WITHOUT a doubt, we are a basketball-loving country. Dubbed as “the Filipino sport of choice,” basketball has been a bonding ritual for fathers and sons everywhere. And at one point or another, every single young Filipino boy has dreamed of becoming a professional baller one day.
However, it is also a fact that Filipino parents have also dreamt for their children to be lawyers or doctors, working day and night to provide the best education for them.
These two aspirations have resulted in a country peppered with basketball stars and the brilliant doctors.
However, it is quite rare to find people who have excelled in both fields. One of those few is former Ateneo de Manila University varsity player for the Blue Eagle team. He is Johan Uichico who passed the medical boards this year after being part of the Ateneo basketball’s glory days from 2003 to 2006.
Looking back on these days, Uichico shared, “I played with the Blue Eagles starting when I was a college freshman in 2003. We played in the finals during my rookie season, finishing second to Far Eastern University; and also in 2006 when we lost, unfortunately, to University of Santo Tomas.
“I was very honored to have been a part of Ateneo’s rich basketball tradition and lucky to have played with some of the best players like Larry Fonacier and BJ Manalo. I have been blessed to be able to play under great coaches like Sandy Arespacochaga, Jamike Jarin, Joel Banal, and Norman Black,” he added.
Despite his love for the sport, basketball took a backseat when he decided to pursue medicine. He explained, “As a result of my focus on basketball, my grades suffered and were not as high as I wanted them to be. I skipped the next season to concentrate on my studies and get my grades up for medical school. I could have come back for the season after that, but my father and I talked about what was best for my future; and in the end, we agreed that pursuing a medical career was what was best for me.”
Entering the medical profession just fell through for Uichico who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist when he was younger. He recalled that when he entered Ateneo, his original course was BS Communications Technology Management, but immediately shifted to BS Biology when he got the chance.
“I realized, pre med-course na din pala ito, so it sparked my interest in the medical profession. I took the National Medical Admission Test and applied with the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. Through God’s grace, I got accepted,” he continued.
And while the medical school journey wasn’t free from challenges, Uichico doesn’t regret his decision of leaving the basketball court permanently. He shared, “I enjoy the field of medicine immensely; the way it touches other people’s lives is just incredible.”
He also realized the most difficult aspect of being a doctor, which is seeing the reactions of relatives when their love ones pass away. But what got him through were the smiles on people’s faces when their relatives were saved. A simple “thank you” is always enough for him. “These things kept me going and inspired me to go above and beyond the call of duty,” he enthused.
An aspiring orthopedic surgeon, Uichico now plays in an entirely different court, hoping to contribute to the health care system of the country. He hoped, “Being a physican is a really noble profession. The country has the potential to be great again, and I hope to be one of the reasons behind its success in the future.”
More than the number of basketball games he has played, Uichico deserves greater applause today as he champions the cause of saving lives.