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  • Yucelverney Dauphine Matienzo Estrada III, MD

Dancing to the beat of a healthier Philippines

My life today is divided equally between passions. Two weeks every month, I am a general practitioner – one of only four doctors serving 29,000 people in Torrijos, a third class municipality in Marinduque. The other half of the month, I FLY.

Some people know me as a doctor. Others, as a dancer. Between the practice and performance, which calls to me stronger?

The dream of becoming a doctor was there ever since people began asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. As for dancing, it was just a way of making ends meet back in college, when I was a scholar at the university. I tried it, then it took over like a drug – I just couldn’t get it out of my system! It transformed into a real passion over the years, and eventually became part and parcel of who I was and who I wanted to be.

Yet the call to medicine remained strong. So I did what I had to do, the only way I knew how: I literally danced my way through medical school. My performances in concerts and television shows funded my books and school materials. During clerkship, choreographing departmental performances helped me acquire “fame” and leverage, in a sense – residents and consultants knew me more than my peers. I was able to refer patients faster, and they always kept an eye out for me.

In time, my life developed a rhythm that allowed the two aspects of my life to flow seamlessly. Dancing kept me sane despite the stress of clinical and academic work, while medicine gave me focus and purpose. Sure, I missed out on some aspects (rehearsals made nights out impossible!), but I didn’t mind, and both my classmates and clients understood my situation.

And so despite the challenges, I finally became the dancing doctor I aspired to be.

My life today is divided equally between passions. Two weeks every month, I am a general practitioner – one of only four doctors serving 29,000 people in Torrijos, a third class municipality in Marinduque. The severity of the health situation here has made me stay, despite pressure to enter residency and specialize. I had to become more than a regular doctor, as I shed off the idea that it was just a job. I did preventive medicine, as well as treat more serious illnesses in patients who couldn’t afford tertiary or private healthcare. I extended my help even for the other needs of patients, like light when the power is out; medicine for those who can’t afford it; and gift-giving during the holidays, to bring cheer especially to the children.

The other half of the month, I FLY. Going on the Leadership Journey (LJ) of Unilab Foundation (ULF) gave me a new perspective and pushed me to take risks. Last May, I became a licensed Zumba instructor. I had just come from the LJ and my renewed enthusiasm made me tick this off my list. It also strengthened my decision to venture into business.

Being an advocate of health and promoter of a healthy lifestyle, I invested and am now a proud owner of a dance and fitness club we call FLY. More than a dance studio, it’s a place to better oneself and keep healthy through different dance and skills classes. We also offer nutritional counseling and medical advice for people with health concerns. We created a venue in Manila where people can de-stress, be healthy and have fun at the same time.

More opportunities to marry my passions have since materialized. I was asked by a fellow LJ batch mate to work with her in the treatment of a form of Parkinsons disease, using dance as a sensory trick to relieve symptoms. We are also exploring the possibility of creating a dance program for Persons with Disability, another advocacy of ULF. If things fall into place, these can be steps towards merging dance and medicine in the Philippines.

So ask me again, which call is stronger? My experiences have proven that there is no conflict, only different avenues for me to be who I want to be. I am both healer and dancer - a dance doctor who saves lives, one step at a time.

Doc Yuge was a participant of the 5th run of Unilab Foundation’s Leadership Journey. He describes it as “a very unique and extraordinary experience that can inspire, reshape, guide and lead a physician of whatever level, specialty or position to achieve his goals, and along with it become an advocate of health for the Filipino people.”

FLY Healthhub is located at the 2nd floor of Birch Tower on Bocobo St., Manila.

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