THE UNIVERSITY has again proven itself to be the country’s top producer of medical doctors.

The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery got a 99.53-percent passing rate in the physician licensure exams last August. A total of 427 passed out of 429 Thomasian examinees this year, results from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) showed. This was an improvement from last year’s 98.71 percent, wherein 382 out of 387 examinees passed.

The top-performing schools got 100-percent passing rates but had fewer examinees: UP Manila (149 examinees), Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (84 examinees), Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (97 examinees), and Cebu Institute of Medicine (79 examinees).

UST Medicine Dean Jesus Valencia, who was appointed to the post last June, said strict student selection, excellent faculty, and good curriculum and facilities were the factors behind the University’s outstanding performance in the medical board exams.

“We have a highly selected group of [freshmen] this year. Out of [more than] 1,700 applicants, we got only a little over 500,” he said.

Regular examinations hone students into the habit of studying, he added. “Exams are almost a way of life in the Faculty of Medicine. In and out, they have exams. Sometimes they have two exams in a day because they have so many subjects,” he said.

For five years in a row, UST has figured prominently in PRC rankings. It placed second on the list of top-performing schools in 2008 and 2009 when it got 95-percent and 99-percent passing rates, respectively.

The University became the top-performing school in 2010 after getting a 99-percent passing rate. In 2011, UST returned to second place, where it has remained since.

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“[The results of the board exam] just show na maganda ang training and foundation ng faculty. Aside from that, hindi lang naman academic-wise ang focus ng UST, but they also train us to become holistic physicians,” said Medicine freshman Maricris Alkuino.

‘Drop’ 10?

Despite exemplary overall performance, the number of topnotchers from UST has been declining.

This year, two Thomasians made it to the top 10. Timothy Lee Tang Lee Say finished fourth with a score of 88.5-percent. Donn Rommel Marcelo Bernabe shared the seventh place with Cebu Institute of Medicine’s Alvin Christian Carminade Borbon, recording identical scores of 88.17 percent.

Blake Warren Ang, also from Cebu Institute of Medicine, topped the list with a score of 89.42 percent.

But getting students into the top 10 is out of the faculty’s hands, Valencia said. “That’s something we cannot really predict. [Besides], it’s more difficult to maintain the total passing rate. But as far as the top 10 positions are concerned, that is something you can only hope and pray for. You have to remember there are other excellent medical schools,” Valencia said.

Six Thomasians topped the exams in 2008. Five landed on the top 10 in 2009 and 2010, with Thomasians Melissa Paulita Mariano and Chitra Punjabi getting the No. 1 spot, respectively. There were only three topnotchers in 2011 and four in 2012.

The national passing rate for this year’s physician boards was 82.95 percent, with 1,834 out of 2,211 passing the exams. This was better than last year’s 78.8 percent (1,684 passers out of 2,137 examinees).

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Only in UST

Valencia also credited the revalida for UST’s high passing rates in the medicine boards.

The revalida, a unique practice in UST since 1871, is a series of written and oral exams taken by medicine students toward the end of their fourth year. The student must pass the revalida to graduate, and those aiming for Latin honors must get at least a “benemeritus” or “very good.”

Meanwhile, the newly implemented ultrasound curriculum in the faculty, initiated by former Dean Ma. Graciela Gonzaga, is expected to raise the quality of UST medicine graduates, said Valencia. But it is too early to say whether it can improve the UST’s performance in the board exams, he said.

“Ultrasound is a very important tool in diagnosis. It helps [students] diagnose faster and with a higher degree of accuracy,” the dean said. “[But] at this point, hindi pa natin maa-assess ‘yung impact niya especially [on] the board exams. [However], based on studies, it will make our graduates better clinicians and physicians.”

Ultrasound machines can be used to see internal body structures, not only as a monitoring device in pregnancy. UST introduced ultrasound for instruction this academic year, the first medical school in Asia to do so.

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