Being a young man with responsibilities that include being a husband, father while studying medicine is no easy task but Raymond Poe Laulu has overcome the odds.
Married to Helen Tuitagaloa Laulu, the 24-year-old father of Karl James Laulu, of Apia has graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, capping off a tough journey that’s taken six challenging years.
Dr. Laulu was among the Medical students who graduated during the N.U.S graduation on Friday.
“I never really knew how tough it was until I started my clinical stage,” Dr. Laulu recalled. “Ideally everything was fine in our pre-clinical years which is just studying, long hours in the library but we never really knew what medicine was truly about until we started up in the hospital.
“We were bombarded by our senior supervisors during our ward rounds about certain questions and that’s where it really hit me that I need to take a step back.
“It showed me that I really didn’t know as much as I thought I knew back at school, and then it really pushed us all to keep on studying.”
There is also more to life than studying.
“I initially started my journey as a single man but I met my wife in medical school who is a year behind me. We had our child while I was starting my clinical years and it was quite tough,” he said.
“Managing to get up early in the morning to be there before my seniors and also at the same time making sure I don’t neglect my fatherly duties was tough especially when certain family issues came up. I had to try and balance whether or not I should come to work these days or to stay home and help Helen with baby.”
But the weight was happily shared by his loved ones. Family members who simply baby sat - including his father Karl Snr and mother Kukuana Laulu - when needed and those showed unlimited amounts of support. Looking back, Dr. Laulu says that although the journey has been challenging, it has been worth it.
“First and foremost I would like to acknowledge our Heavenly Father who is the source of all knowledge and strength and I wouldn’t be here today without him,” he said. “Secondly is my family; My mom, dad, wife, son, brother (and his small family), uncles, aunties, and not forgetting my grandmothers Laufa Eli and Lave Laulu.
“They molded me into the man I am today and I couldn’t have done anything without them. Without them all I wouldn’t have been able to graduate and serve the Samoan people.
“My family sacrificed a lot to make sure I stayed on track with graduating on time and I have finally reached that goal. They made my workload so much easier.”
According to the young doctor, this line of work requires a lot of time management and nothing can be left to be done at a later time.
“As doctors we are required to always be there because we are dealing with people’s lives,” he said. “We can’t just say ‘I have to go quickly and check up on this family issue at home’. Things can change real quickly and the value of human life is really important.”
Whether it be the non stop reading requirements or the hassle of translating medical terms into Samoan, Dr. Laulu toughed it out through it all with his wife by his side.
“In order to be a competent doctor it requires a lot of reading, there are so many disease processes that are linked to just one disease.”
“In the six years that I have been in medicine, I can say that I don’t even know half of what I could know.”
Dr. Laulu is just happy that he can take a small break from the sleepless nights.
“Sometimes I would come home late and I would be too tired to eat so I’d go straight to bed and then wake up the next morning at 6:30 and then repeat that cycle,” he said. “If I’m lucky I would get 6 – 7 hours but even when I’m lucky the little guy would take some of that sleep time away especially when he’s sick.
“But none of it compares to what my wife took on to make sure I got some rest. She dealt with a lot of sleepless nights too.”
Asked about his future plans, Dr. Laulu is just anxious to start helping people.
“The immediate future plans are to complete some paper work so I could start working straight away but hopefully I would be able to further my education,” he said. “I’m interested in covering areas where our hospital is really lacking right now which will probably be in the emergency department.
“I just want to be able to help the people; even if they do not need any medical care and just someone to talk to I would be happy to help in that way too. That’s all part of what a doctor does.”
According to Dr. Laulu, being able to help someone is the most rewarding feeling.
“After tending to a patient and I see them later when they’re all better with a smile on their face walking with family…. That sight is payment enough for me. The only thing that counts is being able to help people in need.”