HER WONDERFUL WORLD
By MAFELOU C. LEAGOGO-AGRIAM
Photo by Justin Patrick Go
How can one explain why so many people feel relieved from their aches and pains at the mere sight of their doctors? Older folks would even say that half of the battle of curing the patient is won when the patient is attended by a doctor who’s cheerful and kind, and not to discount well-equipped in her chosen medical field.
And talking about it, who comes to mind from among the crop of young physicians in Iloilo City but 36-year-old dermatologist Jennifer Grendel Ganzon-Bernardo. Dr. Jenjen — as she is called in the professional circle – is the third of four lovely daughters of Freeman Ganzon and the former Maricar Rodriguez of Manila, a noted beauty in her time. The public will certainly agree that personal good looks are a plus factor in any career and Dr. Jenjen is ample in this department, thanks to the family genes.
Moreover, straight out from the family cache is another asset: superior cerebral genes spread out generously to family members. After all, the grand patriarch of the clan was the late former Philippine Senator and Iloilo City Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, widely recognized for his brilliance.
Dr. Jenjen is one of his many grandchildren. For the most part of her early life, she and her siblings – along with their parents – lived with the high-profile Senator and his wife Dolores Padoginog-Ganzon at their Dasmarinas Village residence in Makati City. Through everyday encounters with the Stormy Petrel of the Philippine Senate, his influence swayed over their heads and manifested in their choices.
“He inculcated on us the value of good education, hardwork and the importance of promptness,” Dr. Jenjen solemnly declares. The senior man was like a martinet during mealtime with his granddaughters. She recalls how he would drill them on the multiplication table, on English (with a word a day to learn), current events, history, etc., to stock up and enrich their young, spongy minds. He had deep respect for self-made or self-employed people; conversely, he abhorred lazy persons. When told of a granddaughter’s intent to be a doctor, he seemed thrilled no end for it was a profession meant for those made of no ordinary stuff.
On the other hand, how Dr. Jenjen must have made her own parents proud of her academic standings, completing grade school at the Colegio de San Agustin in Dasmarinas Village with honors, graduating salutatorian of high school batch 1992 of Assumption Iloilo, and consistently being in the Dean’s list at the Ateneo de Manila University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1996.
Without pause, she entered medical school at the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UE-RMMC) in Manila, graduating four years later in 2001 as a Doctor of Medicine. Again without missing a beat, she undertook a one-year Post-Graduate Internship in the same medical center. In August 2002, she passed the Physician’s Licensure Examination.
Dr. Jenjen remembers there were 35 licensed doctors like her applying for the three-year Residency Training in Dermatology at the UE-RMMC. Only two could be taken in and she alone in the end completed the residency program in time. In June 2006, she received a Diplomate Certification after passing the Philippine Dermatological Society Diplomate Examination.
Amazingly despite her very tight and tough schedules, she still found time to marry the man who by all measures was her perfect match. Dr. Emiliano “Totoy” Medina Bernardo III, the only ophthalmologist sub-specializing in Neuro-Visual disorders in the whole Western Visayas, was a classmate in Ateneo and in medical school who graduated with honors. What she says sums up her complete admiration for him: ‘I thought I was very intelligent until I met my husband.” The young Bernardo family – with two tykes in addition, namely, Jaime Rodolfo (now seven years-old) and Hannah Marie Ines (now three-years-old) – transferred to Iloilo City sometime in 2007. “We hated the traffic in Manila and it’s much healthier for the kids to be raised in Iloilo City,” she says. “I can spend longer period of time with them because my home and the workplace are not so far distant from each other. I choose to have ample time with my children everyday.
“Career-wise, I realized the Dermatology community in Manila is crowded. Here in Iloilo City, I am the 10th board-certified dermatologist. Although my husband is from Quezon City, he agreed wholly to our transferring to Iloilo. He said namit kag barato ang pagkaon sa Iloilo. He loves our talaba.”
Dr. Jenjen’s husband is a food connoisseur and quite an accomplished cook, aside from having been once a marathoner, sweep rower, a band player, and now a swimmer. His culinary opinion is sought for through the food articles and restaurant reviews he writes for a Manila-based food magazine. Guess who his biggest fan is because the chef oftentimes cooks in the Bernardo house?
Four years now in medical practice as a doctor of the largest organ of the human body, i.e., the skin, Dr. Jenjen seems well-settled in her profession and among her peers in the Philippine Dermatological Society of Iloilo City, as well as in the domestic front with a son in Kinder II at the St. Mary’s Academy who loves animals and can distinguish a lynx from a lion, and a daughter who scored a perfect grade of 100% in nursery in the same school.
Dr. Jenjen spends half-a-day daily in her clinic at the St. Paul Institute where she deals with pathological cases, and adequate time at the Skin Care Professionals (clinic) in the Atrium, and as in-house dermatologist at the Skin & Shape Up Center located in the lower ground of SM City Iloilo, which provide the Ilonggos quality aesthetic treatments within their reach.
Here are more interesting impressions of the personable Dr. Jenjen on her roles as professional, a mother and wife, and as her own person.
What do you enjoy doing as a family? I do my best to wake up early so I can swim with my husband. The kids usually swim with us on weekends and we also love eating out. Sunday mass with everyone is a must and we’ve recently found out that traveling without the kids’ yayas is possible already and we’re going to do a lot more of that soon.
What are the some family values that you wish to pass on to your children? Diligence, hard-work, generosity and reading. There is nothing worthwhile which doesn’t require hard work or diligence. I don’t consider myself brilliant, but I am very diligent, and there is very little that cannot be achieved with hard work. I want my children to learn this. I want them to achieve things on their own and not be honored simply because they’re my children. I also want to teach them to be generous by focusing on others. It’s a challenge for my husband and me to teach this to my son because of his specific needs. Most people who have achieved anything of significance are wide readers. Books are something that we don’t hesitate to buy for the kids.
Who exerted the most influence in your life? I have to say that my grandfather (Senator Rodolfo Ganzon) is one of the most influential people in my life. He was a very strong and principled personality who did the right thing, even if it wasn’t the popular choice. He taught me the following: 1. There is no excuse for being lazy (kontra nya guid ang matamad), 2. Time is gold and 3. Love the poor.
The books that I read also influence me with the way I think and act on a daily basis. Some of the books that I love (aside from the Bible) are books by David Schwartz, Napoleon Hill, Jim Dornan and John Maxwell.
Do you still have a “me” time when you can indulge in stuff that you alone like doing? Time with my kids and husband is also me time, which is why I decided to limit my clinic hours to only half the day for most of the week. I spend a lot of time with my family. Occasionally, when my husband is at work and the kids are in school, I go with my mom to SM. Before I start my clinic, I always make it a point to have some personal quiet time and prayer.
My husband and I also make it a point to go to Manila once every four months to take a break, re-asses our vision for the future and plan accordingly.
Your husband loves to cook, what’s your favorite food that he cooks? What do the kids love? I love nearly everything that my husband prepares (which he refuses to believe) and he has a fairly wide repertoire. But if I were to choose a few that are my all time favorites, they would be: French Toast, Cheese Omelet, Buritos and Tacos. He’s been trying to learn how to cook Indian Food; and so far they’re pretty tasty too.
As for the kids, they haven’t developed the sophisticated palate to enjoy their father’s cooking, but they do love the way I make spaghetti.
What accomplishments are you most proud of? I am most proud of my education. I’m lucky to be trained by two of the best and oldest schools in the country, Assumption Iloilo (100 years) and Ateneo de Manila University (150 years). Passing the Diplomate Exam for the Philippine Dermatological Society is also a big achievement for me since it took 12 years of hard work (4 years of college, 4 years of med school, 1 year of internship, the medical board exam and the 3 years of dermatologic residency).
I am also very proud of my two beautiful and wonderful children, Jaime Rodolfo and Hannah Maria Ines. It took two very difficult pregnancies, expert obstetricians (Dr. Diana Bongala – UERMMMC and Dr. Maureen Fortuna – SPH) and several other expert Physicians (Dr Joey Salazar, Dr. Jocelyn Eusebio, Dr. Olivia Flores – UERMMMC, Drs. James and Tina Woo and Dr. Teresa Martirez- SPH) to make them as healthy as they are right now.
What aesthetic treatment are most Ilonggos fond of? Like the rest of the world, a lot of Ilonggos are now more particular about, and aware of how they look and aging gracefully. This is why most of the aesthetic procedures that are in demand are all geared towards improving the skin, hair removal and delaying the effects of aging. Some of the procedures available in Iloilo City through Skin Care Professionals in Atrium and Skin and Shape Up Center in SM City are: Refirme, Diode Laser, IPL, Pixel etc., and slimming procedures such as Cavitation, RF.
What are the some of the most common skin ailments that you encounter in the clinic? A few of the most common skin diseases that I see on a daily basis range from the benign but troublesome acne, melasma and eczemas (atopic dermatitis, nummular eczemas, etc.) to the more serious / pathologic conditions like psoriasis, basal cell carcinoma, bacterial / viral infections and exfoliative dermatitis.
Are there other things you want to achieve? If time and resources would permit, I would like to attend all dermatology conferences here and abroad. There is so much more to learn. Sub-specialization is also another thing I’d like to do in either Dermatologic Surgery or Pediatric Dermatology. Traveling the world with my family and friends is also a part of my dream list.
Leading a life of significance by helping others achieve their dreams is something non-medical and non-political that I’m working on…
Where do you get your strength or inspiration? Strength and inspiration first come from God, without Whom everything would not be possible. My children and husband provide the reason for which I do everything. My friends and family provide the support which allows me to achieve what I have set out to do. My colleagues in the medical practice in Iloilo City provide me with inspiration for what can be achieved in the future. I’m particularly grateful to my colleagues in the Philippine Dermatological Society for accepting me with open arms to the small community of dermatologists in Iloilo City.