Desperate System (A Column by Joseph G. Lariosa) Print
User Rating: / 3
Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 18 October 2007 10:00

Desperate System




CHICAGO, Illinois (JGL) – It

was early in the evening in 1987 when I was attending a campaign stop of the late Illinois Sen. Paul Simon in Chicago. Hosting the southern Illinois Democrat were several dozens of Filipino American doctors. (Editor's Note: Mr. Lariosa is the Chicago-based representative of the National Press Club of the Philippines. He is also the correspondent of the Manila Bulletin and Tempo newspapers of the Philippines. Welcome to the MabuhayRadio, Mr. Lariosa. It is good to have you on board.)


The doctors wanted the senator famous for his bow tie to stop the U.S. government plans to screen more strictly the foreign medical graduates intending to practice in the United States. At the time, foreign medical graduates who want to practice medicine in the U.S. should pass the Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX).

Since Senator Simon merely won in his home state primary, he suspended his presidential campaign. And so the lobbying effort of the Fil Am doctors to admit more foreign doctors appeared to have lost steam.

Since then, all foreign medical graduates have to go thru the eye of the needle, so to speak.


It was in the early nineties that the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) established a single, uniform examination for medical licensure in the United States. The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) was to provide a common evaluation system against which to measure knowledge and competence of applicants for medical licensure.

The USMLE is an examination program designed to assess the examinee’s understanding of and ability to apply concepts and principles that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of save and effective patient care. It consists of Steps one to three.

Foreign medical graduates have to pass either Steps One and/or Two before they can practice medicine in the United States.

For this reason, the dialogue of Teri Hatcher’s character Susan in the ABC’s "Desperate Housewives" episode several Sundays ago that doubted the capabilities of Filipino foreign doctors should not alarm Filipino doctors. It is actually an indictment of the system – the USMLE – which should be blamed if the foreign doctors it is admitting are not keeping up to its standard.


The episode calls for Susan to have a medical checkup and she was shocked when the doctor suggested that she may be going thru menopause. 'Listen, Susan, I know for a lot of women the word `menopause'' has negative connotations. You hear `aging,' `brittle bones,' `loss of sexual desire,'' the gynecologist tells her.

'OK, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren't, like, from some med school in the Philippines?' Susan fires back.

Hatcher's remark was simply an ignorance of the script writer about the existence of the USMLE.

I was waiting for the start of the fight between Filipino featherweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and Mexican champion Marco Antonio Barrera at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada last Oct. 6 when Hatcher's remark figured in my conversation with my ringside seatmate, Cecil C. Laqui, a graduate of Internal Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas.

Dr. Laqui, a practitioner of occupational medicine and rheumatology and laser aesthetics at First Care Industrial Medicine Center in Anaheim, California, said the dialogue of Hatcher was unnecessary. It was merely meant to discriminate against Filipino and other foreign graduate doctors and heap derogatory remarks on them.

'If the scriptwriter screwed it, what about the other members of the staff, like the cameraman and Hatcher herself, who could have easily detected the mistake? They could have changed the script as soon as they found out the insulting mistake.' Dr. Laqui explained.


Hatcher should be told that once a foreign medical graduate passes the Steps One and Two of the USMLE, it means that the foreign doctor knows the basic standard of medical practice in the United States. You don't need to be a graduate of Harvard or other Ivy League schools to know such standard of practice.

I know the controversial dialogue must have been inserted in the episode with nothing but the ratings sweeps in mind.

At this time of low advertising revenues with advent of the Internet and computers, network channels, like the Disney-owned ABC, needs every opportunity to provoke a controversy it can get.

Never minding that this giant television network is reinforcing an unflattering stereotype of certain race -- Filipino race -- that it can kick around.

Despite the apologies done by ABC in the aftermath of the massive outrage by the Filipinos and Filipino American community, the plea that it won’t make the same mistake and its offer for job opportunities for the Filipino Americans to assuage their hard feelings, the Filipino Americans can still have aces up on their sleeves -- boycott!!!

The $500-M class action suit being entertained by some Filipino Americans in the community could be a good deterrent against a repetition of a similar gaffe, that is, if it can win a discrimination suit against ABC.

Let's see how things will play out. (

Related news items:
Newer news items:
Older news items:

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 January 2008 18:15
Joomla SEO powered by JoomSEF