The first medical sorority in the Philippines and in Asia.
An unbroken line of over a thousand lady doctors from the University of the Philippines Manila.
Dra. Rosario Corazon “Beng” L. Nadorra, member of the UP College of Medicine Class 1976 and Mu Sigma Phi Sorority Batch 1976, is one of the most seasoned rheumatologists based in Texas, USA, with more than 35 years of clinical experience under her belt. Although successful in her field, she admits it took long for her to become the kind of doctor she wanted to be.
Aside from her studies, this Iligan native was a prolific writer during her time in UPCM. She remembers doing numerous write-ups for her classmates. It was too many that most of these she did not even have the chance of reading again. Aside from writing for the class, she also fondly recalls working with her batchmate sis Bootsie David-Ruaro in establishing the Mu Mädchen, which, for almost four decades now, serves to provide the latest news about the Sorority and its members to all the sisses here and abroad. From travelling to printing press to distributing the copies, sis Beng and sis Bootsie were indeed the pioneers of a vital part of Mu history.
After graduation, Sis Beng then was accepted in the much coveted Residency Program of the Department of Medicine in PGH. It was a stroke of luck, she revealed, as she gained a spot to one of the toughest Departments in the country’s premier hospital after her classmate, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, who would, years after, become the DOH secretary under Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, gave up his slot to take on Public Health. Proven by the success they are having in their respective fields, it was a career-defining moment for both doctors.
As she looks back, she fondly recalls her time as a resident in the Department of Medicine. She remembers vividly her moments in the intensive care unit, monitoring patients under dialysis the whole night. The next morning, when endorsing her patients, sis Beng jokingly shared with us that she would secretly exaggerate her exhaustion so her seniors would pity her enough not to ask her too much.
When it was time for them to decide on what subspecialty to pursue, Rheumatology, which during that time was only known as a field for old people, was an easy choice for sis Beng. It caught many by surprise, including then Department Chair the late Lourdes Manahan, since many were considering Endocrinology as the most sought after medical field. However, despite Rheumatology being less established than the others, she continued on to become the first fellow of the Section, paving the way for the younger doctors interested to take on the novel field. Even then, she shared it took two years for another resident to take the less treaded path to Rheumatology.
After finishing the residency program, and in spite of the vast experience she gained in PGH, she still felt it was not enough to become the doctor she envisioned to be. Sis Beng admitted that, at that time, she was not confident that her knowledge and experience would suffice in making the big decisions that doctors have to make day in and day out. She then decided to get further training in the US.
As expected, she was faced with many challenges upon arriving in a new environment. For one, she was met by an unforgiving cold weather of the winter season. The empty streets were a stark reminder of how lonely she was and how much she missed home. As if not enough, she soon found out she cannot practice and undergo further training unless she pass at least three tests. As most people would feel, there were times when she wanted to give up and go back to the Philippines. Still, she fixed her eyes on the prize, and she remained positive that things would work out.
While preparing for the crucial tests, her optimism paid off. With the help of her aunt, she landed a job as a medical researcher. It was an enjoyable experience, she amusedly shared, as she got to earn money sharpening her laboratory skills, while getting published in a number of research articles on the side. She could have kept the job, which paid well and did not demand too much, but the call to learn more was much stronger than the fun and stability that job provided. In the end, the recommendation letter from her boss sealed the deal for her residency training in Illinois.
To say that residency in the States was competitive is an understatement. She was put to the test not only by her senior residents and consultants but by her fellow junior residents as well. When asked to compare the training she received in PGH and the one she got in the US, she believes that the constant guidance from her attending consultants in the US allowed her to learn the proper techniques, whereas the famous “See one, do one, teach one” mantra prevailing in PGH may be causing the development of erroneous techniques among fledgling residents. She also disagrees with the 24 hour shifts, saying that it does little in helping young doctors become better clinicians. She argues, “How can you take care of your sick patients, when you’re brain dead yourself.”
However, despite the seemingly better training there was in the States, she credits her keen clinical eye to her training here in the Philippines. She revealed that unlike the other bookish foreign medical grads she worked with during her residency in Chicago, she drew from her deep-well of experience gathered during her years in PGH when it came to giving her impression even without the labs and answering questions during the rounds.
After what seemed as a lifetime of learning, it was only after her training abroad did she feel she had what it takes to be a doctor, and so she went on to practice first in West Virginia, then Texas. Though much of her success was gained outside the Philippines, she wants nothing more than to spend her retirement in her hometown, which sis Beng predicted will be six years from now. Even then, she’s not waiting that long to help out her fellow Filipinos as much as she can. During the 75th year of the Sorority, she donated in support of Brilyante. Dra. Beng also gives short lectures on her specialty to the medical society, the medical students or certain focus groups in Iligan City whenever she’s around to visit her family.
Aside from her career, there were more stories to talk about, including her experiences as a Mu. She recalled how her batchmates, the late Iris T. Legaspi-Peralta and Bootsie Ruaro, were the bastions of AFTG pride during their time. Even after leaving the college, sis Iris was her source of news about anything Mu and UPCM, until she succumbed to her illness in 1992. Sis Beng also shared how sis Bootsie was a headturner during their UPCM days, and how they fondly call sis Cynthia Cuayo-Juico as pinakamagandang kelot sa balat ng lupa. Despite most of them already residing in the States, their batch still regularly communicates through a very active e-group. She proudly reveals that they still go and help one another out as much as they can. Citing one experience, she remembers asking sis Bootsie and sis Cynthia’s help in conducting hands-on training and lectures on pelvic ultrasound and pediatric care to a non-profit maternity clinic in Cebu. Sis Bootsie had a hand in organizing the postponed Iligan leg of Mu Caravan as well.
Despite being modest about her achievements and contributions to her profession and to Mu, no one can deny the boldness with which she sought to carve out a path of her own. From being the first doctor in a family of nurses, teachers and engineers to tackling the then-unexplored field of Rheumatology, and to building from scratch the very active Mu Mädchen, it is evident that the status quo did not stop sis Beng from realizing her dreams. This courage and the unquenchable thirst for being the best in her craft make her a sis worth emulating.