyfriend/girlfriend? You’re not getting any younger.

You laugh – ha ha. “No, tita.” And yes, tita, I’m aware.

You turn away and think, oh med school’s hectic, I haven’t got the time. But your mind is a traitor, supplying you with images of batchmates who do have love lives and who manage to juggle their academics with romance, and quite seamlessly really.

And then you wish you hadn’t attended the reunion to begin with. *half-jokingly*

So hey maybe you haven’t found the one yet, but not all hope is lost. Enrolling in medical school does not necessitate five plus years of lonely nights spent poring over transes (though that will happen too).

Because for some individuals, the hallways of Calderon and PGH saw them find both love for medicine and love in medicine. Read the second installment in this exciting series.

Drs. Medina

Paolo “Lopao” Medina (Class of 2009), Department of Family and Community Medicine

Ellen Licup-Medina (Class of 2009), Institute for Health Leadership, Zuellig Family Foundation 

How did you meet and was it love at first sight?

L: We first met at the UP Health Service for enrollment to INTARMED. Was it love at first sight?

E: No, hindi ko siya type.

L: Definitely no. Sa aming dalawa, mas extrovert ako so nagpapakilala na ako sa mga kaklase. Siya introvert siya. Noong nagpakilala ako sa kanya, she looked at me ulo hanggang paa and then snub. Sabihin natin crush at first sight – I loved her smile to the point that I asked around afterward for her name.

How did med school/training impact your love life?

L: LU1, LU2 crush ko siya. I had different pursuits but she was always a crush. Naging kami lang naman before clerkship.

E: Well mahirap naman kasing mag-love life sa medical school, di ba? Ako personally hindi ko naman iyon priority, maraming ibang iniintindi. Hindi rin talaga ako naghahanap ng love life. Mahirap kasi busy ka sa med school – nag-aaral ka lagi, mas gusto mong matulog kaysa mag-date.

L: Well, basically, we were classmates, and then we did an elective in Palawan for six weeks. Doon kami nagkadevelopan I guess. At least ako I knew I was in love a long time before she realized she also had feelings for me.

E: Siguro common interest. Siguro because of that community med elective –  because we both wanted to do something like that and we actively sought it out.

L: Not just interest but I think it’s more of the potential. Back then it was the advocacy di ba – the desire to make a difference. And it so happens na nagkatugma talaga iyung gusto naming gawin – for the people, for the community, public health, health policy.

E: So siguro kung hindi kami sa UPCM hindi namin makikita ang isa’t isa, kasi wala naman masyadong community med in other schools.

L: At saka hindi niya talaga ako type.

E: Kaya dapat you look beyond your usual type.

When and how did you know they were the one?

L: I think ito iyung you know when you know. Malinaw na iyung intentions but ako personally hindi ko ma-insist sa kanya na ako iyung “the one” kasi hindi kami parehas noon ng faith. But it wasn’t a forcing of anything. Aside from the common interest in public health and community medicine, she was very much in love with God. And I never tire of saying that I found that to be an amazing quality of hers, “iyung taglay niyang pambihira.” And I guess I had to know the God she loved so much before I could call her the one. I knew Ellen was the one when, as cliché as it sounds, God put that thought in my head that she was the one.

E: Hindi kasi ako masyado ma-the one. Siguro I knew he was the one when we both decided we were the one for each other. It’s not because of any feeling. It was a conscious decision – when you decide that he’s the one and you stop looking altogether. 

How do you maintain your relationship amidst the demands of your profession?

E: Kapit lang. I think we agreed early on na hindi option ang paghihiwalay so you just have to work it out. Wala namang perfect relationship, di ba?

L: We’ve been married for a little over five years. Syempre it’s a different context when you’re married and when you’re just starting out, in terms of where you are in a relationship vis-a-vis the profession. I agree that in a marriage, there are days you feel like you’re not in love. You just really have to work it out and go back to why you decided to be together. If love and marriage was just going to be a feeling, feelings fade and they wax and wane. It’s really an active effort to be together. And it’s an effort but it’s not a chore, it’s a choice.

E: Siguro kung parehas kayong nagmemed, maiintindihan niyo naman ang isa’t isa. Kung duty siya, hayaan mo lang siyang mag-duty. Let him do his thing. You both keep your individuality and move toward your individual goals, give each other space to do that. Mahirap but you adjust because parehas kayong may professional dreams and aspirations. Just let them do whatever it is they want and believe that at the end of it all, you’ll come back together.

L: if you also have common interests, it will help. But there’s also a difficulty there – there’ll be times when you think that you’re competitors, you’re doing things that one can do better. And then there’s always that professional and personal opinion on each other’s work, which adds another challenge. So it’s really about respecting each other as individuals and professionals and then being able to somehow compartmentalize, but not compartmentalize too much. It’s about finding the unity in the two of you. We share in both the difficulties and triumphs of the profession and it enriches the relationship definitely.

What advice would you give those seeking love in medicine?

L: I guess from a practical and biological perspective, the age group that goes into med school is that age group where you really want to find a partner. You’re at the time of your life when you’re at the peak of your adulthood, so it’s but natural to find a partner or somebody you could potentially spend the rest of your life with. But I do hope you’re not going to be looking for love na parang, “oh I have to.” Kasi when you say you have to and then you don’t find somebody, it affects you negatively in that sense. Parang you’re looking for validation from that love. Just wait for it – it will come if it comes.

E: Actually madali lang humanap ng love life in med school, kasi you’re a group of 180 students tapos lagi kayong magkakasama, lagi kayong nagkikita, you feel like you know each other so well, you share all the difficulties, you go through the same emotional rollercoaster. The bigger challenge I think is after med school – when you’re already out of school, in the real world. Working, will the love still stay? It’s ok if you have a love life in med school because it gives you inspiration, but the question is – will it last after that? So hindi ko alam if it’s advisable or not, but do what makes you happy and see what happens afterward.

L: Ang hirap mag-advise but I guess what matters is if you do find somebody, just be the best person for that person at this time.

E: And hopefully it becomes something more after you graduate. But if it doesn’t, you thank that person for a great experience and move on, move forward.

L: I think it’s really different for everyone, but I guess you just give each other room to grow, apart and together, and see where it takes you.

E: Whether it ends in happily ever after or not, you grow from it and then just be thankful for the experience – nagpaliwanag ng konti at nagbigay ng kilig sa iyong buhay habang nag-aaral ka maging doktor.

The Medina family

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