The Filipino Intern During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Jonathan V. Salangsang, MD | PGY-1 (Intern) at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA | UST FMS Class 2016

“Give yourself grace.” I was a medical intern in the ICU. I stood there as I listened closely to my attending say those words to the relative of a patient we were following closely. I wondered what exactly it meant as soon as I heard it. Three months in medical residency in the US, I think these words are exactly what defines my situation while in this pandemic.

I was delayed into training for three months and the last one in our program to start due to lots of setbacks. To give you an overview, I graduated from UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in 2016. I was one of the few in our batch to chase the American dream not exactly knowing what’s in store for us in the future. Applying for residency in the US might be one of the toughest decisions to make.

A month before the start of the pandemic, I was working as a general physician in one of the hospitals in Pampanga while waiting for the residency match results. It was the time we were facing the unknown. Fear was there, but I had to be courageous. Never in my lifetime would I think to be in a pandemic as a physician!


The residency match results came out in March and I am very glad to be matched in a program I really like. But it was a roller coaster ride after that. Problem after problem happened with the visa issues, lockdown, processing of papers to name a few. Is the American dream coming to a pause? There were days that I was really unmotivated but I had to keep my focus and seek support from my family and friends. It was one of the toughest moments to be in, but one thing I learned from there is to face one challenge at a time, one day at a time. I was able to secure my visa, got proper clearance from the Philippine government, and I was able to arrive in my program at the last minute!

Fast forward to present day, I still carry those three words that my attending said. As an intern here in the US, I am still learning the ways of the American healthcare, dealing with COVID-19 all the time. I realized that there is much more knowledge to acquire in the field of Medicine. I keep reminding myself that there will always be new great things to learn everyday despite being in this pandemic.

It is during these trying times we have to give ourselves grace. Forgive ourselves for the shortcomings we are experiencing. Everyone is facing a different battle. It is an extraordinary time for most of us. I personally believe that God didn’t give me all these problems I experienced and I am experiencing just for nothing but I think it’s His way of giving opportunities for me to be courageous and strong amidst everything I faced. It’s very difficult to be in a critical situation, but I always pray for guidance. Trust the process and it will be worth it in the end.