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Filipino MD Picks Life As Nurse in U.S.

The hospital lobby is a blur of surgical scrubs as a shift-change approaches. But when Elmer Jacinto slips in early in pressed whites and sneakers, he draws barely a glance from the guard behind the security desk.

It's 2:15 p.m. and soon he'll begin preparing IV drips and checking temperatures, tasks assigned to an entry-level nurse. "So much to learn," says the self-deprecating bachelor with the lilting accent. Except for the fact that he's one of only two male nurses on the floor at St. Vincent's Midtown Hospital, he's just one of the girls, co-workers say.

Well, here anyway.

But a world away, in his native Philippines, Jacinto remains at the center of a roiling controversy — a sellout to his critics, a paragon of hard work and admirable ambition to his supporters.

Once upon a time, Elmer Jacinto was his nation's most promising young doctor. But doctors in the Philippines are not well paid, and so he boarded a plane to America.

To make more money. To become ... a nurse.

It hasn't worked out exactly as he had expected. Life in New York has proved exhausting and full of unforeseen pitfalls. And back home, many of his countrymen still find his choice a difficult one to accept, because the parable of Elmer Jacinto raises grim doubts about their future.

"Jacinto encapsulates perfectly the country's fundamental question today," one Filipino newspaper columnist opined. "Namely, why should anyone want to stay in it?"


When Elmer Jacinto graduated high school, the island of Basilan offered limited choices.

On Basilan, where dusty farming towns press up against thick tropical jungle, electricity is a sometimes event. Telephone lines deposit calls at dead-ends. Both problems are blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group with an outsized reputation for violence.

So when Jacinto sat down with his father, a school teacher, on a spring night eight years ago to parse his prospects in the glow of kerosene, they set aside talk of dreams to examine reality.

"There is money in nursing," the older man counseled.

Jacinto finished at the top of a nursing school class of 250, and found work at the local hospital before leaving for a better-paying job in the city. In hindsight, the move seemed fated. Not long after, Abu Sayyaf guerrillas stormed the hospital, taking nurses as hostages. One of Jacinto's former co-workers was killed during a shootout with Filipino soldiers.

But in Manila, Jacinto pushed ahead, soon enrolling in medical school. For the second time, he rose to the top of his class, then joined 1,800 other aspiring doctors from around the country to take the national medical exam.

When the scores were released, Our Lady of Fatima University proudly hung a banner over its doorway to herald the results. Its valedictorian, Elmer Jacinto, was the No. 1 young doctor in the nation.

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Budek comments: He was may prof during our NCM class he really gives his best when it comes to teaching. He explains things carefully and is always prepared for his lectures. He is the only one who uses projector + powerpoint in all of his lectures in Fatima. No one did that [ except in the review class ]

During day 1 pinagalitan ako nito kasi naghikab ako sa klase nya hahahaha. Napahiya ako nun. Nabwisit agad ako sa kanya sinumpa ko si sir elmer. Pero he befriended me later on, bumawi. Natuwa siya kasi my elder sister na 2nd courser was my classmate and di sha makapaniwala. May dedication panga yung mga exams nya when he checks it. Bihira lang yung ganun. kakaiba talaga he really loves his job.

My favorite student sha during those times eh, it was Lawrence Gutierrez. He is fond of the gutierrez brothers. Amaze na amaze sha sa mga magkakapatid sa classroom kaya amaze din sha samin ng kapatid ko. Lawrence that time was the top of the class. He really dominates MS with his phenomenal scores.

Hayyy... that was college days... :)

He was my prof. too, I really like him,,, and I got good grades because of those NCP's every end of a quiz, yun ung favorite part ko nun making NCP's. Palagi akong gising sa class nya and I enjoyed every lecture he had kahit na magmake up class pa kami during the holidays... We miss you sir!

same story of dr. arce of davao. vonvoyage dr. arce! the bits and pieces of your heart and dreams were left to your student(i'm one of them)...with our very best, we'll try to continue the works of these doctors and soon we'll be flying to meet them too!

karen(valiant warrior)

He was not my prof, so it's hard for me to answer the questions he gave during MS1 exams.. I used to say, "Sana si sir na lang prof namin, kasi magaling talaga siya."

So, I wonder what happened to him after the controversy regarding the Sentosa agency???

is he in New York or in the Phils?

Hope he is okay.. God bless you Sir!

Keep on fighting....


di ba kasama nya si doc balmeo? tapos may isa pang doc ung sa Maternal and child na doc din, parehas sila ng agency diba?
Nabasa ko na nmn sa interview nya yang "Patriotism is a two-way process" hehehehe he always tells us that.


Did medical board topnotcher Dr. Elmer Jacinto--now nurse Elmer in the US--do right? (Phil. Daily Inquirer, January 8, 2007, front page). To his critics, Dr. Jacinto did not do right because he chose personal interest over national interest. In reality, Dr. Jacinto simply avoided being a lifetime victim of discrimination, unjust taxation, and the common mistake of solving a problem without addressing its roots or causes.

Against the backdrop of brain drain in the local medical profession and resulting shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas, we as a nation expected Dr. Jacinto to render medical service to generally indigent Filipinos--a social responsibility to poor constituents borne by GOVERNMENTS of other nations that can pay for it, but NOT by our GOVERNMENT that cannot afford it. Therefore, what we have is a problem of INSUFFICIENT GOVERNMENT FUNDING, and those who faulted Dr. Jacinto wanted him to alleviate it by his lonesome self, without similarly calling on any of the super rich to help by subsidizing him through a MONTHLY ALLOWANCE so he would stay. Asking one of local billionaires to give Dr. Jacinto a reasonable monthly stipend so he would stay would not hurt at all the billionaire, but making the good doctor stay would make him live in relative poverty.

So why pick on Dr. Jacinto without doing the same on those who can very well help through contributing money for medical services, as exemplified by Mr. Mark Jimenez who donated P50 million to distressed educational plan holders, and Mr. John Gokongwei, Jr. who donated a whopping P10.25 BILLION (PDI, August 13, 2006), or roughly $200 million, to a foundation? Moreover, if the problem is government FINANCING, it should be solved by the nation through an equitable progressive TAXATION system, not by selective or discriminatory public service--tantamount to unjust taxation payable in kind--of the singled out Dr. Jacinto. And if we are talking of taxation aimed at promoting the health and welfare of Filipinos, we should look first at the capable rich with SURPLUS or disposable income, not at the poor doctor who does not have enough for the needs of a family.

Indeed, those who can pay more for the attainment of a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful society should pay more--because they have more BENEFIT to GAIN and enjoy from such ideal society, and more WEALTH and happiness to LOSE in a society that, for lack of necessary government funding, is beset by mass poverty and concomitant crimes against rich persons and property, like rampant kidnapping and robbery. In the first place, even if the affluent pay more, they will remain rich and can still enjoy their comfortable lifestyle.

In war, patriotism alone will not solve the problem of insufficient enlistment in the military, so countries mandate compulsory drafting of able-bodied citizens into military service. The same is true in economics--patriotism alone of a few volunteer professionals will not solve inadequate funding for public services. Thus, there must be compulsory contribution out of SURPLUS income by affluent residents, plus ABOLITION of susceptible-to-corruption PORK BARREL--before we lament Dr. Jacinto’s decision not to become victim of unjust taxation, discrimination, and inept problem-solving. If we do not ask the very rich in our midst to make a bearable financial sacrifice for the sake of the nation to which they are morally indebted--as it patronizes their products and provides them protection under its system of laws--why should we ask the poor Dr. Jacinto to make a worse financial sacrifice when he has no similar debt to pay to the people?


San Miguel, Bulacan
January 16, 2007

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