Raya Constantino may have seemed destined to follow an academic path – specifically, to become a linguistics professor in the Philippines.
Instead, an entirely different career beckoned – and eventually would lure her to come to practice medicine in the area of Marshall, a town she said impressed her deeply on her first visit.
“People are friendlier, it seems,” she said. “They’re more open, and more accommodating.”
Constantino grew up surrounded by a vastly different environment, on the campus of the University of the Philippines at Manila, where her parents were professors of linguistics. Even so, her interest lay in other directions.
“I was more of a math person,” said Constantino, 35, who is launching her local practice in early September. “I almost became a math major and then I decided I wanted to go into medicine.”
All Constantino needed was to look at her grades to realize where she excelled.
“At school, I did better in the sciences,” Constantino said. “When we had a choice or an elective, I just decided to go with the science subjects more than with the language subjects – math and life sciences such as biology.”
Envisioning her own future, Constantino saw herself pursuing work that would involve a greater impact on people’s lives.
“Math would have meant being in front of computers or doing calculations for the rest of my life, and I couldn’t see myself doing that,” she said. “I wanted something more interactive with people, something broader that would be changing all the time. Medicine to me was much more interesting.”
Constantino received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1998 from the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City, Philippines. She received her medical degree in 2003 from the University of the Philippines Manila, and in 2004 received a graduate diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
In 2004, she was the doctor on call at a 24-hour urgent care clinic on the resort island of Aklan, Philippines, and for several months until early 2005 she served as the resident on duty for Q.C. St. Agnes General Hospital in Quezon City, Philippines, treating adult and pediatric patients at the emergency department.
For two years until early 2007, Constantino served as medical officer in the emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, a 1,000-bed hospital in Singapore.
In 2008, Constantino decided to pursue medical advancement in the United States.
“The training here is excellent,” she said. “I had the capacity to do it, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ … That’s when I really decided to broaden my horizons.”
The fact that her brother was working as a political aide in Chicago was “an added bonus,” she said.
In 2011, Constantino completed a residency in primary care internal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center at Farmington, Conn. In June, Constantino completed a fellowship in infectious disease at the University of California Irvine Medical Center at Orange, Calif.
Connecticut’s environment helped shape Constantino’s view of what she sought in an American community, and in the fall of 2012 she made her first visit to Marshall – and decided to return to practice internal medicine and fill a medical need.
“Some parts of the region we serve don’t have the immediate access to health care that they should,” said Mark A. Montross, Executive Director of the Oaklawn Medical Group. “Our intent is to have Dr. Constantino focus on some of these underserved areas while also providing services as an infectious-disease specialist for the hospital.”
In her spare time, Constantino hopes to be able to continue to indulge in her favorite outdoor activities, including hiking and running.
Constantino is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds medical licenses in California and Michigan. She has been licensed in advanced cardiac life support. She is a member of the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Disease Society of America.