March 2023 PLE topnotcher didn’t let heart disease stop her from succeeding

MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Aira Cassandra Castro clinched the top spot in the March 2023 Physician Licensure Examination (PLE). Unbeknownst to many, Dr. Aira deserves to be recognized not only for her academic achievements but also for how she used her illness as motivation to succeed.

Dr. Aira Cassandra Castro is March 2023 Physician Licensure Exam topnotcher
Dr. Aira Cassandra Castro is March 2023 Physician Licensure Exam topnotcher | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Aira Castro

The 25-year-old resident of Laoag City earned a rating of 89%, the highest among the 2,887 examinees of the March 2023 PLE. She’s a government scholar and graduated summa cum laude at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City, Ilocos Norte.

Despite having been a consistent academic achiever her entire life, she admitted she did not expect to be at the top of the PLE. “I did not expect to become the Top 1 but I tried. Still, I was surprised that I was Top 1 because the exam was difficult,” she said.

Dr. Aira strongly believes that anything is possible for those who dream big. As a scholar, she stated that anyone can become a doctor because there are numerous assistance and scholarship opportunities available. “If you want to be a doctor, you can do so, as long as you have the passion for it,” she said.

She added, “Nothing is impossible if you always believe in yourself.”

The weight of her belief was indeed so strong that it didn’t stop her from achieving her goal of becoming a doctor despite suffering from rheumatic heart disease. According to her longtime pediatrician, Dr. Patria Calupig-Demetillo, she was so proud of Dr. Aira’s achievement and how inspiring she is.

Dr. Demetillo revealed that Dr. Aira has been her patient since she was 4 years old for her monthly injection for her rheumatic fever. Her medications and treatment went on until she was 19 years old and was cleared by her pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Pia Malanyaon. According to Dr. Demetillio, being part of Dr. Aira’s journey made her feel fulfilled in her profession and even became an inspiration to many.

She wrote, “Honestly, I never thought she’d go this far, but I am not surprised. She was a shy and modest girl. But she has always been a good daughter and a very conscientious student, with big dreams of her own. I would usually ask how she’s faring in school whenever she visits me. Her mom would say that I am one of Aira’s inspirations to become a doctor. Wow! I can say that with her, I am fulfilled in my vocation. You are now an inspiration yourself, Aira!”

Dr. Aira stated in her Post-Graduate Internship Commencement Rite speech that her achievement is not only for her fulfillment but also a promise to help the community. She encouraged her colleagues to work for the whole community and change lives.

She said, “A promise to become doctors, not only for ourselves, not only for the sake of realizing our dreams but for the people. Let us be doctors who are part of the equation, who are part of the solution. Let us be doctors not only for individual patients but for our whole community, working hand-in-hand with them to achieve what is right, what is beneficial, and what is just. It is only in this way, can we say that our debt is fully paid; only in this way, can we say that our lives are truly changed.”

— Sally, The Summit Express

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