Taking Her UP Education to Heart: Story of a true blue Iskolar ng Bayan May 17, 2011Posted by pilibustero in Personal.
Tags: doctor, iskolar ng bayan, medicine, migration, serve the people, state university, university of thephilippines, up, up manila, US
“Somebody has to stay here and man the fort to make sure people are healthy. Give up the dollars, the prestige. Maybe that’s how UP molded me. UP has given us so much and the country expects so much from us in return. It’s really about being an iskolar ng bayan. Some people have forgotten that. That’s the UP spirit: not just brains, but also a big heart and the hand to serve”
This is a very inspiring story of reflections and insights from a true blue Iskolar ng Bayan which is worth emulating; hence, this repost.
By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ALTHOUGH Gert Gwendale Baron graduated with a record-breaking final grade at the University of the Philippines in 1982, she practically forgot about the accomplishment after receiving her diploma and delivering the valedictory speech.
For the unassuming eye doctor, grades, with the tedious decimal points that may make or break records, are not really the measure of a person.
What matters, she says, is the heart for service and love of country that one shows in and out of school—qualities that UP teaches every graduate.
“The GWA (general weighted average) is just a measure of being a good student. But does that make you a good person? Does that make you a productive member of society?” said Baron, who is married to Rene Reinoso, Inquirer’s senior vice president for sales and marketing.
“It’s all about living the life of a student even if you’re already old—being an eternal student and an eternal teacher. At the UP College of Medicine, we’re trained to always learn one, like a procedure, do one and teach one. So in life, it’s the same way,” Baron said.
She once held UP Diliman’s record for the highest post-war undergraduate GWA, with an average of 1.03, when she finished Bachelor of Science in Zoology, her pre-medicine course. The record was bested only this year by John Gabriel Pelias, who received a degree in mathematics with a GWA of 1.016.
Baron, who topped the 1978 UP entrance examinations, got a grade of 1.25 in only two subjects, the second highest grade in the university, throughout her college life—in freshman communications and one laboratory subject. The rest were perfect “uno.”
She then graduated cum laude from the UP College of Medicine, then finished her biochemistry doctorate with magna cum laude honors at the University of Michigan in the United States, where she studied on a scholarship.
Looking back, the glaucoma specialist said she almost felt a tinge of guilt delivering the valedictory speech in 1982. She felt a summa cum laude graduate of electrical engineering, a course she felt was tougher than hers, should have had the honor.
“There were seven summas in our class but I had the highest GWA so I was made commencement speaker. But there was this guy who was summa in electrical engineering … There were so many summas in engineering, and I think engineering is the toughest college in the whole UP system,” Baron said.
Believing scores in social science courses should not be compared to grades in the natural and physical sciences, Baron said, “That’s why I don’t like talking about GWAs. It’s not fair to (focus so much on) points.”
She was so modest about her grade that husband Rene and their children Eric John and Regina Teresa did not know about her accomplishment until the papers reported Pelia’s GWA and published the names of previous record holders.
“I kind of just forgot it because real life is different. When I went to the US, they didn’t know (about my grade). I didn’t want them to think I was bragging. That’s why my husband didn’t know that and my kids only knew about it recently,” Baron said.
True UP baby
Baron’s connection to UP started at birth. Both her parents are from UP. Her lawyer father Miguel was a university scholar while her mother, Gertrudis, a pharmaceutical chemist, finished her masters in pharmacy at UP.
Her brother John graduated valedictorian from the UP College of Medicine.
“My parents met in UP. They were married in UP. I learned how to walk in UP, I was baptized in UP. I learned to walk in the oval and learned how to run at Sunken Garden. It was all about UP for me,” Baron recalled life in the UP Diliman campus.
After finishing high school at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, she took the UP entrance examinations and was so confident she would pass the right-minus-wrong tests she did not even consider any other university.
“Everybody in my family is from UP. I even demanded that both my children go to UP. Even my husband is from UP (School of Economics). It was UP or nothing,” said Baron.
Almost 30 years since she made UP history, the 50-year-old Baron is now making her own little personal history in a small clinic at the Las Piñas Doctor’s Hospital in Las Piñas City, Metro Manila.
She left a lucrative practice in an upscale hospital to serve those most in need.
Serving the C-D-E market might have halved her income but Baron said the decision greatly multiplied the “psychic reward.”
“I’m serving a sector of society that is not served by big medical centers. And it’s pure service, which I got from UP,” she said.
“My patients are mostly old. One patient told me, ‘Doktora, when we get to heaven, we will all welcome you.’ It makes me happy knowing that all my patients die with clear vision,” Baron said, chuckling.
She considers every patient appointment a new opportunity to teach about general eye health and the still incurable glaucoma. She chose this field of specialization because of her family’s medical history. She herself is also afflicted with the disease, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the country.
The eye doctor’s fees depend on how much a patient can afford.
“If he (really has no money), then I give the check-up for free and I give medicine samples,” Baron said.
Relatives and doctor-friends in the US have been nagging her to move there and work. But the iskolar ng bayan has chosen to stay.
“Somebody has to stay here and man the fort to make sure people are healthy. Give up the dollars, the prestige. Maybe that’s how UP molded me,” Baron said.
“UP has given us so much and the country expects so much from us in return. It’s really about being an iskolar ng bayan. Some people have forgotten that. That’s the UP spirit: not just brains, but also a big heart and the hand to serve,” she said.