During his first decade as a medical professional, Dr. Pacifico Eric Eusebio Calderon has taken a path less traveled by his contemporaries. He is working to advance the ‘human side’ of medicine—practicing, teaching, and doing research on how to ‘bring back humans’ in doctors.
The 38-year-old physician and medical ethicist (a medical professional focusing on supporting patients, doctors, and the public in making important health decisions particularly in terminal illnesses and end of life) holds two important advocacies—doctors being kind to their patients, and doctors being kind to themselves.
“These are things doctors need so they can do well in their profession,” said Dr. Calderon. “Doctors should look at patients as people instead of as diseases or bed numbers. At the same time, they should observe self-care so they can very well take good care of others.”
Dr. Calderon’s great advocacy towards doctor self-care has stemmed from his personal experiences. Coming from a family of professionals (his father is a lawyer and his late mother was a pharmacist) and being the eldest of three sons, he assumed numerous responsibilities when his mom passed away when he was still a medical student.
Grace under pressure
“I had to assume many roles like managing the businesses my mom left us, guiding my younger brothers, and attending school at the same time then. I could not imagine how I managed to do it all,” he recalled. “That was also the time I realized how important self-care is. My mom left us at a very young age probably because she did not have sufficient time to take care of her health.”
Dr. Calderon admits that he was also used to sleepless nights, indulging in fast food, and living an unhealthy lifestyle when he was younger and during his medical school days. But he has started to live a healthier lifestyle when he became a doctor— trying to get eight hours of sleep each day, preparing healthy food, and taking time to unwind. His advocacy calls for other doctors to do the same.
“Doctors are naturally performers. We want to excel and deliver at the expense of our own health; sometimes at the expense of our own sanity,” he said. Dr. Calderon believes that things could be better if doctors carefully manage their schedules and the way they work and deliver so they can also maintain their own wellbeing.
During the pandemic, Dr. Calderon stepped up and developed an educational program that informs health workers (such as doctors and nurses) the practical ways of taking care of themselves and their families while performing their duties. This advocacy program also targeted educating the public about health.
“Doctors and nurses were vulnerable during those times. So, I was telling people that in order to attain a healthy society, patients should also participate. They should stay at home as necessary, wear their face masks, and get vaccinated. Everyone could contribute to public health, making the burden less for medical practitioners,” he explained.
Dr. Calderon salutes his fellow medical practitioners who have risked their lives to perform their duties during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he wishes for doctors to enjoy work-life balance and manage challenging workloads under the present health care system.
He asserts that living a balanced life is possible, after seeing it in his own eyes when he completed two post-graduate majors in Australia (Master of Bioethics at The University of Sydney and Master of Education at Monash University). “That was when I started viewing quality of life as my measure of success instead of power or material wealth,” he recalled.
Presently, Dr. Calderon aims to continue sharing his insights and experiences to mentor and guide many other doctors locally. While he has not ruled out the possibility of living and working abroad, for now, he loves what he is doing—being the Head of Clinical Ethics Services at St. Luke’s Medical Center and an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Professionalism, Medical Ethics, and Humanities at St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial in the Philippines. He is also tirelessly supporting socio-civic organizations and charities.
Dr. Calderon, or Cocoy as he is fondly called, idolizes his grandfather, the late Dr. Pacifico Eusebio of Pulilan, Bulacan. Since he was a child, Cocoy has believed that being in a highly respected profession is a privilege in itself that should be valued and nurtured. “To my fellow doctors, let us use our place in society to help other people and our colleagues, not just to enrich ourselves. It is time we work towards supporting one another in terms of self-care, in spirituality, and in getting more connected with the work that we do,” he concluded.
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