ON HER Facebook profile picture, Dr. Venil Lovely Bolambao added the words “2015, you are my year.”

After topping the Physician Licensure Examinations in February this year, it seems Bolambao has every right to make that claim.

Bolambao, a graduate of the Southwestern University (SWU), ranked first among the 10 students who topped this year’s exams. She scored 88.33 percent.

Aside from Bolambao, Mark Malalay Ando and Rodrigo Go Monleon Jr. also made it to the top 10, ranking third and eighth, respectively. Both students are graduates of Cebu Doctors’ University.

A graduate from a Cebu university has placed first in three of the last four medical boards. Before Bolambao, first place in the licensure exams, which are held twice each year, went to Dr. Raymund Martin Sia Li in August 2014 and Dr. Blake Warren Coloma Ang in August 2013. Both graduated from the Cebu Institute of Medicine (CIM).

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, Bolambao said she didn’t expect to reach the top 10, because during the exams, she had trouble with some subjects like anatomy and surgery.

The youngest of two children, Bolambao is the daughter of a retired bank manager and a businesswoman.

Bolambao, who hails from Barangay Bulacao, Talisay City, finished her bachelor’s degree in the Cebu Normal University, taking up nursing. She graduated cum laude in 2007.

She finished medicine, magna cum laude, in SWU last year.

Bolambao dedicated her achievement to her grandmother, who passed away five years ago.

“It was our dream that I would become a doctor. Before she died, I promised her that I would become one,” she said.

During her five-month preparation for the exams, Bolambao enrolled in a review center and focused on studying from Sunday to Friday night.

But from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, Bolambao said, she closed her books to have fun with her friends or dedicated some of her time to reading the Bible.

When not studying, Bolambao said she indulged herself by watching a Korean movie or TV series.

Dr. Peter Aznar, dean of SWU’s College of Medicine, told Sun.Star Cebu that the university was “very happy” after hearing that Bolambao topped the board exams. The last time SWU topped the Physician Licensure Examination was in 1986.

Aznar said that aside from Bolambao, 18 other medicine graduates from SWU who took the exams for the first time also passed. Overall, SWU got an 84 percent passing rate.

Aznar said that SWU plans to provide an incentive to Bolambao.

As for Bolambao, she plans to take a well-deserved rest before she proceeds with her career as a doctor. She plans to specialize in Internal Medicine.

Asked for her advice to future doctors, Bolambao summed it up in three points.

“First, never give up on your dreams. If somebody says you can’t do it, tell them otherwise. Second, give your best shot in everything that you do and never settle for mediocrity. And lastly, never forget to look back on the people who helped you along the way and do not forget God,” she said.