Laoag City—Aira Cassandra S. Castro, a scholar of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte's (PGIN) Doctor of Medicine Scholarship Program, topped the recent March 2023 Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) with a grade of 89 percent.
Castro made history by becoming the first medicine graduate from the Mariano Marcos State University College of Medicine (MMSU-COM) rank first in the board examination.
Along with Dr. Castro, Dr. Christian Alvin Arca, Dr. Marianne Shem Caraang, Dr. Neil Justine dela Cruz, and Dr. Mida Dorothy Manayon also passed the PLE and achieved a 100% passing rate, giving the university its seventh straight perfect record in the board exam for medical doctors since it began fielding examinees in 2020.
The Doctor of Medicine Scholarship was an initiative of Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph M. Manotoc, which aims to provide Ilokano doctors who will ensure the delivery of healthcare service in the province, particularly in far-flung areas.
Aside from medicine, PGIN also offers scholarships for law school, academic, technical-vocational, agri-fishery (tertiary and secondary), arts, Sirib youth leaders, and senior high school.
After having brought the Mariano Marcos State University and Ilocos Norte into the limelight, the topnotcher of the March 2023 Physician Licensure Examination intends to be a part of the academic community.
“I want to teach at the MMSU College of Medicine (COM) to train the younger generation of Ilocano doctors,” expressed Dr. Aira Cassandra S. Castro in a press briefing conducted after the release of results.
According to Dr. Castro, her intention to teach at MMSU-COM is also a way for her to repay MMSU and the PGIN for giving her with a scholarship during her time in medical school. She aspires to eventually work at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMHMC).
She remarked that the shortage of doctors in Ilocos Norte was her key motivation for pursuing her career. “I always want to serve Ilocos Norte. So, MMMHMC po ang choice ko,” said Castro.
During the MMSU’s virtual press conference on March 17, 2023, Castro shared her immediate plan to teach at COM is also her way of giving back to MMSU, and the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte for granting her a scholarship during her medical studies.
The 25-year-old medical doctor also seeks to take up a residency in pathology and internal medicine at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMH-MC).
Celebrating her historic feat, Castro thanked her family, her mentors in the university, the MMMH-MC, the PGIN, and the Commission on Higher Education for their unfailing support and inspiration. She also expressed gratitude to her long-time mentor, University President Shirley C. Agrupis, “for inculcating in me the value of serving other people.” Dr. Agrupis was her thesis adviser when she was pursuing her undergraduate degree.
She believes that there is no hindrance to becoming a medical doctor because of the assistance provided by the government at present. “If you want to be a doctor, you can do so, as long as you have the passion for it,” she said.
A native of Brgy. 15 San Guillermo, Laoag City, Castro is known for being a consistent academic achiever from grade school years to medical school. A summa cum laude graduate of the BS Biology program of the MMSU College of Arts and Sciences, she was the valedictorian of MMSU Class of 2017. Immediately, she took Doctor of Medicine, and graduated as cum laude and valedictorian in 2021.
Elated with MMSU’s another feat in the medical board exam, Agrupis said the consistent and laudable performance of COM is its best return of investment to the trust and funding it received from the national government.
The university president also thanked Senators Pia Cayetano, Sonny Angara, and other benefactors “for always putting MMSU in the roster of SUCs that are given funds for the upgrading of school infrastructure and facilities for the COM and other allied health sciences."
She also congratulated the faculty of COM headed by Dr. Policarpio Joves for their dedication in nurturing medical doctors in the province.
Senators Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano and Joel Villanueva, CHED and MMSU Board of Regents Chairperson J. Prospero De Vera III, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc, Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta Marcos, and other provincial and local government officials congratulated Dr. Castro and her fellow passers from MMSU for their outstanding licensure exam performance.
The young medical school was established in 2015 to address the shortage of medical practitioners in the province. It has already produced 64 licensed physicians – three of them are topnotchers. (PGIN-CMO/MMSU StratCom)
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