When Raquel Fortun began her career in forensic pathology 13 years ago, it was hardly at the level of awareness the average person might have today, thanks to TV series like CSI. “I consider it as an achievement itself that now people are listening to what I say,” she says. “In the past year I’ve had four cases where a legal decision was rendered, and apparently a lot of weight was given to the opinion or testimony I gave. I believe I contributed to the administration of justice. I feel I also raised the bar.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2004, she was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Women of the Philippines, then as a Metrobank Outstanding Teacher in 2006. She realizes she has a legacy to bequeath. “I really would like to write and thus pass on what I know to others, especially the younger doctors coming after me.” We ask what one thing she would most like to change about herself and she answers: “Sometimes, I think I ought to dump the idealism, face up to reality and fly off to some foreign land and seek honest-to-goodness employment as a forensic pathologist.”
We’re grateful she retains her idealism. It’s because her work immerses her in the lives of the dead, that Raquel appreciates being alive. “Call me morbid, but I keep that in mind a lot. So I try to enjoy life as much as I can while making it meaningful. It’s like trying to make sure one’s brief stay here has to be worth something. Otherwise it is such a waste.” Her dedication to her practice is exemplary and our justice system is better off because of it.
(First published in Marie Claire, November 2008; Photo by Lilen Uy)