If I didn’t choose Oncology I would’ve probably chosen Infectious Diseases

During the first week of my Infectious Diseases placement, I recall attending a teaching session by one of the specialists. With much enthusiasm she said: “All diseases start with an infection!” I pondered about that statement for a while and realised that maybe she has a point.

In cases like rheumatic fever leading to heart problems etc later on in life, or H pylori infections leading to gastric ulcers that could eventually lead to cancer, maybe there is truth to her statement.

Infections occur in all systems, and has a multiple-system effect. They don’t always present themselves in the same pattern either. By giving the right antibiotic/antiviral etc among the masses available, you can save a life. Pretty exciting indeed.

During my placement, I met several patients who were in severe sepsis (basically dying) one day, seemed unaffected the next. Magic. One patient around my age came in and was barely able to open his eyes and breathe (he was breathing about >30 breaths per minute). He was losing his breath whilst talking to me. We administered antibiotics and when I visited him the next day, he was back to normal. Magic.

Perhaps my mom had a point when she was encouraging me to pursue Infectious Diseases as a specialty. She has always spoken highly of the specialty, ever since she worked very closely with them as a clinical epidemiologist. I recall the days when mom would travel to Vietnam with the WHO to help eradicate malaria. Perhaps it is due to my early exposure to the specialty that I took a natural interest to infectious diseases. Or perhaps it’s actually in the blood.

Nevertheless, after these two weeks at the Infectious Diseases department, my commitment to oncology is still as strong as it has always been. But my respect and interest for the specialty has definitely grown.

I maybe won’t become an Infectious Diseases specialist in the future, but if there’s someone I would entrust to save the lives of the masses, I would definitely turn to an Infectious Diseases specialist to save the world.happy dancing cats

“Vad bra svenska du talar!”

“Vad bra svenska du talar, verkligen!”

Translation: “You speak really good Swedish, really!”

Ever since coming here to Linköping to continue my studies, I seem to get this quite a lot. Once I tell them about my background of course.

After I tell people about moving to Sweden as a 7-year-old from the Philippines and being in medical school for four years in the UK, somehow, people seem to only focus on that. I chose to study in the UK, because I have studied in English ever since moving to Sweden – international schools from elementary to university. However, I did grow up in Sweden in the end. Somehow, the fact that I’ve been raised in Sweden is overshadowed by my immigrant background and international education.

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Should I take this as a compliment? That I learnt how to speak good Swedish after living in Sweden for over 10 years? And didn’t forget it whilst abroad?

Or should I feel offended that because I look and am from a different country, I was expected to speak Swedish badly?

Nevertheless, I must understand, I’m a minority. Not everyone have met us modern Swedes with international backgrounds. In that case, I can be an ambassador to show that assimilation into Swedish culture from another background is possible. Maybe next time they meet someone like me, they won’t be as surprised.

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One month in, I’m a step closer to my MD PhD dream

In high school, I remember my schoolmates and I dreaming to become doctors. About a handful of us specifically dreamed to become double doctors, aka MD PhDs. Combining clinical practice and research, that was our shiny dream in the stars.

During my first research internship at Stockholm university when I was 16, I mentioned our dream to my supervisor. She then asserted me that doctors are primarily meant to be clinicians. The doctor interviewers at Karolinska (the most difficult medical school to get into in Sweden) were tired of hearing applicants say they want to do research she told me. They want doctors who want to be doctors. But what if one wants to be both?

Maybe this MD PhD dream was just a naive, juvenile dream that will disappear over time.

Call me doctor Sam first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

Self-proclaimed nerd since 2010, at my first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

Medical school applications started coming up, keeping in mind the primary focus of doctors, I didn’t mention my shiny dream. I started medical school with the same mindset, keeping away from the lab. Two years into medical school, somehow something made me explore my research curiosity. I was back in the world of academia, and haven’t left ever since.

I started with a summer research internship within genetics in Karolinska, which then continued to a genetics publication in St Andrews. The following summer it was working with drosophila and cancer therapy in France. When I started my clinical years, it became clinical trials within brain cancer therapy. At The same time during all those years, I started presenting at student and national conferences in the UK, then proceeded to international ones. Last March, I was presenting at a conference once a week. I guess you could say I was hooked.

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However, throughout my years of medical school in the UK, although they encouraged my research interest, they couldn’t do more than give me projects to do on the side to satisfy my curiosity – without pay of course. Apart from the lack of financial compensation, I felt that something was missing. I wanted more. This, among many others, contributed to my decision to move back home to Sweden.

I made the bold move of moving back to Sweden to finish my medical studies, hoping to get more and bigger research opportunities. I was accepted and warmly welcomed to Linköping, and continued where I left off from the UK. A month in (last week), I decided to look at the research groups available and sent an e-mail to the one I found most interesting. I received a reply within a day, met the Professor a few days later, the research group a week later, and now, I have taken my first few steps towards my MD PhD.

You know that feeling despite things going well, it still doesn’t feel right? Like as if you’re meant for something else? That’s how I felt anyway, and luckily, my gut feeling was right.

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One month into Linköping, somehow I’ve taken a step closer to realising my shiny dream in the stars. I don’t know how it happened, but I do believe in fate, destiny, God’s plan – or whatever you want to call it. Turns out, this MD PhD dream wasn’t just a phase after all.

Watch out, in a few years, you can call me Dr. Dr. Sam! 😀