04 October 2007

Humor's Tragedy

It's all over the papers this morning. A few hours after it was shown, email groups and blogs were profusely buzzing with outrage over the unfortunate remarks made on a certain American TV series. There was even an online petition put up.

A day after the show, an enraged Filipino colleague practicing in the US had this to say:
Considering all the yardsticks which we have had to measure up and contend with to prove ourselves "deserving" to practice in this "land of equal opportunity", shoulder to shoulder with the US graduates, I wonder why we are still held to the double standard. That particular line in the episode was not funny; it is a huge and blatant smear on the good name of thousands of Filipino doctors in this country (the US) who provide excellent medical care to millions of people in this country, especially to those in areas where no US graduate would not even consider serving. I doubt if one would find a Harvard graduate practicing deep in the Appalachians (I singled out Harvard because that was in the dialogue from Desperate Housewives).


The people behind the "racial slur" have apologized.

In a complex world, people with uncommon cultural backgrounds have that lamentable fate of misunderstanding each other. Americans have a different kind of sense of humor. They tend to make fun of everything on live TV (Leno, Letterman, and Jon Stewart fans know all about this), all in the spirit of levity. Most Asians, and Filipinos in particular, are also fun-loving, but very sensitive when it comes to perceived derogative remarks relating to the way professions are practiced, or in this case, the way Philippine medical schools were unfairly made to look inferior as the subject of a poorly-crafted joke.

Sure, there will always be "bad eggs" in any group of professionals. But Filipino doctors who practice in the US are one of the best in the world! Being foreign medical graduates or IMGs, they have undergone more rigorous tests than the average practicing American doctor. They have not only passed the local medical licensing examinations here, but have successfully hurdled all three steps of the USMLE, an English exam, and competent residency programs in respected US hospitals.

Then again, those are the facts. I know because I speak from experience. Now, I'm not a scriptwriter nor an actor in a TV series (nor do I see myself becoming either one in the future), but being factual might not be one of their better competencies. If this is the case, we should just forgive them (they have apologized, after all) and move on. Being sensitive requires research, time, some knowledge, and of course, a healthy level of maturity. As it is, I doubt if this will be last time an uncouth remark will be made about us.

I bet whoever wrote those offensive lines do not even know what and where Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are. *LOL*

UPDATE: ENOUGH, ALREADY! May, my friend nurse in California, wrote an excellent post on this issue, and I totally agree with her.

13 reactions:

may said...

i am sensitive and was offended. but i personally think asking for a public apology was and is pointless.

nikki said...

Very well written Doc Emer. I totally agree that Filipino doctors are one of the best in the world. Perhaps the writer of the show didn't know what foreign trained doctors have to go through to be able to practice in their country. Most medical books may have American authors; they may have the newest technology but that does not necessarily make them the best doctors.

Dr. Emer said...

MAY and NIKKI - I agree. Ignorance is worse than insensitivity.

BabyPink said...

yeah, a lot of racial slurs are actually result of ignorance. i speak from experience.;)

thestoryofhealing said...

Well said. The good thing is, after this brief storm, people will learn more about the international community (i.e. this time the people from the Philippines) and have a glimpse of their details in life and work. Thus, a better understanding, less ignorance for the next day. I linked to this post today, too. Thanks!

weight loss said...

She should have been more sensitive! At least she made her apology and now she should be forgiven.

fionski said...

The writers did not even consider how the remarks would affect the US Medical system. If the Philippines produce diploma mill doctors, then how on earth were they able to pass the tests and interviews required for them to take by the US med system? Were the writers trying to say their goverment and hospitals import stupid doctors? Sino kaya mas tanga?

Tani said...

Those writers, producers, directors and Teri Hatcher were irresponsible. They should have researched and they would have known many American citizens go to the Philippines to study medicine. Philippine medical schools produce competent doctors with good bedside manners. ABC has apologized already... to ANC! That's not enough! Teri Hatcher should also give a public apology for it to be more effective. *outraged*

bayi said...

I believe I have written about this before. When I was young, I was treated by excellent Filipino doctors sent by the Philippines to help Malaysians. I recall how the locals had very high regards for these dedicated doctors. I believe the situation has not changed. Your doctors today are as excellent and dedicated as ever. The Americans were wrong. An apology will never totally reverse the damage done. And Dr Emer is right. Ignorance is much worse than insensitivity.

When I was younger, I was told that a very senior Australian cabinet member came to Malaysia. He was shocked to see highrise buildings and modern amenities matching those in Australia. In a moment of transparent ignorance, he mentioned candidly that he really thought that many of us actually lived in the trees! Well, that's another case of extreme ignorance for you! :)

cathy said...


Yes, people who dismissed the reaction as oversensitiveness are not aware that the Recto-issued diploma would never pass the rigid visa screen requirements of the US.

The excuse that they are not affected does not also hold water. The word Philippine...is the link
for all of us whether one is a doctor, a nurse or a plain tourist applying for student visa.

My nurse/friend works in a hospital where there is a Caucasian who graduated from the Philippine medical school.

He too was enraged by the racial slur even though he's not a Filipino. He knows very well that we produce topnotch med. grads.

Btw, I have my surgery today in a big hospital. I was tempted to ask for the diploma from GE. hehehe

Tapos tinuturuan ko pa yong mga Puting RN kung saan sapat ilagay ang IV ko dahil tusok nila mali.
Rough ang treatment. Hindi ko sinasabing lahat sila.

Pero nasanay kasi ako sa mga narses natin. E-mail ko yong iba.

Dr. Emer said...

BABYPINK - I know what you mean

DR. DESCARTIN - Don't count on it too much. I think this will happen again. Have you heard of Tita Cory's case?

FIONSKI - Di ko na sasagutin ang tanong mo at halata naman kung sino. *LOL*

TANI - I think ABC has deleted that particular line in episodes for future distribution.

BAYI - We occasionally get the same remarks, too. I hope those concerned will brush up more on current events. :)

CATHY - I prayed for you and so did my friend. Take care! :)

thestoryofhealing said...

No, I have not. What was it?

Dr. E said...

KARINA - In case you missed it, here it is.