Love life and don’t give up

Written by UP Media and Public Relations Office

Photo collage courtesy of Hannah Patricia Bringas.

Hannah Patricia E. Bringas
Doctor of Dental Medicine
UP College of Dentistry

I am Hannah Patricia E. Bringas, a graduate of Doctor of Dental Medicine of the UP College of Dentistry. I was supposed to graduate from the course back in 2017 but several interventions contributed to my delay.

During the preparations for the Lantern Parade 2013, my dominant (right) hand was injured by a cutter blade in a freak accident. I was immediately rushed by my seniors and my friends to the PGH Emergency Department as I was already losing a lot of blood. The hospital staff performed several tests to check if there were any internal damages, especially on the nerves, and fortunately, it all seemed okay at the time. We all thought that it was just a simple skin laceration that needed to be sutured and closed shut. I was dismissed and I returned to my classes with a bandage on my hand the next day. The unfortunate accident happened in the second semester of my first year in Dentistry Proper, while I was enrolled in the Dentistry 131.1 (Operative Dentistry I) laboratory course. This course is only offered once a year and it is a prerequisite to several of the courses in the succeeding pre-clinical years. Even now, I could recall some laboratory sessions when I struggled to finish an exercise as my bandage kept falling off or my wound suddenly bled out of nowhere, but I continued to participate in classes and even attended the Lantern Parade itself.

During the Christmas break, I started to notice some difficulty in moving my right hand, but I thought that it was just part of the healing process, and it would return to normal after a few days or weeks.

However, one day, after our anatomy class, I consulted with my professor, an orthopedic surgeon, regarding my struggle in lifting my right ring and little fingers on their own and in using my hand to grip objects. I told him about my accident and asked for any input. That was when he informed me that my injury might have resulted in the transection of a few of the tendons in my right hand. He referred me to one of his colleagues for further assessment.

My surgeon knew that I was taking up Dentistry and he warned me that if I did not immediately undergo surgery to restore function and to prevent atrophy of my arm muscles, I might have to say goodbye to my dream of becoming a dentist. So, I went through the operation. I had to wear a cast for 6 weeks while the semester was still ongoing, and I was required to attend physical therapy sessions for several months after the cast was removed. As a result, I was unable to perform our laboratory exercises in Dent 131.1. I was advised by the then College Secretary, who was also the faculty coordinator of the said course, to file for dropping to avoid getting a failing grade. I was given the chance to still attend the lectures, while struggling to write with my left hand or using my tablet just to take down notes. I was even offered an oral examination because I was struggling to write legibly.

I already knew by then that I would not be able to graduate on time, that I would be delayed, that I could not join my friends and batchmates. It was painful, both physically and emotionally. My parents even asked me if I wanted to leave Dentistry when they saw and felt how defeated I was, and thought of how my injury would definitely affect my future. It had gotten to the point that I would take my injury as a test to see if I really did belong in Dentistry. However, I never thought of quitting. I saw this hurdle as an opportunity to strive harder. I was even able to perform well academically the next semester, and finished with a GWA of a “College Scholar”.

I re-enrolled in the same laboratory course the following academic year but had to endure pain and discomfort on my right hand while still undergoing physical therapy. Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the requirements in the course on time, as the laboratory procedures then required double or even triple my previous efforts, given my injury. I received a failing mark on the laboratory course and had to wait another year to re-enroll again.

I was already delayed for two years in the pre-clinical courses, but I made sure to never receive a failing grade on any theoretical subject. I practiced performing my laboratory requirements a lot, so as not to fail ever again. I also worked as a student assistant for a year during my pre-clinical years.

As a clinician, one cause of my delay in completing the requirements was due to repeated cases because of patients’ non-compliance even with the treatments already nearing completion. I, however, attended to all my patients, other clinical requirements, research, and community service in the best way I could, despite constant suffering through pain and discomfort in my right hand.

During the semesters within the pandemic, I lived alone near the College to attend to all the remaining requirements that I could accomplish via remote laboratory sessions, online case discussions, and limited face-to-face simulation exercises. However, a few of those remaining requirements still needed to be accomplished on live patients, so I still waited for the re-opening of the clinics last September. Once the clinics re-opened, despite a few problems encountered, I did not stop until I was able to complete my requirements and finally graduate.

While attending to my classes and requirements, I was a shift head for several semesters, and later on, became the head and the student council representative of the resident clinicians. I served a few years in the Dentistry Student Council, joined and performed with the members of GrooveDex, was one of the founding members of the UPCD Occlusal Harmonies, and participated in several dental missions and served the community through the Dental Health Brigade.

Even now as I practice for the board exam, my hand still hurts every now and then. The large scar is still there and reminds me every day of what I have lost, and of what I have also gained through all I have experienced. They taught me not to give up. They taught me to appreciate every second. They taught me to love life, and that there is always light at the end of a very dark tunnel. These lessons are what I will carry with me as I face the next chapter of my life.


Written by Dr. Hannah Patricia E. Bringas for the UP Pagtatapos 2023 microsite.