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[Y-SPACE] The challenging journey: A step towards betterment

by Pradeep Chakravarthy Jonnalagadda

It is my passion to become a doctor. When all doors for medical schools were closing, the Philippines opened for me to make my dream come true. For the next few days, I asked myself, "what can I give back to this land that will make me a Doctor?” I asked my friends and they said, "let's do something after we graduate."

At once, a question was raised in my mind, "will I be able to come back to the Philippines to pay my gratitude?" I don't have an answer. As they say, "we can never cope up with the past or the future but what we have is the present." I decided to use the present to show my gratitude by serving the community and the people in need.

During my first year in medical school, I signed up for the Vestrum Medicos Society. This is a service organization that conducts medical and surgical missions in the communities of the Philippines with no or less medical access. First-year med school is very toxic and stressful. It was new for me to juggle extracurriculars and academics simultaneously. As a result, it showed an impact on my studies and I barely passed my exams. Everyone asked, "Why are you wasting your time in community service?“

A group of friends said that my voluntary works are robbing me of my education and suggested focusing more on my studies so I can excel in my exams. Another group of friends made fun of me by saying that all I do is check blood pressure and sugar levels in medical missions. Being a foreigner, I had limitations with the language barrier. As a first-year student, I didn't know anything about how to do the proper physical examination and how to ask for a proper medical history. This made me feel what I was doing is not worthy. Despite all of these, I still went to medical missions, surgical missions, and HIV testing camps without my friends knowing.

Around the mid half of my second year in medical school, I saw how stress can affect the mental health of students. I was surprised to hear my juniors' suicidal thoughts because of stress. Eventually, I became a part of the International Students Association where we dealt with the academics and personal issues of our international friends. This was an add-on to my voluntary works which made me very busy. I tried my best to never skip classes. By the end of the year, it became a habit for me to apply what I learned in class to the community setting. Even during my second year, there were still people who said that what I was doing doesn’t mean anything.

During the time when the healthcare sector was crumbling in the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw that hospitals are undermanned, either due to fear of infection or the staff being isolated in quarantine. I joined the Cebu Crisis Assistance Team and volunteered to serve at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. I was a junior clerk and in my third year in medical school. People still doubt and said that I will be of no use in a hospital that is crumbling in crisis. However, I ended up being a first assist or rather the only assist for some of the emergency surgeries during the peak of COVID-19. Inspired to see a foreigner doing this, some of my friends also joined me in this battle. This made me rethink everything that was said to me, which gave me the confidence to say that what I was doing ever since is not something that I should regret. It was my strength.

Sometimes we face so many criticisms by choosing a less-traveled path, but if we strongly believe and trust what our heart says, we can be a game-changer. Every successful person out there has faced some kind of criticisms in their journey but nothing stopped them from being successful. We should always ask ourselves this question, "why do I want to do it?" If the "why" of it is going to make a difference, we will always succeed—that is the power of purpose.

No matter small or big, as long as we have the zeal to serve, it will lead us to success. My teachers and parents always said, “if we don’t limit ourselves, we learn more. And if we learn more, we can serve the community better." Let’s be mindful of our community and show them that we care.

Pradeep Chakravarthy Jonnalagadda is a fresh graduate of Southwestern University School of Medicine. He is a Helping Hands Awardee and Gone the Extra Mile Awardee of 2021. He graduated Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cebu Doctors University last 2017. With high aspirations in life, he is driven by the motto, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but to learn to dance in the rain.” as said by Green.

He belongs to a middle-class family in India. Since his childhood, he saw people suffering from ill-health. It fueled his desire to become a Doctor, removing the pain from the suffering.

For him, success is all about knowing that someone has breathed easier. He is also a strong believer that the most important thing for a person to be successful is to be mindful of their community and have a heart of compassion to serve the needy.

YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.

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