THOMASIAN doctors based in the United States were among the first to cry foul when the lead actress of the hit TV series “Desperate Housewives” took a swipe on the quality of medical education in the Philippines.

In the season premiere of the primetime series that aired September 30 in the US, Teri Hatcher, who plays Susan Mayer in the sitcom about five housewives in an American suburb, went to her doctor for a check-up and found out that she was going through menopause. Shocked, Hatcher’s character told to the doctor:

“Okay, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren’t, like, from some med school in the Philippines.”

Filipino doctors in the US immediately branded the line as a “racial slur” against them and against medical schools in the Philippines.

In a letter to Mark Pedowitz, president of the ABC television network where the show aired, the head of the UST Medical Alumni Association in America (USTMAAA) wrote that the spiel “made a disparaging and discriminating remark concerning the medical credentials of a (Filipino) physician.”

“Your (television) network has such a fine reputation for racial diversity and tolerance. Hence, many Filipino viewers were stunned and deeply hurt by the racial slur demonstrated by this show as it aired on Sunday,” Dr. F.C. Dante Gapultos Jr. said in the letter dated October 3.

The beginning of medical education in the Philippines can be traced back to UST, where Spanish friars put up the country’s first medical school in 1871. Later medical schools such as the UP College of Medicine were put up, ironically, following American standards.

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Out of the box

Stella Evangelista, USTMAA executive director, pointed out that many Filipino-American physicians hold distinctive hospital positions in the US such as chief of services, chief executive officer, and medical director. Some are even textbook authors.

“Retired Admiral Dr. Connie Mariano has been the personal physician of former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Dr. Jorge Garcia was one of the doctors who attended to the wounded former president Ronald Reagan,” Evangelista said, recalling the 1981 assassination attempt on the ex-US leader. “Prominent leaders from all over the world come to US to have a transplant, heart surgery, etc. done by Filipino physicians.”

Evangelista added that “apparently the studio apologized,” but “is that enough?”

Gapultos also requested a public apology and demanded that future replays or syndicated rebroadcasts of the episode be canceled.

“Such reckless and irresponsible disregard for the integrity, credibility and ability of Philippine-trained physicians cannot and will not be tolerated even if legal action is needed on our part,” Gapultos said.

ABC did apologize and promised to delete the scene from future rebroadcasts, but Filipino doctors said it was not enough and made other demands, such as scholarships.

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