Member of the Month: Domingo Caparas, Jr., M.D.
International medical graduate wants to serve home and adopted countries
After getting his undergrad and medical degrees, completing a residency, and practicing for three years at a veteran’s medical center all in his native country of the Philippines, Domingo Caparas, Jr., M.D., came to the U.S. to become a physician. During his first two years in the U.S. he got his medical license, became certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, and worked in clinical trials related to drug and vaccine development. He is now chief resident for the family medicine residency program at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas.
Dr. Caparas, affectionately known by the people around him as “Jojo,” is very close to his family, despite the distance between them. His parents and one sister currently reside in Los Angeles and his other sisters are in the Philippines and Singapore. His home country remains close to his heart, as he hopes to return once finishing his medical training here to partake in medical missions. “This is the best way to pay my respects and responsibilities to both nations,” says Caparas.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
I have always been inspired by the high quality of care family physicians render and this I see lived out by my mentors and faculty. As a medical professional committed to reaching that same level, I chose to train in family medicine, so I can provide definitive care for a broad range of illness and wellness issues at the first point of contact and take responsibility for providing ongoing care. My current training offers a structured, flexible curriculum that encourages me to make independent decisions and deliver high-quality care. I am fortunate to be in academically-oriented training which allows me to develop both as a clinician and a scientist. I am happy to train in a program that is culturally inclusive, that has a congenial atmosphere, and that has supported my development outside of the hospital.
What are your future goals when you go into practice?
Going forward, I see myself focusing on nurturing my passion in palliative medicine and academic medicine. I have no doubt that my past and current training will actively bring my potential as an excellent family medicine physician into fruition. Also, when given the chance, after training here in the U.S., I definitely will go back to the Philippines to do medical missions and share what I have experienced and learned here. But, I’d still continue my training and practice here. In this way, I am able to still give back to my roots but at the same time be thankful to the American education and training given to me. This is the best way to pay my respects and responsibilities to both nations.
It is important for me to be a member of AAFP and TAFP because:
Aside from pursuing the aforementioned academic goals, I am also a resident representative for the TAFP Commission on Public Health, Clinical Affairs, and Research and the STFM Committee on Public Health and Medical Education, as well as a member of the AAFP. Being in these organizations, I am able to network with fellow family physicians, young and not-so-young, thus, updating my knowledge and skills in the process. My experiences in joining these prestigious organizations taught me how to draw out my natural ability in collaboration, how to work with my limitations and strengths, and how to work with others towards a goal greater than myself.
What is the most memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
Every patient encounter is essential and is a source of worthwhile experience and learning. Years and years of patient encounters helped me gain maturity in handling more complex medical and social issues. My interactions with the veteran patients allowed me to know their families, dreams, and aspirations and taught me that the doctor-patient relationship does not begin and end in the consultation room. Although many patients were struggling financially, they would go out of their way to show me their gratitude through sandwiches and bananas. Often, I would be thanked with a heartfelt hug and tears. However, I felt it was a privilege for me to serve our country’s unsung heroes, honoring in my own way the unconditional sacrifice they had made and deepening my respect for the unique circumstances of every patient.
What keeps you going during residency when the going gets tough?
As physicians, we are subject to different forms of stress on a day-to-day basis, whether it is from colleagues, family, work, or the patients themselves. I am very thankful that my education and training have given me enough experiences in handling different stressful situations. The best way for me to manage stress or pressure is prioritizing my responsibilities so that I can have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished. In this way, I am able to respond to the situation and handle it so it doesn’t become stressful.
When things get really tough, I pray and meditate and seek the advice of co-residents, friends, family, and mentors. It is hard to live on your own during residency training. I am fortunate to have a very supportive group of friends, a strong Filipino community, an accommodating family medicine department and a loving family whose unwavering support I always feel when greatly needed.
What advice would you offer to other residents?
In my young career as a medical professional here in the U.S., you will find a person who strives for medical excellence and quality care, and a physician who brings to the fore a competitive professional expertise. I encourage and would like to inspire the other residents to be an advocate for our patients and to embody a deep sense of respect for the well-being of every patient. That no matter where we are and who you serve, we can all be channels of healing to others and be bridges of better medical care through the individuals, organizations, and the communities that we all serve.
What is something fun and unrelated to medicine about you?
I am also largely involved in developing other aspects of my personality in order to balance the “toughness” of residency life. I love to cook for friends and family. I like to run and play badminton. I like to travel. It gives me a broader perspective of things, in general, when you get to see other places, meet other people, and experience other cultures - eat their food, sing their songs, dance their dances. It’s a really nice and enriching experience. One thing that I really love is singing! I have always thought that music and medicine go together. And it does, actually. Currently, I am an active member of the Midland-Odessa Symphony Chorale. Singing allows me to be in touch with my emotions and be expressive in a different way. Just like medicine, as you sometimes have to tailor the way you communicate with the people around you. I love doing all these things because they somehow balance my persona and prevent me from being one dimensional.
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.