The Official Magazine of the UP College of Medicine Community
Finding Strength in Research: The Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Award
By Patricia Therese de Claro, UPCM 2024Research has become increasingly important in our society today. From COVID-19 vaccine development to point-of-care tests before prescribing antibiotics, research provides evidence for medical practitioners to make judicious clinical decisions and provide quality healthcare. Medicine is indeed advancing so quickly, heightening the challenge to stay updated with guidelines and procedures, among many other aspects in this field.Back in a time when research was still starting out with modern advancements, Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos already found her passion in research. She filled her life with this purpose, from holding positions in various organizations, to spearheading national programs in ophthalmology. With her unfortunate passing last year, her classmates in the UP College of Medicine Class of 1965 set out to keep her legacy alive through the creation of a namesake award for pioneering individuals in research.Even after retirement, Dr. Santos continued to play an active role in the field of medical research. With over 50 years of research experience to her name, she became a mentor to students, residents, and fellows in community ophthalmology. Photo from UPManilaChannel [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbxexofGyPg&t=17s].Dr. Santos’ Early Life and EducationDr. Santos was the eldest of 9 children of a government employee and a teacher. At the age of 3, she contracted tuberculosis of the spine which progressed to a back deformity that other children teased her about. Nevertheless, she persevered to excel in school to pursue a medical degree. Despite her family’s financial status, her parents were adamant to send her to medical school. However, the young Dr. Santos promised to help send her brothers and sisters to school when she finished her medical degree.When she graduated from the UP College of Medicine, Dr. Santos was accepted as a research fellow, and later, as a resident in the Department of Ophthalmology of the Philippine General Hospital – an unpopular field at the time. She joined the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) when she was forced to stop her residency training due to a recurrence of her illness. Despite not finishing formal residency training, Dr. Santos practiced ophthalmology through various provincial missions and out-of-hospital teach-ins. Through her perseverance, she was certified by the Philippine Board of Ophthalmology and even became a board examiner later on in her career.In her simple and humble ways, Dr. Santos was spiritual, compassionate, and trustworthy. Former UPCM Dean Cecil Tomas, a colleague of Dr. Santos, shares that she was also selfless, caring, responsible, and “generous to a fault” – always concerned for the well-being of her family, friends, and classmates. Dr. Santos possessed many hobbies as well, such as gardening, watercolor painting, and singing.Dr. Santos was a lifelong learner, finishing her Masters in Hospital Administration at the UP College of Public Health in 1981 and receiving a Diploma in Community Ophthalmology at the University of London International Center for Eye Health in 1984. She also received a UP-Fogarty scholarship for a Diploma in Bioethics in 2003. Dr. Santos was also very nationalistic, service-oriented, and committed to democracy. She took a stand for the principles and ideas she believed in that became issues of her time, most especially academic freedom.Dr. Santos in Research and Medical ServiceAs a researcher, Dr. Santos was competent and committed to serve. She was a PERI University Researcher from 1966-2007, Assistant Director from 1986-1988, and Clinical Associate Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology until her retirement in 2006. Even after, she regularly attended conferences and mentored students, residents, and fellows in community ophthalmology. She served as Chair of the UPCM Ethics Review Board from 2005-2011 and remained a member until 2020. Dr. Santos was in two committees of the Philippine Health Research Board (PHREB) and was Founding Chair of the National Committee for Sight Preservation and Eye Care Program Consultant for Helen Keller International and Christoffel-Blindenmission (Christian Blind Mission).Few ophthalmologists practiced in the provinces during the 1970s; patients usually had to travel to Manila for treatment. Dr. Santos saw the need for an ophthalmologist in Batac City where there was a high incidence of blindness. Selfless and generous as she was, Dr. Santos bought instruments with her own funds and visited Ilocos Norte regularly to see patients. In 1982, Dr. Santos proposed a modified residency training program that would train ophthalmologists in provinces, who would then serve for six years. As Former UPCM Dean Cecil Tomas shares, “This was probably the greatest service she did – the training of selected ophthalmologists in various regions.” In 1990, DOH appointed Dr. Santos as its Technical Consultant for the Prevention of Blindness Program where she conducted the National Blindness Survey with a community approach. In 2004, she was awarded the “Dangal ng Bayan'' by the Philippine Civil Service Commission and the “Outstanding Alumna in Community Service” in 2005 by the UP Medical Alumni Society.With the recently approved “Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Award,” the legacy of Dr. Santos shall remain forever etched in the stones of time. Photo from UPManilaChannel [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbxexofGyPg&t=17s].Research in the UPCM SettingDr. Santos was one of the few medical students interested in research during her time. Slowly, however, as research evolved, UPCM students also became more interested in the field. However, Dr. Jacinto Blas Mantaring shares that currently, there are few research opportunities available to students save for the IDC 211 projects with limited funding. Research grants for the faculty are provided by the University, College, and NIH depending on the availability of funds.Research is introduced formally in the UPCM curriculum as IDC courses from Learning Unit 3 to Learning Unit 6, as well as in select courses like Pharmacology. Dr. Mantaring also mentioned that when students start to rotate in the clinical departments, application of the principles of evidence-based medicine are integrated into journal clubs.Dr. Mantaring suggested improvements in students’ interest in research by endorsing dual degree programs in the college such as the MD-PhD and MD-MCE (Masters in Clinical Epidemiology) degrees, the latter currently being finalized. Another strategy that Dr. Mantaring suggested is to increase available funding for student-initiated research or provide incentives for students’ research to be published or presented internationally. UPCM students would also benefit from more role models among the faculty, so they can be encouraged to join faculty research as assistants or observers; role models like Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos who relentlessly fought to integrate research into her life as a student, as well as in her medical practice.The Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial AwardThe award was recently approved this 2021 with funding coming from the UPCM Class 1965 Trust Fund. When asked about the inspiration behind this award, Former UPCM Dean Cecil Tomas mentioned, “The entire life of Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos was a commitment to the betterment of her countrymen by reducing blindness in the underserved areas and by helping provide trained ophthalmologists in these areas.” This commitment to her goals was paralleled by her professionalism; she did not let her physical deformity hinder her from becoming a competent researcher and ophthalmologist. As Former Dean Tomas said, “She stood as tall as or taller than the other delegates and speakers and she was very much respected and admired by her colleagues.” Despite limited resources, her perseverance in preventing blindness and the success of her programs showed that much can be done with the purest intentions.The UPCM Class of 1965 was greatly saddened by Dr. Santos’ sudden death on November 13, 2020. She was well loved and greatly admired by her classmates. They wished to honor her memory with a research award in the UPCM in her name. Her classmates, along with other alumni and friends, donated to the award fund deposited in the UPMASA Perpetual Endowment Fund, and thus, this accolade was born.Guidelines for the AwardsThere are two awards available, one for the students and one for the faculty of UPCM. The award for Best Student Research Paper motivates students to pursue high-impact research work for publishing in peer-reviewed international and local journals, while the award for Meritorious Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals encourages the faculty to publish their work in indexed peer-reviewed journals that adhere to high standards of scholarship.The UPCM Research Implementation and Development Office (RIDO), under the Associate Dean for Research, shall evaluate award applications. The following criteria will be considered for Best Student Research Paper entries: significance of the research, methodologic rigor, and plans for dissemination and publication. Similarly, the Award for Meritorious Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals will be judged based on its publication in a PubMed-indexed or Scopus-indexed journal, publication in a Web of Science indexed journal, and its impact factor. The research paper must also be registered in the UPCM RIDO, technically and ethically approved by UPM Research Ethics Board, and registered in UPM Research Grants Administration Office.The Best Student Research Paper Award shall be granted to one student per year, and the grantee will receive $500.00. On the other hand, the Award for Meritorious Publications shall be granted to two clinical faculty members per year, the awardees each receiving $550.00.A call to actionDr. Evangeline Olivar Santos was definitely no stranger to research, and her many accomplishments in ophthalmology serve as an important reminder to UPCM students that anything can be achieved despite obstacles and perceived difficulties.Evidence-based medicine can be used for clinical practice, developing guidelines and policies, and writing research proposals. We must find ways to entice UPCM students to pursue research in medical school and in their professional careers. Without researchers, there would be no innovations and improvements to the medical field. Thus, we must add focus to research, as it is a necessary skill and discipline that makes a UPCM graduate a holistic, six-star physician. Hopefully, with improvements in the curriculum and an increase of funding towards research, UPCM can produce more research-oriented students and faculty, and reach its fullest potential in contributing to the development of medicine, especially in the national setting.
Sowing Seeds of Innovation: The ECE 197/ChE 297 Experience
By Jonathan Chan, UPCM 2022In an unprecedented partnership, the College of Medicine in UP Manila and the College of Engineering in UP Diliman launched their first ever joint course offering in AY 2020-2021. Titled “ECE 197: Introduction to Systems Design for Healthcare” for undergraduates and “ChE 297: Process Systems Design for Healthcare” for graduate students, the course was offered to students with either engineering or medical backgrounds.“Identify, Invent, and Implement”. ECE 197 and ChE 297 was attended by students from the UP College of Engineering and the UP College of Medicine.It was an interdisciplinary classroom handled by Engr. Roxanne De Leon, Dr. Richard Hizon, and Dr. Bryan Alamani from the UP College of Engineering. They were joined by Dr. Lourdes Tejero of the UPM Technology Transfer and Business Development Office (TTBDO) and Dr. Edward Wang who is affiliated with both the Department of Orthopedics in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the UP Surgical Innovations and Biotechnology Laboratory (SIBOL).The course was conceived after conversations between engineers and medical doctors within UP SIBOL. UP SIBOL is a partnership that started two years ago in 2019 between the UP College of Medicine and the UP College of Engineering. Under this partnership, there are several teams working on different projects. They realized that in order to encourage a deeper collaboration between Engineering and Medicine, the interdisciplinary thinking required to work at the interface of both fields must be nurtured early on. Preparations were well on their way with how the logistics of a combined course will be handled; that was until the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans.In the chaos of the ensuing months, the UP SIBOL team remained resolute in their mission to bridge the two fields together. Indeed, the collaboration was fruitful as the team accelerated the design of several different projects such as Sanipod, a self-contained disinfecting cubicle, whose prototype is already in use in PGH. The rapid adoption of remote learning also gave them an avenue to push through with the course despite the pandemic. The collaboration is even more urgent now since fresh solutions to address our problem at hand in an effective, interdisciplinary manner are of paramount importance.ECE 197/ChE 297 was attended by undergraduate & graduate students from the UP College of Engineering as well as medical students from the UP College of Medicine. It follows the Stanford Biodesign process that outlines 3 phases –Identify, Invent, and Implement— with two specific stages performed during each phase. The course focused on the first phase of the process that consists of Needs Finding and Needs Screening.COVID Task Force Research Projects of UP SIBOL which were made possible through the support of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.Essentially, the purpose of this phase is to identify a problem whose resolution will yield the greatest value to all stakeholders. The course aimed to help students along this journey in two stages. The first part consisted of a case series where different speakers talked about the translational medicine process. In this part of the course, there were also discussions on bioethics, Intellectual Property (IP) law, and technology transfer.The second part was where the students put it all together— a capstone design project where groups of three students focused on a subfield of medicine to identify an unmet need. The students were divided according to interest and combined together to form groups consisting of a medical student, an engineering major, and a graduate student.At the outset, it may seem like a daunting experience to work with people from different fields. However, Engr. De Leon said in an interview that each individual brought with them a unique perspective and their own way of tackling problems. This sentiment was echoed by Nick Cumigad, a student from Class 2023 who took the elective: “It has been fun to work with engineers for the whole semester of ECE 197. The most important insight from this course that I have learned was [that] no idea is too farfetched to be realized."“No Idea is too farfetched to be realized,” The UP SIBOL challenges minds for the innovation of surgical devices adapted to the health needs of Filipinos.The success of all groups in the elective was because of, not in spite, of the interdisciplinary nature of the discussions. The medical students brought with them biological knowledge and field experience, while the engineers provided the technical skills to design novel solutions.In a virtual interview, Dr. Wang was delighted with how the groups were learning and collaborating since, according to him, that is how we should be tackling problems in the real world—through a holistic perspective. Engr. De Leon was also surprised at how one group was able to identify a problem one UP SIBOL team was currently working on. It was a testament to how effective the program was in imparting interdisciplinary thinking to students.One limitation of the course, however, was the purely virtual setting. The elective may have been more fruitful had the students met in person and seen the current innovations that the UP SIBOL team have been working on. Engr. De Leon and Dr. Wang expressed their desire to hold future classes onsite, and tackle the next stages of the Biodesign process.In the meantime, the UP SIBOL team has launched the Biomedical Immersion in Health-Related Industries (BINHI) as a pilot immersion program for students. This was offered to students who want a more in-depth experience in the biodesign process. Students chosen to be part of BINHI will have the opportunity to learn theoretical knowledge and practical skills in health research, and take part in UP SIBOL and its ongoing flagship projects.It is the hope of UP SIBOL that all these initiatives will spark in students a deeper interest in research at the interface of Engineering and Medicine. This close cooperation is envisioned to foster better collaboration between the two fields and translate to innovative medical products by our homegrown engineers and doctors. One can envision a local tech startup arising from this partnership, which can then manufacture state-of-the art biomedical devices for our patients that are truly for Filipinos, by Filipinos.
A Small Step for Med Students, A Big LEAP for Juan
By Joseph Romeo Paner, UPCM 2026Last July 16, the Learning Enhancement in Anatomy Program (LEAP) took off as 151 Class 2025 students finally set foot in the halls of the UP College of Medicine for the first time since the pandemic started. This optional bridging program offered the students a chance to demonstrate and reinforce what they had learned about human anatomy throughout the online academic year. To circumvent the limitations presented by the pandemic, the UPCM administration and faculty devised LEAP and implemented the program during the midyear.Scalpel please! UPCM Class of 2025 underwent the face-to-face Learning Enhancement in Anatomy Program (LEAP), last July 14-30, 2021. This opportunity was implemented by the UPCM Administration and the faculty and staff of the Department of Anatomy.Preparing for the Big LEAPA hands-on anatomy course provides an invaluable learning experience that is absent in a digital dissection. For example, the actual human body exhibits anatomical variations that are not accounted for in on-screen learning. To bridge this gap with LEAP, UPCM wasted no time getting approval for holding limited face-to-face classes from the Commission on Higher Education as mandated in the CHED-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular 2021-001.Several students were filled with excitement upon hearing the news of the program’s approval. Apart from learning anatomy with actual cadavers, it was also an opportunity to finally engage with their professors and fellow students in person. Led by Ms. Arlyn Adlawan as their president, the Class of 2025 pitched the idea of a bridging program to the Dean and the Dean’s Management Team during the College Town Hall Meeting last November 2020. The class then took part in the planning of LEAP by giving their insights, feedback, and concerns regarding the proposed program. The efforts of the Class 2025 Council Officers were critical for information gathering and dissemination as part of the administrative work and decision-making process.The preparation for the LEAP program was quite a logistical undertaking. First and foremost, participating students had to be fully vaccinated before the start of the program. Coordinating with the Dean and College Secretary, students residing in or near the National Capital Region were given the opportunity to be vaccinated in the Philippine General Hospital or the Sta. Ana Hospital, Manila. For those who were unable to avail of this, the UPCM admin provided a letter of request addressed to concerned LGUs for the vaccination of the endorsed medical students. The National COVID-19 Vaccination Operation Center Advisory No. 29 released last April 12 states that medical students rotating in approved hospitals shall be vaccinated as part of Priority A1.The shared learnings from #LEAP2025 were insurmountable and effective. This program shows that despite the current conditions of medical education, the desire to learn and to serve has not wavered and will continue to thrive.Some students also had to straighten out their travel back to NCR as well as living arrangements. Coming from Puerto Princesa, Ms. Jeanine Bianca Lastino had to set her flight schedule and accommodations for the entire program’s duration herself. She also braced herself mentally for the reality in NCR. "I had to condition myself to be mindful of the different risks being in an area with a drastically different COVID profile to where I had been staying at for [the] majority of the pandemic," she said.Aside from these, Class 2025 also coordinated with the Office of Student Affairs regarding students who needed dormitory accommodations. They even arranged their own daily meals wherein they opened a call to their batchmates who knew food suppliers. After choosing suppliers based on menu and quotation, their class made an order for their preferred weekly food set. Lastly, Class 2025 conducted an internal solicitation drive to raise funds for their classmates who were most affected by the schedule changes. These students included those who needed to rebook their flights and accommodations.Over and Under the CrossbarTo ensure everyone's safety, the faculty followed safety precautions approved by both CHED and DOH. In partnership with the Department of Anatomy, the PGH Hospital Infection Control Unit conducted a safety protocol orientation and provided copies of the guidelines to the class. Ms. Sheila Ozaeta, the UPM COVID-19 Coordinator, arranged the students' pre- and post-dissection COVID-19 RT-PCR swabs. In compliance with the preexisting safety regulations in Calderon Hall, everyone entering was required to fill out a health declaration form which is conveniently available on the UPCM website.With LU4 becoming imminent, the journey of this new batch of doctors-in-training continues. Surely, 2025 will storm on, and they will relentlessly #DareToBeXXV.The faculty also thoroughly planned the physical layout of the program. Stations were divided among all the available rooms of Calderon and access to sanitizing stations was ensured in each room. Every student received their schedules and room assignments beforehand to streamline the workflow. They also acquired COVID-19 kits containing additional face masks and shields.For the program, which lasted from July 16 to July 30, the faculty split the class into two batches―one for each week. Each batch was further divided into subgroups of five students to control traffic in the stations. The faculty placed the stations in various rooms of Calderon Hall, including those in the second floor up to the third floor.In stark contrast to the typical dissection experience, the students arrived to cadavers already prosected by the Department of Anatomy. Set-ups were provided for students to practice their clinical skills in doing procedures such as thoracentesis, ophthalmoscopy, and endoscopy. The UPCM faculty unveiled its prowess in medical education technology through Anatomage Table, a table with a touch screen that reconstructs individual structures in accurate 3D, allowing visualization of the human body as they would in a fresh cadaver. Dr. Jose V. Tecson III, an associate professor of the Department of Anatomy, even lent his virtual reality headset to the entire batch for an immersive, three-dimensional dissection. All these set-ups truly enriched the class' understanding of human anatomy.Class 2025 likewise faced unexpected challenges participating in the program. Considering the welfare of the students, the faculty had to postpone the start of the program due to inclement weather, and students exposed to floodwaters were given prophylaxis for leptospirosis. Most notably, they had to end the program early due to the increasing threat of the new COVID-19 Delta variant which eventually raised the NCR's restriction level to ECQ just a few days after the program ended. Dr. Tecson reported that no faculty, staff, and students developed COVID-19 symptoms during or after the program.UPCM 2025 pursued all opportunities to get #VaccToSchool! Last July 2021, students of the UPCM Class of 2025 received their COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Sta. Ana Hospital and PGH in Manila.Looking back at LEAPDissection is a memorable milestone in a medical student's journey. Flaunting their newly-bought scrubs and greaseless scalpels, students looked forward to getting a hands-on, deep dive into the human body. However, with the pandemic, the national education system had to make use of whatever’s available and resorted to alternative learning platforms.LEAP 2025 proves that with proactive planning with health experts and by strictly enforcing guidelines and protocols, it is possible to transition, albeit slowly, from the alternative virtual learning to an ideal face-to-face set-up. It goes without saying that learning through actual, face-to-face encounters is integral for professions dealing with actual people such as medicine. To be a competent physician, one must have a real-world experience in both basic and clinical aspects of medicine. With this, we all can build on the experience of LEAP 2025 as we prepare and hope for the future of medical education.
Innovations Against The Information Epidemic: Medical Professionals on Social Media
By Carl Bognot, UPCM 2024“Dok, nabasa ko sa Facebook…” These are words that many doctors hear from patients, family, and friends during consultations or conversations outside of the clinic. These are words that may sound shallow upon first hearing them but signal to us that people do not want to remain ignorant about health. In fact, they seek to know more about it and are taking the initiative to read about it where it is most accessible to them -- on social media. Given the highly accessible nature of the information online, are they correct or appropriate? Are people beneficiaries or victims of information on social media?This is one of the issues that doctors like Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan aim to address by being on social media. Dr. Isip-Tan is known by many for her online persona “The Endocrine Witch” or “Dok Bru,” and she shared with her insights regarding the use of social media as a medical professional in an interview with InSPIRE Magazine.Dr. Isip-Tan realized how rampant misconceptions about health are on social media and she wants to help correct them with her social media pages. She advocates for health literacy, the ability to keep, obtain, and understand basic health information and services that are needed to make appropriate health decisions. She believes that if there is correct and appropriate health information accessible online, then people can make the right decisions regarding their health.The current ravages brought about by the pandemic constrains a whole-of-society approach to developing and implementing eHealth interventions. The intersection of social media and telemedicine has catapulted Health information education campaigns into the mainstream media.Bringing People TogetherMany medical professionals have already taken advantage of social media to reach more people and share basic information regarding health and medicine. Some have chosen to write Facebook posts regarding various health topics like COVID-19 vaccines. Other medical professionals have chosen to ride the trends found on TikTok and inject basic information about topics like nutrition and remaining healthy during the pandemic in short videos. This allows them to deliver information in an attention-grabbing way and to reach more younger audiences online. Dr. Isip-Tan herself has been posting about common endocrine diseases like diabetes and hyperthyroidism for many years now, and she is often told by her patients that they feel like they have already met even before seeing her in person because they have seen her speak in her videos online. Truly, the opportunities for medical professionals on social media are endless.Revolutionizing the healthcare landscape in the time of COVID-19 has inspired many social medical professionals “Social MDs” to promote healthy discussions in addressing misconceptions and educating the masses on the SARS-COV2 virus and the COVID-19 Vaccines. The investigators, Dr. Iris Thiele Isip Tan, Dr. Geoffrey Solano and Dr. Jerome Cleofas, intended to study COVID-19-related misinformation circulating on Facebook and Twitter from January 1, 2020 to March 23, 2020 (when the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was enacted). This study is a recipient of the 2020 University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health Faculty Research Grant.Pulling People ApartThis openness and freedom to express is undoubtedly welcome, but it has also invited new challenges to arise. As “The Endocrine Witch” Facebook page grew, one glaring issue that Dr. Isip-Tan has had to contend with is the vitriol in the comments sections of her posts. If some of Dr. Isip-Tan’s followers disagree with her opinions, they would leave nasty comments on her posts. There are also many who advocate for unproven alternative treatments and exploit others just to sell their products, and this is not exclusive to people in the comments. Dr. Isip-Tan has observed the rise of “physician influencers” who accept offers to promote products on their social media pages. She says that the issue is conflict of interest as sometimes the posts are not declared to be paid endorsements. These “influencers” end up contributing to the information epidemic, or “infodemic,” that continues to plague social media with its propensity for false and inaccurate information. This could lead to potentially dangerous consequences for people who don’t know any better. One could wonder why some medical professionals have become contributors to the infodemic. With the endless possibilities of social media and with how easy it is to go viral, medical professionals must remember to practice care and responsibility with their content. After all, primum non nocere.UPCM Social Media GuidelinesOne of the ways to minimize and avoid the misuse of social media is by crafting social media policies. The University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) has its own social media guidelines, outlining topics such as posting on personal and institutional accounts, protecting patient privacy and confidentiality, and maintaining professionalism online. Dr. Isip-Tan headed drafting the guidelines, and it involved a lengthy process of examining the school culture, learning from other social media policies from other institutions, consulting students, administration, and even seeking legal opinion.Dr. Isip-Tan believes that academics everywhere should have a presence online as they could play a vital role in disseminating information as well as in aiding the branding and outreach of their respective institutions. To concur with a similar point made by Dr. Daniel Cabrera as mentioned by Dr. Isip-Tan, clinician educators have the responsibility to make knowledge accessible and impactful in their respective communities. While the UPCM guidelines are not full-fledged policies yet, it still can serve as a guide to encourage productive and responsible use of social media without hindering freedom of expression.A Braver, Newer World OnlineThe climate on sites such as Facebook and Twitter has grown into one that is much different from how it started out. Social media has evolved into a bigger biosphere teeming with more activity than ever before; with information campaigns, discussion threads, and many more kinds of online engagement previously unheard of. This evolution of social media also displays the immense power that it now holds. With the influence that medical professionals hold through the opportunities available to them on their social media platforms, they should also remember the oft-quoted movie cliche, “with great power comes great responsibility.”Dr. Isip-Tan hopes that healthcare professionals on social media can help fight against the infodemic and at the same time further the practice of evidence-based medicine by giving more attention to online research. She also hopes that instead of being “physician influencers,” more physicians can instead practice health marketing which, as defined by the CDC, involves creating and delivering health information and practices using customer-centered and science-based strategies to promote health. Health literacy is an area that deserves greater attention, and with more doctors like Dr. Isip-Tan around on social media, millions of people could gain much insight about their health.Medical practitioners, and even medical students too, have the golden opportunity to help solve the problems caused by the infodemic by fulfilling this newfound duty to use social media responsibly. Amidst all the noise that one can come across online, medical professionals should remember that they have the power to make a difference in the lives of many - even with just a single click.
Doctors to The Barrios, Masters of Public Health
By: Harold Joshua De Guzman, UPCM 2023This year, the Doctors to the Barrios-Masters in Public Health (DTTB-MPH) program will be sending forth their first graduates. Since its beginnings, the DTTB program has not only augmented communities’ health workforce, but it has also trained and equipped participating doctors with relevant knowledge and skills in public health through continuing medical education (CME). The DTTB-MPH is the latest iteration of the DTTB program, and it is designed to prepare doctors for the unique challenges they will face as clinicians and health administrators in their assigned municipalities. This is overseen by the UP College of Public Health, with some courses handled by the College of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences. Upon completion of this program, participants will earn a master’s degree in public health in addition to being a DTTB graduate.The original DTTB program established in 1993 was intended to supply doctors to the estimated 200 doctorless municipalities at the time; however, only 50 applicants per year could be accepted. Around 2009, the program had evolved with the needs and policies of the times, requiring a minimum of two years of service to assigned municipalities. Moreover, the government had expanded the program coverage to include more than just doctorless municipalities. Following an increased demand, the number of people taking the program likewise increased with the introduction of two government scholarships: one offered by the DOH and the other being the Bagong Doktor Para sa Bayan offered by the First Gentleman Foundation. By then, around 100 DTTBs were being accepted per batch.Dr. Jasmine Arcilla (leftmost), together with municipal officials, conduct a 4-day capacity development training for Barangay Health Workers on basic first aid and initial medical assessment and referrals. With initiatives like this, DTTB-MPH program aims to empower communities to cultivate their own local health systems. Photo from Dr. Jasmine Arcilla. To equip doctors with the proper skills and knowledge required of a DTTB, they are to undergo a CME course. This consists of a two-week-long saga of seminars, with one week dedicated to clinical topics and another covering public health topics. At first, this was conducted by the DOH Health Human Resource Development Bureau. By around 2009, the CME course was upgraded to a proper academic track by a dedicated academic institution, the Development Academy of the Philippines, to handle new logistical challenges. With this arrangement, the DTTBs could earn a master’s degree in public management, major in health systems and development upon completion of their contract.In 2017, however, the DOH opted to transfer the responsibility of delivering the CME to UP Manila. With the combined efforts of university executives and staff, the institution was able to quickly set up the MPH program. The course consists of nine core subjects which cover topics such as biostatistics, epidemiology, and principles of effective health system administration. Through this program, UP was further capacitated to help doctors become invaluable assets to improving Philippine healthcare.Dr. Jasmine Arcilla (front row; center) caps off the Annual Individual Performance Assessment with her DOH-deployed Human Resources for Health staff. DTTBs are meant to reinforce, not replace, the municipal healthcare workforce such that DTTBs would no longer be needed. Photo from Dr. Jasmine Arcilla. The program, however, calls for a certain drive in those filling in the shoes of a DTTB. Doctors are to juggle their responsibilities in the municipalities while fulfilling the MPH track requirements. Dr. Jasmine Arcilla, a graduate of UP College of Medicine (UPCM) Class of 2018 and the DTTB-MPH program who was assigned to Dumaran, Palawan, says, “When I got into UPCM and noong nag-clerkship and internship, namulat ang aking mga mata sa actual situation ng patients.” To be a DTTB, “you really have to understand the needs of the community, and you have to be ready to go all in. You have to be willing to serve in a community despite knowing it will be very frustrating.”Currently, Philippine healthcare functions as a two-tiered parallel system of public and private healthcare. On one hand, the government-run public system aims to provide free or discounted health care for all citizens. On the other hand, the private system mostly caters to those who are able to pay; thus, they are able to access any level of care if they so desire, and they can even choose to forgo seeing a general practitioner and instead visit a specialist right away. It is no secret that many, if not most, of our countrymen only have access to the public healthcare system. Unfortunately, the public healthcare system is neither funded nor developed enough to meet the needs of those who require it.To help this ailing system, DTTB was specifically implemented to work as an augmentation program meant to temporarily increase the healthcare human resources in areas where primary healthcare is lacking. The program is to run indefinitely—as long as is necessary to reach as many municipalities as possible. As the program is primarily intended to reinforce rather than replace the municipality’s healthcare force, the ultimate goal is to help the area develop enough such that DTTBs will no longer be needed.The success of DTTB is measured in different ways. From the perspective of the national government, the first measure of success is achieved when the DOH is able to assign a doctor to a municipality in need of one. However, a more meaningful success is achieved when the doctor assigned to that municipality is able to improve the healthcare system of that area. While this is difficult to quantify, the DOH does employ the Local Government Unit scorecard system which classifies LGU performance into Red, Yellow, and Green. This measurement system helps assess whether LGUs have achieved set target health indices such as those for health sector spending, health facilities enhancements, and health governance. It is the goal of the assigned DTTB to assist the community in achieving these targets through community empowerment.Achieving the latter measure of success is where the additional training from the CPH comes to use. By training in public health administration, doctors would be more able to design better health programs that are much needed by their communities. “The six building blocks of health systems can be seen in action in the community,“ says Dr. Jasmine. Discussing the most impactful subjects for her service, she says epidemiology and the principles of data-driven decision-making were very helpful in determining the best types of programs to design for the community. The applied field practice in public health was also very helpful in planning and coming up with a program relevant to the community.Municipal Health staff and administrators, Red Cross Palawan Chapter, together with Dr. Jasmine Arcilla (first row; 3rd from the left) conclude a Blood Drive for community members. Photo from Dr. Jasmine Arcilla. While the doctors are known and expected to provide both clinical and community services, it is less known that they must also provide administrative services. Apart from diagnosing and treating diseases and organizing health-promoting events at the community level, the assigned doctors are also the respective administrators of their local offices. Through this, it becomes necessary that they be socially adept. DTTBs have to contend with the personal beliefs and affairs of both the citizens and local officials just as much as, if not more than, the diseases and health problems of the area. “When the pandemic hit, it was difficult to get people to follow the health protocols [such as] washing hands frequently, wearing masks in public, etc. kasi hindi naman nila nakasanayan yoon. We had to contend with many kinds of misconceptions; some didn’t even believe in the pandemic. It is also very difficult to balance their different needs, [and] to convince someone to isolate when ‘yung kabuhayan nila on a day-to-day basis depends on them going out.” Dr. Jasmine relays that they had to go barangay-to-barangay to teach the different officials the importance of health protocols. The municipality even decided to set up policies and fines for violations.Dr. Jasmine Arcilla (2nd from the right) and her entire DTTB Batch 36 assigned to the MIMAROPA region finalize their preparations before they are sent off to their own areas to where healthcare is needed most. Photo from Dr. Jasmine Arcilla. One natural critique of the DTTB program is that municipalities might take advantage of it by relying on the consistent supply of doctors. Why would they need to invest in local healthcare systems if the DOH is going to assign doctors to them anyway? However, it may also be the case that municipalities may simply be struggling to set up their own local systems. Whatever the reason may be for each municipality, the reality is that some areas remain doctorless despite having received a succession of DTTBs throughout the years. Such is the case of Dumaran which, during Dr. Jasmine’s time there, was yet to have its first permanent municipal health officer. “Willing naman magsupport ang LGU ng whatever hilingin ng DTTB,” says Dr. Jasmine, but she also acknowledges that “depende rin sa LGU kung paano sila mag-alaga ng doktor. Kung alam nila na hindi ok, e di, walang mags-stay. LGUs need to have a better understanding of what health is and how it is multifactorial and multisectoral. Kapag iniisip nila na pagdating sa health, health ‘lang yung gumagalaw, nakakapagod ‘pag ganoon, and it’s not really going to work. Kung itatambak lang nila lahat ng responsibility onto the rural health unit, superficial lang ‘yung support nila.”Health systems are inextricably tied to the governments that run them, and no matter how many DTTBs are sent to a municipality, it is up to the local government and the community to decide what their course will be. The ultimate goal of a well-functioning and sufficient healthcare system can therefore only be achieved if local leaders and communities work toward such a goal on their own accord. That being said, with the approaching elections, we must remember that it is our duty to elect just and competent leaders who will help us reach this goal. Hopefully, in the future, instead of doctors to the barrios, we may have doctors from and for the barrios.Reference:College of Public Health. Master of Public Health [Curriculum]. University of the Philippines Manila; 2019 [cited 2021]. Available from https://cph.upm.edu.ph/sites/default/files/MPH_2019.pdf
Budding Research Projects at Phil-DIAMOND
By: Isabella Orteza, UPCM 2025A stimulating three-year program funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) was recently started in January 2021 but is already quickly executing innovative studies to keep an eye on.Thanks to a recent interview with the program leader Dr. Marissa Marcelo Alejandria and her co-investigators Dr. Christian Francisco and Dr. Ana Joy Padua, further information on the program’s creation, current progress, and future plans are detailed in this article.The Phil-DIAMOND or the Philippine Program for Diagnostic Biomarkers, Disease Modeling and Nutraceutical Product Development: Initial Focus on HIV-related Neurocognitive and Metabolic Complications was born out of UP’s ongoing collaboration with the Hawaii Center for AIDS, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii in Manoa, and University of St. Louis in Missouri. With the funding of the DOST-PCHRD, the program was able to send Dr. Alejandria’s research mentees and current co-investigators Dr. Francisco and Dr. Padua abroad to bring their knowledge back home and establish research projects that have relevance in our society.The main goal of this program is to address the growing needs of fellow Filipino people living with HIV (PLHIV). As Filipinos have been receiving effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) through different treatment hubs, the program’s researchers anticipate that Filipino PLHIV will eventually manifest different sets of HIV-related complications called serious non-AIDS defining events (SNAEs), especially since the pathogenesis of the disease evolves with highly effective treatment regimens. These SNAEs include non-AIDS malignancies, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder, cardiovascular events, renal and hepatic disease, bone disorders, and other metabolic disorders. Through this program, the researchers aim to identify possible immune biomarkers for the early diagnosis of SNAEs and to discover therapeutic targets for adjunct interventions to ART.The Phil-DIAMOND’s objectives from its three component projects are to identify inflammatory traits (biomarkers) associated with HIV in relation to the virus’ neurocognitive and metabolic complications among Filipino patients, to study critical molecular processes involving these biomarkers through disease models, and to develop probiotic-based nutraceutical products which can serve as adjunct therapy for HIV-related complications.Project 1, led by Dr. Alejandria with Dr. Christian Francisco and MD-PhD graduate Dr. Ana Joy Padua, will characterize immune cells for HIV-related biomarkers and perform clinical assessments of Filipino HIV patients. Project 2, led by Dr. Ahmad Mazahery of the UPD Institute of Biology with Dr. Mylah Villacorte-Tabelin and MD-PhD graduate Dr. Sheriah Laine de Paz-Silava, will generate biological models that mimic symptoms of HIV complications to provide pre-clinical molecular data that cannot be obtained from patient-level studies. Lastly, Project 3, led by Dr. Marilen Balolong of the UPM College of Arts and Sciences with Dr. Francisco Elegado and MD-PhD Program Coordinator Dr. Leslie Dalmacio, will screen novel probiotic strains for the development of functional food products that can be used as adjunct therapy for HIV-related complications.[In the photo: Dr. Ana Joy Padua] The UP Manila Flow Cytometry Core opens up groundbreaking avenues for local research in understanding the dynamics of HIV and the immune system among Filipino patients. Photo from Dr. Marissa Marcelo Alejandria. Discussing the implications and relevance of Project 1, Dr. Alejandria and her co-investigators explained, “HIV infection is now a chronic disease thanks to the wide use of ART. However, HIV is not fully eradicated in the body and stays in various reservoir sites like the brain, bone marrow, and lymph nodes to name a few. This viral persistence causes the continuous immune activation that will later lead to immune senescence and exhaustion. These processes are associated with various HIV-related chronic complications like dementia and cardiometabolic complications. The characterization of immune cells will be done by measuring the expression of various immune receptor markers and ligands using flow cytometry in a process that is called immunophenotyping. “With this program, we received support from the DOST-PCHRD to establish here in our university the UP Manila Flow Cytometry Core composed of a 19-color cell analyzer and a 15-color cell sorter. Now that we locally have a flow cytometry facility, we will be able to characterize these immune markers that will help us understand the dynamics of HIV and the immune system among Filipino patients. There is also a chance to look for markers (receptors and ligands on immune cells) that can be used as a potential target for therapy to prevent, attenuate, and possibly treat chronic complications from HIV infection.”Dr. Christian Francisco, along with his co-investigators, fly to Hawaii Center for AIDS at the University of Hawaii to learn new ways to revamp our local HIV research scene. Photo from Dr. Marissa Marcelo AlejandriaAlong with the program’s aim to identify biomarkers and potential targets for therapy, the program also aims to find therapeutic agents in the form of probiotics. “The use of probiotics as adjunct therapy for HIV-associated gut dysbiosis and gut microbial translocation is still in the early or investigative stage. However, since ART alone cannot effectively control these events, we think that a possible adjunct therapy targeting the gut microbiota to curb gastrointestinal inflammation is necessary. Probiotics and prebiotics could help support and grow the microbiota. Through this project, we aim to develop locally-sourced probiotic strains that will provide possible preclinical data on adjunctive therapy for HIV.”Besides the exciting research that all students and faculty will now be looking forward to, the program also led to the establishment of a local flow cytometry core and a virology laboratory. Dr. Alejandria added that, “the virology laboratory is currently hosted at the UP College of Public Health and is most definitely open to all researchers interested in virology research, whether on HIV or other viral infections. It is equipped with two biosafety level 2 cabinets and various equipment for cell culture studies (CO2 incubator, liquid nitrogen tanks, -80°C freezer, refrigerated centrifuges, cell counters, microscopes, etc.). Anyone who is interested in performing virology study techniques, from beginners to veterans, are all welcome to collaborate in our lab.”The Phil-DIAMOND project headed by program leader Dr. Marissa Marcelo Alejandria (4th from the right, wearing purple in 2nd picture), with their international collaborators, hopes to usher in a new age of medical research to address the growing needs of Filipino people living with HIV. Photo from Dr. Marissa Marcelo Alejandria. Lastly, in relation to the program’s plans for the future, the researchers shared with excitement that, “we most definitely plan to continue what we have started in Phil-DIAMOND. Once we have characterized the immune response among our Filipino PLHIV, we plan to further improve these candidate biomarkers to develop an immune marker panel for the diagnosis of HIV-related complications. For the in vitro disease modeling of HIV, we plan to test other candidate drugs for high-throughput testing. We plan to test the locally isolated probiotics in vivo in animal models and in humans. Also, we already have at least two other projects from UP Manila and UP Diliman who will use our UPM flow cytometry core facility.”As can be seen through the compelling projects of the Phil-DIAMOND, the program is leading our society towards a progressive future in terms of facilitating early diagnoses and discovering innovative adjuvant therapies for Filipino PLHIV. Along with the aforementioned projects, the program brings in new equipment for research such as flow cytometers and a virology laboratory to the UP College of Public Health. With the advent of new research, equipment, and laboratories, the College is now set to usher in a whole new era for medical research and collaborations for all students and faculty to look forward to.
Tell-A-Med: The Trials and Triumphs of Going Online in Medicine
By: Charlene Divine M. Catral, UPCM 2027Despite all efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a dire crisis. Countless lives continue to be lost as the mutating coronavirus ravages our country. Of the many problems the Philippines faces, the lack of reach in areas where help is most needed has become even more pervasive. Indeed, the pandemic took the Philippines by storm — silent but rabid — and called for the nation’s utmost fortitude and creativity to simply make ends meet.Promotion of use of telemedicine has been an ongoing effort by physicians and public health advocates since the early 2000s — an avenue to reach more Filipinos, especially those in remote and isolated areas. Strengthening telemedicine in the country would prove useful, especially for geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) where health interventions are heavily needed yet are difficult to access.In the Philippines, developing our telemedicine is a continuing effort of physicians and public health advocates to expand the reach of our healthcare system, especially for fellow Filipinos from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. Photo by Joaquin Arriola, UPCM 2026.Republic Act No. 11223, better known as the Universal Health Care Act (UHC), is among the current thrusts in healthcare equity, emphasizing that health is a right, not a privilege. This indicates that all Filipinos have a right to quality healthcare goods and services that are affordable and accessible to all. However, a long road lies ahead for stakeholders to fully enjoy the benefits of the UHC. The UHC Law stipulated the organization of technology-enabled healthcare provider networks throughout the Philippines; and telehealth plays a major role in this envisioned system.To gain a better perspective of these obstacles and opportunities, we interviewed Dr. Portia Marcelo, Professor of Community Medicine, UP College of Medicine (UPCM) and former Director of UP Manila’s National Telehealth Center (NTHC, in 2011 to 2017). She led projects to expand UP Manila’s Telehealth efforts to up to 600 rural municipalities nationwide. She built on the work of other professors of the UPCM who pioneered telehealth in the country. The NTHC is the research unit with focus on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for health (alternative names include eHealth and digital health).Telehealth as an instrument to strengthen the Philippine healthcare delivery system spans nearly two decades of advocacy. NTHC’s initiatives were a response to poor healthcare access. It began in 2004, led by Dr. Herman Tolentino, Director of the NTHC and concurrent Clinical Associate Professor at UPCM Medical Informatics Unit (MIU) and Department of Anesthesiology. With funding from the government’s Commission on ICT, they implemented the first nationwide telehealth project Buddyworks implemented in 10 sites. In 2007, Dr. Alvin Marcelo, Professor of Medical Informatics (UPCM MIU) and Surgery, took over the NTHC, initiated the National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP) funded by the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST PCHRD). The NTSP provided support to the Doctors-to-the-Barrios (DTTB) serving GIDA by linking them with the medical faculty of the UPCM-PGH. When the primary care DTTB encounter clinical dilemmas, they pose their queries to the UP-PGH medical faculty. The NTSP shifted the web-based Buddyworks telehealth platform to an SMS-based one, more useful in the GIDA. It incorporated and developed the first version of the RxBox telemedicine appliance. Developed with Dr. Luis Sison, Professor of Engineering in UP Diliman, the RxBox would have its second version in 2012. Dr Portia Marcelo and Dr Sison designed RxBox-2 to be interoperable with Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS) — electronic medical records system (also developed by UPCM and the NTHC) and seamlessly linked with the NTS telehealth platform. Other pioneering telehealth projects supported or co-developed by the NTHC include the Medical Teleparasitology Project led by Dr. Vicente Belizario (current Dean of the UP College of Public Health, and Professor of Parasitology) implemented in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Davao Region. Telepsychiatry efforts were led by UPCM Professor Emeritus Dr. Lourdes Ignacio, with the UPCM-PGH Department of Psychiatry providing support to Infanta, Quezon in the aftermath of Typhoon Reming. The teledermatology Dermlink project led by Dr. Belen Dofitas, Associate Professor of Dermatology, was intended for neglected tropical diseases and other dermatology conditions in remote communities of Mindanao; the same NTS platform was used. The Mag-Ina Telereferral System (MINTS), seamlessly linked with CHITS, allows the referral of parturient mothers found to have complicated birthing processes from the primary care lying-in clinic to the nearest hospital, better equipped to manage complex cases. The MINTS allows exchange of patient clinical data between health facilities organized into a healthcare provider network in Quezon City, the first of its kind in the Philippines. The Hearing for Life Project led by UPCM Dean Dr. Charlotte Chiong, and Dr. Philip Fullante, Clinical Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, also saw use of telehealth for newborn hearing screening healthcare provider networks in Iloilo, Bacolod and Romblon.The need for telemedicine has been thrust into the limelight ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This avenue has facilitated providing health services while minimizing physical contact between patient and healthcare providers. Photo by Joaquin Arriola, UPCM 2026. Through their efforts, telemedicine has moved beyond proof-of-concept, supporting physicians and primary care health professionals who attend to patients in rural, remote areas, delivering better quality care. UP’s telehealth efforts introduced concepts and actual use of telemedicine/ telehealth modalities to these communities. These were, unfortunately, time-bound projects: they existed while the research was ongoing. While the health sector eagerly collaborated, there was no enabling policy to support telehealth expansion and sustain its implementation specially for GIDA.Dr. Portia Marcelo describes telehealth’s boost in use amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. First, as a means to triage non-COVID cases from probable and COVID cases, then as a means to follow up on patients while also minimizing physical contact. The DOH provided hotlines for Filipinos to access for their medical queries and engaged with private companies to provide telemedicine services in the country. Dr. Marcelo narrates how despite these achievements, there remains many concerns, including that of poor internet connectivity and even basic electrical power that characterize many of the GIDA and rural municipalities in the country. “It (telemedicine) definitely reached a lot of people amidst this COVID pandemic. But these are the same people who do have access to care even in non-pandemic times.” The question remains, “what about those in GIDA?” Thus, telehealth advocacy is anchored not only on the overall health sector strengthening, but is also built on the call for more urgent social development of rural communities.Dr. Marcelo also discussed how despite the lack of legislation that governs telemedicine, the local government units of Navotas, Marikina, and Taguig have already carried out efforts in telemedicine for their constituents amidst the pandemic. The Department of Health released the first set of guidelines during the pandemic, namely the DOH-National Privacy Commission Joint Memorandum Circular 2020-0001 “Guidelines on the Use of Telemedicine in COVID Response” and the DOH-UPM Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-0001 “Telemedicine Practice Guidelines”. These are large strides towards the common goal, but there must be proper infrastructure and equipment for more Filipinos to have access to these digitized health services such as online consultations.To further improve telemedicine in the country, the understanding of digitized healthcare must be reframed: it is another form of medical practice but not less. Thus, Filipinos should not only be made aware of the benefits of telemedicine, they should actually have access to telemedicine and basic health and social services. And, it goes to say, that the Government should properly allocate resources for all these.We also interviewed a patient who has engaged in telemedicine services. She acknowledges telemedicine as a new and cost-efficient approach to address the imposed barriers of lockdown. It has provided her with the comfort she needed from a professional as well as relief knowing she was safe within the four walls of her home. She expresses how telemedicine is beneficial for she “ Feels at peace and able to fully express herself in front of the camera”. Teleconsults allow her to avoid inconveniences like traffic; all one has to do is open a laptop or phone and call the doctor. However, she worries that others may not be as fortunate to experience this service due to lack of internet access, electricity, or availability of a device — all of which are considered “basic needs” to some Filipinos but luxuries to most.The patient further recounts other limitations such as limited assessment to see the patient’s real-time habits and behavior which may influence her diagnosis. To address this, doctors have adapted by employing different strategies. Among those employed by the patient’s physician, she noted the use of daily journals to capture her lifestyle habits for the doctor to understand her current condition.Familial support and cooperation are necessary to assist in the treatment of the patient and maintain a safe and healthy environment for optimal health.With the numerous headways made for telemedicine, there are still no regulating policies to govern telemedicine in the country. The future of a developed Philippine healthcare system remains grim for as long the government refuses to prioritize health, even during a pandemic. Photo by Joaquin Arriola, UPCM 2026. Although telemedicine is here to stay, there are still no laws or legislation governing telemedicine in the Philippines. The NTHC began advocating with Congress for such a law beginning in 2009. Eventually what was proposed included House Bill No’s. 6366 (Telehealth Act of 2012) and 4199 (Telehealth Act of 2014), and Senate Bill No. 1618 (The Philippine eHealth Systems and Services Act in 2016). Unfortunately, they have been left to gather dust. Although telehealth / telemedicine became more explicitly stated in the DOH National Objectives for Health and DOST- DOH National Unified Research Agenda beginning 2011, the question remains: whose responsibility is it when the telemedicine system faces complications? The country needs leaders that can take accountability for these programs. To be within sight of a disease-free country, the dawn of these promising opportunities must be held close by trailblazers who can purposefully bring Filipinos the quality of life they deserve.
Med to Lead: The Makings of a Medical Student Leader in the Time of a Pandemic
By Kariza Abu, Class 2024You were going about your typical everyday routine when your professor suddenly announced on Zoom that you will have a group presentation the next day. You view your class Telegram chat to see that your liaison officer is looking for representatives to lead their respective groups. You think to yourself, “Oh, someone else will probably volunteer,” and go on with your day of studying for your exams and assessments.Most medical students are boxed in the academic aspect of our education. We bury ourselves in books, transes, and lectures, and we often forget that as future medical professionals, we also need certain skills that can only be honed through experience. While it may be daunting to most, taking up small opportunities to lead is a key skill. Now more than ever, student leaders are playing a big role in guiding the student body through the pandemic.Leadership in the Medicine Student CouncilThe transition to an online setting was made possible through the efforts of our hardworking administration, faculty, staff, as well as our student leaders who worked behind the scenes to greatly contribute to student welfare during this pandemic. A notable leader at this time was Danee Mangila, UP Medicine Student Council (MSC) Chairperson for academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. She had the feat of easing the transition to online learning for students when the pandemic struck. Prior to the pandemic, most of the projects organized by the MSC were geared towards unifying the student body through creating activities to help students unwind from academic requirements and initiating academic projects to help enhance our learning. The council’s priority then drastically shifted to addressing student needs to make sure that no student gets left behind. Various needs such as course packs, data allowances, laptop loans, and financial aid arose because of the online set-up. According to Danee, what helped her and the council overcome these challenges was proper communication with all the stakeholders involved, including the administration, the class presidents, the faculty, and the staff.Being a medical student is already filled with many growing pains, but Danee was inspired to step up to this immense role because she believes that being a leader is the best way to hone her skills and values outside of academics. She also found this to be a great opportunity to help others. She shares, “Our profession is more than being a clinician. In one way or another, we will also function as leaders at the different levels and stages in our career. We will be leaders of our blocks, our residency batch, our clinics, our RHUs, or even our own hospitals. The challenges and learnings from leadership experiences help us improve and grow holistically.”Back during COVID-19’s onset, then-UP Medicine Student Council Chairperson Danee Mangila steered the student council to shift gears towards aiding those students most vulnerable to the pandemic. Being at the helm of such a daunting task, she seized this opportunity to both maximize her own skills while exerting her best to help those in need. Leadership in Organizations, Fraternities, and SororitiesEqually important in helping UPCM students adapt to the pandemic are the student leaders of organizations, fraternities, and sororities (OFS). Five OFS presidents shared their insights regarding how it is like to lead an organization in the time of COVID-19: Iya de Claro, editor-in-chief of UP Medics; Mica Gonzales, Most Exalted Sister of the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority; Lara Castillo, Superior Sister Exemplar of the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority; Allen Lichauco, Superior Exemplar of the Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity; and Joana Cruz, president of the UP Physician-Scientists Association (PSA).All student leaders expressed the challenge of transitioning on-campus projects to the online setting without losing its intended goals and objectives. They shared their different approaches to overcoming this problem. Similar to Danee’s response, both Joana and Lara emphasized on communication being essential in maintaining the bond between members in their respective groups. By constantly checking up on their constituents, they were able to keep their organization active and purposeful. Iya, on the other hand, became more hands on with tasks by continuously following up on her members to keep them involved during the pandemic. As for Mica, she focused more on the underlying organizational aspect of leadership. She says that the key to overcoming hurdles is the willingness to reevaluate existing systems and having the flexibility to make day-to-day changes until a good balance of output and member welfare is attained.Facing the challenge of transitioning her sorority into a pandemic setup, Lara Castillo, Superior Sister Exemplar of the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority, deemed it essential to first check up on the welfare of her constituents. Doing so was the initial step to invigorating the sorority to pursue their purpose and stay true to their values. Why aspire to be a student leader?There are countless reasons for becoming a student leader, and these are brought together by the intention to serve. Iya shares that as an ambitious person, she had always wanted to become the president of an OFS since LU2. Mica, on the other hand, says that her own growth in her sorority brought out her desire to have others have the same empowering experience.In an organization, motivation comes from peers too, as Joana found her calling when her friends encouraged her to run for president. In the same way, Lara shares that her love for her sisses and the advocacies they share with each other are what pushed her to step up and take on a leadership role in her sorority. This is similar to Allen who was also inspired by his brods’ desire to serve, lead, and excel in their respective pursuits.Why is it so important for medical students to take charge? Akin to Danee’s response, Iya seconds that learnings from today’s leadership experiences seep into tomorrow’s professional life. Mica’s perspective further builds on this concept: the day-to-day tasks of an organization leader help students develop quick-thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to navigate through the nuances of team communication, integral skills in becoming an effective six-star physician upon graduation. Allen adds that leadership also teaches us the value of accountability, which is indispensable as a future health professional. As Lara puts it, “Leadership is the sine qua non of being a good healthcare professional.” Leadership, however, is not only for personal growth. Joana shares that being a leader allows one to influence others, learn from them, and collaborate with them. With these viewpoints in mind, leadership is a skill to be gained, one that simply cannot be learned inside the classroom.For Mica Gonzales, Most Exalted Sister of the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority, the often routine tasks of being a leader are long-term investments for becoming an effective six-star physician. Quick-thinking, problem-solving, and fostering healthy communication among team members are a few of the essential skills that build effective healthcare professionals once they leave the halls of medical school. Allen Lichauco, Superior Exemplar of the Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity, views leadership as an opportunity to practice accountability of one’s actions. This is especially essential as the actions of healthcare professionals could spell the difference between the life and death of a patient. According to Joana Cruz, president of the UP Physician-Scientists Association, aspiring to be a leader is not always confined to seeking personal growth. Leadership also entails fostering a healthy and empowering team spirit that brings about the growth of everyone involved.What makes a great leader?The path of a great leader is not without the tough balancing act of managing academics and extracurricular life. According to the student leaders, the key is knowing how to prioritize. Holistic leaders are able to make time for things that are most important to them, while still being able to serve in their organizations. However, there will always be difficult times when all priorities seem to be of primary importance; thus, it is also necessary for leaders to know when to ask for help. Lara shares, “leadership entails the humility to acknowledge one’s limitations and mistakes, openness to take accountability, and acceptance of criticism without pride.” Being a leader does not mean that one has to do everything alone. Knowing how to collaborate and delegate tasks to others is equally a form of good leadership. Through this, one may hope that those who collaborate with these leaders may then feel the call to step up as well, as Allen notes that great leaders are those who are able to inspire the next generation to follow in their example.After hearing of these astounding leaders in our midst, one may probably wonder, “Am I qualified enough to be a leader?” The answer is yes. Each student is capable of being a captain of their own ship. Mica brings clarity to this dilemma by sharing that all medical students already have an edge thanks to our training with systems-based thinking and our approach to problem identification and solving. In having one’s own vision and opinions, Joana emphasizes the importance of acting on these viewpoints, listening to one’s constituents, and being open to opportunities for change especially in times of crisis. At the core of this is the willingness to learn and serve. Iya imparts that this can sometimes be a thankless task, but being a great medical student leader is about heeding the call towards a greater good, not just for the sake of being in power. Perhaps a relevant introspection is to turn the tides from “Why?” to “Why not?” and from “Not me!” to “If not me, then who?”Iya de Claro aspired to become a president of an OFS since she was in LU2. Now, as the Editor-in-chief of UP Medics, she traces this ambition to her core of being willing to learn and to serve. It’s not about merely amassing power; it’s about using that power for the benefit of the greater community.The Role of Student Leaders in Nation BuildingThe upcoming election is pivotal for the nation’s future. Filipinos deserve competent candidates to preside over the country. Within our microcosm of a nation in school, proficient organizational student leaders can rally their fellow students to evoke change, especially with how the pandemic is being handled. Using the platforms available to them, medical student leaders are called to speak up and be the voice of future medical professionals. As Mica mentions, “Nation-building starts with Filipinos who are well-informed and aware of the steps needed to move forward as a nation and can decide properly with whom in the government those steps can be taken.” By educating our fellow Filipinos, medical students can help others empower themselves to make an informed decision to make the possibility of quality and effective healthcare a reality.Equipped with this knowledge, one may be daunted by the enormity of the roles and responsibilities that come with leadership. However, leadership does not always have to start with grandiosity. Each person comes with their own story, from humble beginnings to new heights achieved as a leader. The next time someone asks for a member to step up in your group, take the chance. You’ll never know if you’re made for it if you don’t try.
On Greener Pastures: Med Students’ Perspectives on a Community Practice
Joseph Rem C. Dela Cruz, UPCM 2024The future is filled with uncertainty, now more than ever. The post-pandemic world has highlighted concerns regarding resources and other aspects of the healthcare system that may prove to be detrimental to the delivery of services in all levels of community practice. As healthcare professionals in the province struggle to provide the best possible care in low resource settings, medical students from these same areas feel a calling to serve despite these limitations, and through this a brighter future may be on the horizon.Resources, manpower, and support may be wanting, but this was not enough to deter Jyna Trumata from Leyte. “At first, it was just the will to serve and to give back to my hometown that drove me—feelings I can’t really explain or justify to other people. Now that I am a medical student, though, it has evolved into a much more detailed plan with a sound rationale. In my hometown, I’ve seen the lack of physicians and how it has affected healthcare provision, not only in Sogod but also in the nearby towns. We have a few doctors, but we still need to ask some physicians or specialists from cities to come here once a month if they can,” she recalled.Indeed, behind the serenity of nature, tight-knit culture, and the inner peace that the province brings, the system still is in shambles. Access to health remains remote for many as Tiki Salcedo from Bicol recounts, “The pandemic has actually led me to be dubious of this commitment to serve, but my resolve was reaffirmed just last June. I was riding a bangka just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean with my family, and as we marveled at the idyllic work of nature, our bangka cruised past this quaint community sitting on a secluded island. I was then reminded of my why. I am here for the people.”First blood drive after almost 1.5 years in Brgy. Batangan, Valencia, Bukidnon. The pandemic has not only made frontlines out of the provincial communities, but it has laid bare the systemic holes we have not plugged—and people are falling through.Rekindling the passion to serveMeanwhile, Aya Dicali from Lanao del Sur and her batchmate Sael Rodriguez from Davao del Sur each had their own epiphanies during the pandemic as well. Sael himself had been turned away from a hospital while experiencing appendicitis in the middle of the pandemic, but he soon found—writhing in pain—that he was still fortunate. “I was able to witness an unconscious old woman rushed to the emergency room. ‘Unsay nahitabo? (What happened?),’ asked the doctor. The bantay, who apparently was a compassionate neighbor of the patient, replied ‘Nahimatay na siya Doc unya kagahapon pana siya wala kamata (The patient fainted and has been unconscious since yesterday).’ They had to rent a jeep just to transport the patient from the highlands. With scant resources and vacancies, the hospital couldn’t do very much but attend to only what was necessary. They were actually turned down and had to find another hospital to accommodate them, one with more rooms and resources, but that meant finances would be an issue considering the patient was not privileged enough. This got me thinking that the only thing that separates me from that old woman was privilege. Had it not been for my parents being able to afford a house in the city, I would have succumbed to complications from waiting for transportation. Had it not been for privilege, I don’t think I would be in this position trying to expose my thoughts. These stories actually made me think of how broken the system is for healthcare.”Truly, the pandemic has not only made frontlines out of the communities and the provinces, but it has laid bare the systemic holes we have not plugged—and people are falling through. Aya, a Moro displaced from her home during the Marawi Siege, described Lanao del Sur as having little to no access to treatment and insufficient manpower to tackle schistosomiasis, cancer, and other diseases. She recalled, “When I went back to Bubong, Lanao del Sur to get vaccinated, I was pulled out last-minute when they knew I was a medical student. They said they needed help, and true enough, there was a court filled with people waiting to get vaccinated with only a handful of medical workers and volunteers. I had to help… I remember at that moment, I wanted to be of service. My passion sparked again just like the day I was interviewed for UPCM admissions.”Immersion in Brgy. Laligan, Valencia, Bukidnon. The truth of why provinces need wide-eyed doctors who are eager to serve and carry the skills that ensures commitment and the ability to thrive in low-resource settings.Going where we are neededInspiring stories such as these highlight one truth: provinces need wide-eyed doctors who are eager to serve. However, sentiment only carries one to the provinces, but skill ensures one can stay and thrive. Adaptability is key as Ellpi Rosales from Cebu and Ford Galano from Cagayan point out. “I think the essential skill is [being] able to understand the limitations in the province, particularly in the diagnostic and treatment phase. From there, you can devise ways to arrive at a diagnosis and provide the available treatment options at a given time,” Ellpi said.In addition, leadership and management skills are necessary to deal with the gargantuan task of serving as the only doctor for miles. However, no one has to do it alone, as Jyna points out, “From what I observed, there are three necessary support systems in order to establish good practice in my town: the community, the local healthcare workers, and the local government.” To bridge this gap with stakeholders and their interests, a community practitioner’s finest tools are often proper communication, networking, and pakikipagkapwa tao. Aya retold how banking on relationships with her often shy but warm and receptive fellowmen often is the best way to practice in Muslim Mindanao. All this, of course, without compromising one’s people-centered values, as Tiki notes, “Without a doubt, the healthcare system in Philippine provinces is marred by political interests, and so, as a future practitioner, I always remind myself to strive for a just system when my time comes and to never surrender my truth.”Considering the expansive skill set necessary to succeed in a practice of community medicine, it’s understandable that many do not feel confident enough to pursue it. Yet again, the resolve to serve comes first. “With the pandemic, I lost a hefty amount of opportunities to start practicing and immersing myself in communities. I do think there is a need to establish rapport and a need to understand firsthand what is actually happening in the communities. The best solutions you can come up [with] are through involving the community and learning from them. Although I have experience in community work, it was not specific to my region or province. I don’t have that many experiences in serving my community aside from time-limited volunteer programs for public health education, vaccination programs, and medical missions. I might not have the confidence to do so right now, but I think I’ll get there somehow,” Sael shares. Ford puts it best: “When the time comes, I have no choice but to be very confident because they deserve a confident doctor, and I can't afford to fail them.”Put down your roots. Thrive. The Countryside is waiting. The province is a green pasture rich with experiences. All this generation’s doctors need are support systems. Our approach to health should be overhauled to give fertile soil in which young doctors can be planted. Growing strongAdded to the immense pressure of serving as a community’s paragon, one must bear having to see multiple opportunities pass—or is this just a myth? Opportunity costs such as sacrificing one’s passions are certain, but these do not deter Aya. “I want to try a fellowship or specialization abroad. This could be a boon or bane to my aspiration, but hopefully it will be the former. Of course, I'll work consciously on bringing something useful abroad to my hometown. This would possibly become a stepping stone to helping my own community instead of a barrier,” she said. Meanwhile, Tiki remains optimistic in a life immersed in the arts, “An apprenticeship from renowned contemporary artists is something I look forward to, and I’m seeing a Parisian école on the horizon. After all, lifelong learning is a concept that extends well beyond the field of medicine.”One may miss much, but the province is a green pasture rich with experiences and opportunities. All this generation’s doctors need is ample assistance—especially from their own support systems and provinces. “One thing I noticed in my community (some of my relatives and patients I’ve talked to) is that people put doctors who work in big cities and abroad into a higher pedestal than those who work in the community. It’s hard to understand because I know that being a community physician is a difficult feat,” Jyna laments. Add to that, the frontlines remain undersupplied, understaffed, and unprepared for the influx of patients, especially due to the pandemic. In response, our approach to health should be overhauled to give fertile soil in which young doctors can be planted. According to Sael, “It’s vital for a healthy healthcare system in general which aspires to take care not only of the patients but also doctors.”At the moment, life in the province for students remains the path less traveled, but that’s precisely where the true frontiers of development lie. Perhaps paving this road is not for everyone, but those with grit and wit will often find themselves enamored with the immense sense of purpose the province offers—knowing one’s contributions do not just benefit individuals but communities. There may truly be no shortage of things to do, but one finds growth, respect, and belongingness in a provincial practice. All one has to do is ask themselves, “How can I serve?”
Engineering the Future of Medicine: From Blueprint to Bedside Nationwide
Jonathan Chan, UPCM 2022Without a sliver of doubt, the 21st century has been transformed by an inexorable march of innovation. We live in a world where advanced tech is ubiquitous—it is on a level that would exist solely in the realm of science fiction to laymen just a few decades ago. We often take for granted the computing power of the phone in our pockets which eclipses that of what was available to scientists who first launched rockets to the moon. In the field of medicine, we now have handheld ultrasound machines to visualize images real time on our smartphones. We also have 3D-printed prosthetics that can be customized to suit a patient’s own, unique needs.Unfortunately, such devices are only imported from beyond our shores. There is yet to be a tech company in the Philippines that manufactures advanced medical machinery. A potential reason why innovation in healthcare technology moves at such a glacial pace here is the lack of partnership between engineers and medical doctors. It often happens that a medical doctor identifies a problem in the clinics—one that may easily be addressed by technological equipment or innovation of sorts—but lacks the technical skills to design such a solution. Conversely, an engineer might devise a machine that doctors in the field do not necessarily need. This lack of synergy is precisely what the UP Surgical Innovations and Biotechnology Laboratory, or UP SIBOL, is set to resolve.The people behind UP SIBOL pave the way for the re-engineering of Medicine. The UP SIBOL is the umbrella program responsible for the invention of innovative medical devices synergized by UP Diliman Engineers and Scientists in response to health-related challenges. Photo by: UP Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology (UP SIBOL).UP SIBOL is a collaboration between the clinicials of the College of Medicine in UP Manilan as well as engineers and scientists from the College of Engineering and College of Science in UP Diliman. Its primary purpose is to join the brightest minds in the country and create novel healthcare solutions. This new initiative was spearheaded by Dr. Edward Wang, a Professor of Orthopedics in the UP College of Medicine and an active consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. The groundwork for UP SIBOL was patterned after the highly innovative institutes of the National University of Singapore (NUS). In NUS, they have the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research & Technology as well as the Advanced Surgical Training Center.The first foray into this new endeavor started with the initial Conversations Leading to Innovations and Collaborations, or CLIC, held in March 2019. In this meeting, stakeholders from both fields discussed current issues in the hospital and how clinicians are currently solving these problems. For instance, the lack of vacuum assisted closure devices in the surgical wards compelled some doctors to come up with a low-cost alternative involving cling wrap, kitchen foam, and wall suction. The contraption is endearingly called Wall Suction Assisted Closure, or WASAC. This spark of creativity—almost a prerequisite in practicing medicine in the third world—is what differentiates us from developed nations. It likewise begs the question: Can this ad hoc contraption be fashioned into a formal low-cost device, ready to be deployed to other hospitals? Such is the spirit of innovation and creativity that the UP SIBOL is founded on.Preparations to kickstart the initiative were well on their way at the end of 2019. Talks between the engineers and physicians resulted in different project proposals, which naturally formed committees within UP SIBOL. Some had already drafted proposals to funding agencies to finance their projects. However, everything changed in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic response shifted into full gear. Amidst the challenge of the ensuing months, UP SIBOL was uniquely suited to aid in the national response as the country then faced novel problems requiring equally novel solutions. Instead of becoming a hindrance, the pandemic even catalyzed the teams working under UP SIBOL.Under the three main themes of Protect, Disinfect, and Distance, different projects were proposed by the interdisciplinary teams. As an example of a proposal under the theme of Protect, a team headed by Engr. Leslie Diaz and Dr. Manuel Jorge focused on reusable face masks. Under the theme of Disinfect, Dr. Edward Wang, Dr. Catherine Co, Engr. Eduardo Magdaluyo, and Engr. Jason Pechardo were able to launch a prototype of a self-contained disinfecting cubicle. The device, SaniPod, was showcased in PGH as a way to quickly disinfect health workers in the COVID wards. Lastly, under the theme of Distance, a team composed of Dr. Nathaniel Orillaza, Engr. Prospero Naval, and Engr. Luis Sison is currently working on a telepresence device for use in the COVID wards. The prototype has a screen mounted on a remote-controlled, wheeled-machine that can go around the wards. Aptly nicknamed myBESHIE (My Bot Ensuring Safety and Health in Isolated Environments), the device is envisioned to minimize exposure between patients and health workers while still allowing them to freely interact in a safe manner through the screen.To foster stronger collaboration between physicians and engineers working across different projects, the CLICs still continue to this day. Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz, the Executive Director of the National Institutes of Health, has lauded this initiative. After all, friendships and conversations lead to meaningful research collaborations. The idea of CLICs is to stimulate the free exchange of ideas. It links physicians who have medical problems to solve with engineers who are eager to propose solutions. This is preferably done in a cafe, over a hot cup of coffee, but since this is currently not feasible, the environment is simulated over virtual meeting rooms. Some of the initiatives, including the Hand Pose and Telerehab Movement Detection project, were born from this auspicious meeting of minds.UP SIBOL is an upscale innovation hub for medical devices such as UP SIBOL face mask, MyBeshie (My Bot Ensuring Safety and Health in Isolated Environments), Prone pillow, and Clean-tubate. The facemask is made of a nanofiber material that could be used up to 30 times. Photo by: UP Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology (UP SIBOL).The Clean-intubate is a device used to disinfect laryngoscope blades used in intubation. Photo by: UP Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology (UP SIBOL).The Prone pillow plus is a supportive pillow that allows safe and comfortable prone positioning for obese and pregnant women in acute respiratory failure. Photo by: UP Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology (UP SIBOL).Beyond joining physicians and engineers to work on projects, UP SIBOL also helps students in both fields nurture their interests in the nexus of Engineering and Medicine. As mentioned in another article found on this issue, entitled “Sowing Seeds of Innovation: The ECE 197/297 Experience,” experts under UP SIBOL also helped launch a new course back in A.Y. 2020-2021. The course was named “ECE 197: Introduction to Systems Design for Healthcare” for undergraduates and “ChE 297: Process Systems Design for Healthcare” for graduate students.Outside the elective, UP SIBOL also holds virtual lectures on “Innovations in Health” every third Thursday of the month. Last February, Dr. Jacinto Blas Mantaring III gave a crash course on Health Technology Assessment. Meanwhile, Engr. Maria Cecila Matienzo spoke about Medical Device Regulation in the Philippines last May. One of the lectures given this August was about how orthopedic surgeons and engineers work on designing prosthetics. The discussion was led by Dr. Ilustre Guloy Jr. and Engr. Jude Sasing, as both shared their experiences collaborating across disciplines.None of these initiatives would make an impact if the devices prototyped do not make it to the market. Beyond ensuring that the products are technically and mechanically sound, they must also be commercially viable. As such, UP SIBOL also works with the UPSCALE Innovation Hub, a partnership between UP and DOST, which aims to foster innovation by assisting startups and multidisciplinary collaborations. In particular, they help link fledgling companies with government institutions and private entities to bring forth their products from conception to commercialization.UP SIBOL is the first step in the dream to locally design and manufacture advanced biomedical devices in our country. It leverages the brightest minds and diverse range of expertise within the University to push the envelope of biomedical technology in the Philippines. With UP SIBOL serving as an avenue for close collaboration between the two fields, its primary goal is to hopefully usher in a golden age of research and development at the nexus of Engineering and Medicine.
2021 Gawad Chancellor Awards
By: Joaquin Julio Reyes, UPCM 2025We celebrate UP Manila Day and the anniversary of the autonomy of the Health Sciences Center every 22nd of October. In conjunction with this, the University celebrates numerous individuals from the community who have exemplified the nature of excellence. This year’s awarding ceremony was hosted by Dr. Melfred Hernandez, Director of the Office of Alumni Relations, and Dr Emily Dicolen, a representative from the National Teacher Training Center for the Health Professions.The 39th UP Manila Foundation Day and 42nd Anniversary of the Health Sciences Center was celebrated last October 22, 2021 and was hosted by Dr. Melfred Hernandez, Director of the Office of Alumni Relations, and Dr Emily Dicolen, a representative from the National Teacher Training Center for the Health ProfessionsThe first speaker of the day was Dr. Cornelio Banaag who spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Filipino family. Dr. Banaag emphasized the multiple roles that individuals hold in the household especially in the time of this pandemic which in turn add to the stress each of us feel everyday. In the context of our country, Dr. Banaag highlighted research conducted by faculty from the UP College of Medicine together with Philippine One Health University Network and Southeast Asian On Health University Network. It was found that NCR students had experienced more stress, depression, and anxiety from the pandemic. Moreover, Dr. Banaag also highlighted the factor of parental burnout as an inciting factor in the poor mental health of our country. This parental burnout is caused by a distress or discomfort that results from demands associated with the role of parenting. Burnout begins when this stress becomes chronic and overwhelming.In spite of these barriers for the Filipino family, Dr. Banaag also highlighted the creative and resourceful ways that families have thrived during the pandemic. He cited an instance of sixth graders in the Philippines using remote- controlled robots to hold cyber graduations. This is an example of how digital technologies can be used to support schools. Furthermore, he also highlighted the heightened awareness of some families to create healthy habits and take care of one’s body which has resulted in an example of self-directed health.Resilience is a word often overused in this day and age, but Dr. Banaag made it a point to differentiate this concept from post-traumatic growth which may be what we want to achieve in post-pandemic. Resilience, he says, is the ability to resist and recover readily from a traumatic event. Post-traumatic growth however is a much deeper experience wherein positive psychological change helps people become stronger in order to live more meaningful days (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).Taking these ideals into the context, it is important to see that these awardees from our College have shown growth despite the pandemic and they prove to be examples that we too can rise above the blows that all of this has dealt us.There were three awardees from the student body of the College. Leandro Salazar, currently a medical intern in the Philippine General Hospital, bagged the Outstanding Student award for his exemplary performance both inside and outside the classroom. Mr. Salazar was instrumental in the 7th Philippine Conference on Community Health and the National Health Resource Masterplan. He was also the Medical School Representative in the passing of the Republic Act no.11509. He has shown what it means to be a holistic and well-rounded student by excelling at his academics while being at the helm of numerous student organizations. Mr. Salazar served as the Chairperson of the 42nd Medicine Student Council, the National President of the Alliance of Philippine Pre-medical Societies, and he was also recognized by the Asian Pacific Medical Colleges’ Student Network as “Mga Natatanging Mag-aaral ng Medisina sa Pilipinas” and “Natatanging Mag-aaral ng Medisina ng Pilipinas sa Larangan ng Liderato.” Given these achievements among many other smaller ones that we may not have heard of, Mr. Salazar is a rightful recipient of this award.Leandro Salazar from UPCM 2022 received the 2021 Gawad Chancellor Award for Outstanding Student for his exemplary performanceThe second recipient of a “Gawad Chancellor Award” from the student body was William Thomas Lara from UPCM LU4. He was awarded as Outstanding Athlete for his contributions to the UP Men’s Varsity Swimming Team. Mr. Lara was a consistent podium finisher during his 5-year stint with the team. He amassed consistent gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Philippine Swimming Inc. Long Course and Short Course National Championships. Furthermore, he also finished silver in his first year competing in the UAAP Swimming Tournament and bronze in all his succeeding years. In his graduating year, Mr. Lara finished summa cum laude with a degree in Sports Sciences. Mr. Lara continues to shine in medical school as a student and as a leader as he holds a place in the Executive Council of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity.William Thomas Lara from UPCM 2025 received the 2021 Gawad Chancellor Award for Outstanding Athlete award for his contributions to the UP Men’s Varsity Swimming Team Lastly, the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority was awarded the Most Outstanding Student Organization for their service to the community. Projects such as the Health Education and Literacy Campaigns have helped improve patient education and health-seeking behavior in the communities that were served. Other projects such as Sine Gamutan and COVIDgilance webinar series proved that service could prevail online in spite of the pandemic. Furthermore, Mu Relief has raised more than Php 4,000,000 in cash and in kind to help the frontliners and communities that needed it urgently at the onset of the pandemic. The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority embodies tenacious service undeterred by challenges brought about by the pandemic. They continue to show that relevant service can still be rendered even with barriers left and right.The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority of the UP College of Medicine garners the 2021 Gawad Chancellor Award for Outstanding Student Organization. The plaque was received by Micaella Maria Gonzales, Mu Sigma Phi Sorority 2022, Most Exalted Sister Our esteemed faculty were also awarded. Dr. Maria Julieta Corazon Victoriano-Germar, better known as Ma’am Jayjay, was awarded Outstanding Teacher. She has been teaching for 18 years, and she has been known for her development of clinical teaching and student evaluation. She designs simulation-based education modules using high-fidelity simulators to teach and she has also created low-cost alternatives for commercially available task trainers. Furthermore, she also helped provide training modules on basic clinical skills to student volunteers from UP Manila and individualized learning plans for students from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. During the pandemic, she also designed the UPCM-OB-Gyn virtual simulation learning kits which covered procedures such as pap smears, pelvic exams, and episiotomies. She further supplemented their learning with checklists and online workshops. Her published works on online courses for health practitioners have displayed her prowess and ingenuity in creating new ways for students to learn. Currently, she is the head of the UP College of Medicine Clinical Simulation center. Dr. Maria Julieta Corazon Victoriano-Germar, better known as Ma’am Jayjay, was awarded the 2021 Gawad Chancellor Award for Outstanding Teacher. “Kung sa tinagal-tagal ng iyong pagdadalubhasa ay natutunan mong tumangis sa kahirapan at kalungkutan ng iyong mga kababayan, kung natagpuan mo sa iyong puso na maglingkod sa kanila nang kahit paminsan-minsan ay walang inisip na katumbas na kabayaran, ikaw na marahil ang isa sa maitatanghal na tunay na bayani ng ating pangkasalukuyang Lipunan.”Dr. Emmanuel P. Estrella from the National Institutes of Health was awarded Outstanding Researcher. Dr. Estrella is currently practicing reconstructive microsurgery. From 2016-2020, Dr. Estrella had published seven scientific articles and had authored six reputable papers on topics such as fractures, injuries, and microsurgeries such as nerve transfers for shoulder reconstruction in brachial plexus. These publications have cumulatively received over 50 citations. He is currently in the editorial board for several scientific journals and he was awarded UP Scientist I from 2015-2017. He was also awarded with the Promising Star award in 2017 from Thomas-Reuters and he has been named as one of Asia’s Top 100 Scientists.Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, Professor 12, and current UP Manila Chancellor received the Service Award from the College of Medicine.Dr. Diana R. Tamondong Lachica was awarded Outstanding Teacher in Extension Service for her contributions to patient safety and quality of care in the institutions she is a part of. She was involved in formulating evidence-based standards of care and policies for hospitals as well as clinical practice guidelines on lifestyle intervention, COVID-19 living treatment, and adult sepsis. She has also served in the DOH Technical Group for the National Patient Service Program and has been involved in the DOH Drug Price Advisory Council on Government Policies and Interventions of essential price reductions. Her staunch involvement led to the signing of Executive Order 104 on the Maximum Drug Retail price. In our hospital’s time of need, she spearheaded the Patient Query arm of the COVID Operations - Bayanihan Center Hotline which has helped PGH services nationwide deal with the pandemic.From how these awardees have been described, it is evident that they have grown through this pandemic in more ways than one. Despite the obstacles that they have been faced with, they have shown grit, creativity, and consistency.To end, as Dr. Germar quotes her own teacher Dr. Augusto Manalo,“Kung sa tinagal-tagal ng iyong pagdadalubhasa ay natutunan mong tumangis sakahirapan at kalungkutan ng iyong mga kababayan, kung natagpuan mo sa iyong puso na maglingkod sa kanila nang kahit paminsan-minsan ay walang inisip na katumbas na kabayaran, ikaw na marahil ang isa sa maitatanghal na tunay na bayani ng ating pangkasalukuyang Lipunan.”Most honorably, these awardees have exemplified compassion for those who have been affected most in our country. They have gone above and beyond what has been asked of them to ensure that we can continue to grow after the blows dealt by this pandemic.
Pagkilala: Faculty Recognition Ceremonies 2021
By: Stephanie Noelle Blanco, UPCM Class 2024On December 7, 2021, the UP College of Medicine proudly recognized and awarded faculty and departments who garnered significant achievements from academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. The first ever Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Awards were also presented. This year’s ceremony entitled “Pagkilala” was conducted via Zoom.The UPM College of Medicine recognizes the significant achievements from its faculty and departments from academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. It began with introductions from the Masters of Ceremonies, Dr. Angela S. Aguilar and Dr. Benjamin P. Sablan Jr., followed by performances of the UP MedChoir for the invocation, national anthem, and college hymn. College of Medicine Dean, Dr. Charlotte M. Chiong, UP Manila Chancellor, Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, and PGH Director, Dr. Gerardo D. Legaspi delivered the welcome remarks and opening messages. They commended the faculty for their contributions in fulfilling the College’s mission—especially in the face of unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic—and serving as inspirations and mentors.Masters of the Ceremonies, Dr. Benjamin P. Sablan Jr. (left) and Dr. Angela S. Aguilar (right), proudly begin the program for “Pagkilala: Faculty Recognition Ceremonies” held December 7, 2021 via Zoom. The first group of awardees recognized were the Faculty Achievers—faculty who received awards, both locally and internationally, and served as heads of their respective specialties and societies from 2019 up to July 2021. There were 84 recognized faculty across 16 departments.From the Department of Anesthesiology were the following: Dr. Maria Lourdes Josefina K. Cabaluna, Dr. Grace Anne B. Herbosa, Dr. Geraldine Raphaela B. Jose, Dr. Catherine Renee B. Reyes, Dr. Maria Dolma G. Santos, Dr. Edgard M. Simon, and Dr. Benjamin Daniel S. ValeraDepartment of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology: Leslie Michelle M. Dalmacio, PhD Gracia Fe B. Yu, PhDDepartment of Clinical Epidemiology: Dr. Marissa M. AlejandriaDepartment of Dermatology: Dr. Claudine Yap-SilvaDepartment of Family & Community Medicine: Dr. Karin E. Garcia Dr. Leilani A. NicodemusDepartment of Medicine: Dr. Albert B. Albay, Jr., Dr. Jubert P. Benedicto, Dr. Regina P. Berba, Dr. Joselito R. Chavez, Dr. Mark Anthony A. De Lusong, Dr. Lenora C. Fernandez, Dr. Gabriel V. Jasul Jr., Dr. Elizabeth S. Montemayor, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Dr. Deborah Ignacia D. Ona, Dr. Felix Eduardo R. Punzalan, Dr. Bernadette Heizel M. Reyes, Dr. Evalyn A. Roxas, Dr. Evelyn O. Salido, Dr. Anthony Russell T. Villanueva, and Dr. Aileen D. WangDepartment of Neurosciences: Dr. Carissa Paz C. Dioquino, Dr. Peter Paul D.P. Rivera, and Dr. Ma. Cristina Z. San JoseDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Dr. Angela S. Aguilar, Dr. Ira Dominique T. Alatraca-Malonzo, Dr. Doris R. Benavides, Dr. Sybil Lizanne R. Bravo, Dr. Ma. Bernadette O. Cruz, Dr. Maynila E. Domingo, Dr. Ana Victoria V. Dy Echo, Dr. Florante P. Gonzaga, Dr. Maria Antonia E. Habana, Dr. Cecilia A. Ladines-Llave, Dr. Erlidia F. Llamas-Clark, Dr. Ricardo M. Manalastas Jr., Dr. Virgilio M. Novero Jr., Dr. Lisa Teresa T. Prodigalidad-Jabson, Dr. Filomena S. San Juan, Dr. Maria Lilibeth L. Sia Su, Dr. Agnes L. Soriano-Estrella, Dr. Gladys G. Tanangonan, Dr. Jean Anne B. Toral, Dr. Maria Julieta Corazon M. Victoriano-Germar, and Dr. Regina Rosario P. VitrioloDepartment of Orthopedics: Dr. Peter B. Bernardo Dr. Czar Louie L. GastonDepartment of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: Dr. Arsenio Claro A. Cabungcal, Dr. Charlotte M. Chiong, and Dr. Jose Florencio F. Lapena, Jr.Department of Pediatrics: Dr. Eva Maria C. Cutiongco-Dela Paz, Dr. Leonila F. Dans, Dr. Ma. Liza Antoinette M. Gonzales, and Dr. Bernadette MadridDepartment of Pharmacology and Toxicology: Dr. Maria Stephanie Fay S. Cagayan, Dr. Cleotilde H. How, Dr. Irma R. Makalinao, Dr. Jose Paciano Baltazar V.T. Reyes, and Dr. Richard Henry P. Tiongco, IIIDepartment of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine: Dr. Alma L. Jimenez, Dr. Constantine D. Della, and Dr. Antonio C. SisonDepartment of Radiology: Dr. Lorelie L. Chavez, Dr. Manuel Martin L. Lopez, and Dr. Leizl B. ValerioDepartment of Rehabilitation Medicine: Dr. Teresita Joy P. EvangelistaDepartment of Surgery: Dr. Jose Modesto B. Abellera III, Dr. Crisostomo E. Arcilla, Jr., Dr. Allan Dante M. Concejero, Dr. Daniel A. de la Paz, Jr., Dr. Arturo S. de la Pena, Dr. Teodoro J. Herbosa, Dr. Reynaldo O. Joson, Dr. Adrian E. Manapat, Dr. Orlando O. Ocampo, and Dr. Francisco Manuel T. RoxasNext was the UPMASA Outstanding Teacher Awards for AY 2019-2020, whose faculty recipients were chosen by the students from each year level. Awardees received a certificate of recognition and a cash award from the UP Medical Alumni Society in America. A Hall of Fame Award was also given to those previously awarded as UPMASA Outstanding Teacher for more than five times consecutively.The Hall of Fame awardees for LU 3 were Dr. Blesile Suzette S. Mantaring and Dr. Jose Leonard R. Pascual V, while the recognized Outstanding Teachers in LU 3 are Dr. Ronnie E. Baticulon and Dr. Rafael C. Bundocーall belong to the Department of Anatomy.The Hall of Fame awardees for LU 4 are Dr. Cecilia A. Jimeno and Dr. Maria Concepcion C. Sison, both from the Department of Pharmacology. Meanwhile, the Outstanding Teachers in LU 4 are Dr. Jose Leonard R. Pascual V of the Department of Neurosciences, and Dr. Paolo S. Macasaet of the Department of Pathology.The UPMASA Outstanding Teachers in LU 5 are Dr. Cecilia A. Jimeno of the Department of Pharmacology, and Dr. Maria Julieta Corazon M. Victoriano-Germar of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.Dr. Cecilia A. Jimeno was also recognized by the UPMASA as Outstanding Teacher in LU 6, along with Dr. Felice Katrina T. Ranche of the Department of Ophthalmology.The Dr. Augusto A. Camara Best Teacher in the Basic Sciences was then awarded. It is given annually to honor Dr. Augusto A. Camara of UPCM Class 1944. He graduated summa cum laude from the College of Medicine, topped the medical board exam, served as an eminent cardiologist, and was a concert pianist. The award itself was given to Dr. Blesile Suzette S. Mantaring. This year, a Hall of Fame award was also given, recognizing Dr. Jose Leonard R. Pascual V as its recipient.Dr. Blesile Suzette S. Mantaring is awarded the Dr. Augusto A. Camara Best Teacher in the Basic Sciences; the Hall of Fame award is given to Dr. Jose Leonard R. Pascual V. For the first time, the Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Awards were conferred by former UP College of Medicine Dean Cecil Tomas. Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos of UPCM Class 1965 became a researcher after graduation at the Philippine Eye Research Institute and served as Chair of the National Committee for Sight Preservation for many years. She garnered many accolades for her work in bringing basic ophthalmologic services to the provinces. The respective categories under the Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Awards are the Best Student Research Paper and the Meritorious Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals.Former UPCM Dean Cecil Tomas confers the first ever Dr. Evangeline Olivar Santos Memorial Awards to Dr. Maria Llaine Callanta for the Best Student Research Paper Category, and to Dr. Harvey Siy Uy and Dr. Emmanuel P. Estrella for the Meritorious Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals Category. The Best Student Research Paper intends to encourage students to pursue high-impact research. This was awarded to Dr. Maria Llaine Callanta, who conferred her MD-PhD in Molecular Biology this 2021, for her research “The Role of SMAD2/3 in Vascular Remodeling of Kawasaki Disease Murine Models.” She also received the DOST-PCHRD Award for Most Outstanding MD-PhD Dissertation.The Meritorious Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals aims to encourage faculty to publish their research in index peer-reviewed journals adhering to high standards of scholarships. This year, there were two recipients. Dr. Harvey Siy Uy, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, was recognized for his publication in The Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology entitled, “Comparison of Two Different Intravitreal Injection Techniques.” Dr. Emmanuel P. Estrella, Clinical Professor, Department of Orthopedics, was recognized for his publication entitled “Quality of Life of Patients with Traumatic Brachial Plexus Injuries” in the International Journal of the Care of the Injured.Before the final segment, a special intermission number was performed by colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Rani M. Cadiz and Dr. Florida F. Taladtad performed a duet of the song “Tuloy Pa Rin” by Neocolors.The final awards given were the Silver Cup Awards for the Most Outstanding Departments for AY 2019-2020, an initiative of the UP Medical Foundation, Inc. (1993). The criteria for outstanding departments are contributions to (1) academic excellence, (2) research integrity and relevance, (3) staff development, (4) university and college extension services, and (5) the public persona of the UP College of Medicine. Dr. Paolo Maria M. Pagkatipunan, President of the UP Medical Foundation, Inc. conferred the Most Outstanding Basic and Clinical Departments.The Top 3 departments of the Basic Sciences were the Department of Anatomy, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, and Department Pharmacology, with the Department of Pharmacology bagging the award.As for the Clinical Sciences, the Top 3 departments were the Department of Neurosciences, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and Department of Surgery. The award was given to the Department of Surgery.Marking the end of the ceremony, closing remarks were given by College Secretary Dr. Abner Chan, followed by UP Naming Mahal led by the UP MedChoir. Taking from the message of Dr. Chan, “What a blessing it must be to have found your true calling early in life, to love what you do, to be able to work on it on a daily basis, and ultimately, achieving excellence, if not perfection. To one day be recognized for it is definitely a bonus.”Becoming a six-star physician does not have shortcuts nor is it achieved by luck. The faculty are examples of what persistence, passion, and continuous work together can achieve.
Asa Ako Matabang?: Learning Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By: Karl Gerard Reyes Crisostomo, UPCM 2023, Executive Editor of UPCM InSPIRE MagazineAs the first news of the coronavirus reaching Philippine soil started flowing in during the early months of 2020, Ianne Keziah Agripo, a then-LU4 student, felt a sense of unease and uncertainty. “We did not realize the impact of the pandemic until it hit the two-week mark, when all the classes were cancelled for a prolonged period of time,” she would later say. As soon as reality set in, she noted that there was a strong sense of helplessness. As a medical student, she felt compelled to help in whatever way she could. However, she was limited as she, much like her other classmates, was not yet a licensed physician. This was compounded by the fact that the pandemic took away opportunities for face-to-face training. However, equipped with a drive to learn and a willingness to serve, Keziah took it upon herself to find ways in the midst of a pandemic. The first opportunity came to Keziah through one of her organizations in the UP College of Medicine, the Regionalization Student’s Organization. She was able to assist in sourcing laboratory materials for COVID-19 testing, including cryogenic vials, microcentrifuge tubes, and filtered tips, supplied to provinces to further capacitate the labs that were not as well-equipped as their urban counterparts at the start of the pandemic. “The difference at the provincial levels was the [COVID-19 RTPCR] testing. At the time, there were no testing centers, only one in Cebu and one in Davao… all the rest were in Luzon or in NCR. We were thinking of how to address and help capacitate [these hospitals] in terms of their laboratories,” she remarked. While she felt she was able to contribute to the pandemic efforts—and she was able to interact with and form connections all over the country through sourcing these materials—she often asked herself if there was more she could do to further assist in these efforts. Another chance came from the APMC-SN, through which she was able to participate in driving advocacies digitally, particularly one for telehealth. Here, she was able to co-head in a digital health advocacy on the incorporation of hybrid care through telemedicine. When asked about her takeaway from this activity, she said “Telehealth can be used to [equip] remote areas—connect even the most specialized doctor to the most rural areas with no remote professionals.” While many opportunities were provided in the digital landscape to integrate and innovate in the field of medicine, she found herself searching for ground-level work, where she would be able to interact with and approach patients. While she appreciated everything that she learned previously, she noted that there was a particular dimension with regards to connecting and understanding patients that was difficult to elicit in a telemedicine setting. As luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself through the pilot vaccination program that was being conducted in the LGU of Keziah’s hometown, Valencia, Bukidnon. The information and knowledge gleaned from this program would then go on to be used in vaccination programs nationwide as a means to make the existing setup more efficient. To this end, she was assigned to be part of the COVID-19 information drive that would be occurring throughout the vaccination program as various individuals waited for their turn to get vaccinated. Valencia Mass Vaccination Center at the City Gymnasium. From left to right: Ms. Venadyl Hera Fuego, R.N., Ms. Keziah Agripo, Dr. Gretchen Dale Eduave-Abas, Hon. Policarpo Murillo IV, M.D., Dr. Rhogieh Nomus, Mr. Yobrem Silvano, R.N.“The challenging part was how do you bridge scientific jargon to layman’s terms na kaya ma-intindihan or ma-gauge ng mga tao all about immunization… bakit safe ‘yung vaccine.” She felt it was a big responsibility for her as the knowledge that she would imbibe upon those present would also be shared with their respective families at home. “...[A]ndun na talaga ‘yung responsibility to you, na you are holding the mic, and what you are saying is what gets to the patient,” she noted. Her efforts necessitated her to clarify misconceptions regarding the vaccine, and she climbed the steep learning curve that pushed her to keep informed. Through this, however, she felt that it gave further relevance to what she had learned over the course of her medical education, giving her an opportunity to learn and teach accordingly.While there were plenty of learning opportunities, she noted that volunteering while also pursuing her medical education was no easy task. “First and foremost, I was not living at home… kasi if volunteering, ayoko maexpose ‘yung family.” Keziah would find herself waking up as early as 5:00 a.m. before sunrise, drinking her morning coffee as well as perusing through her readings for class on that day. Afterwards, she would head early to the vaccination center to assist in the setup. Depending on whether there was a lecture or SGD in her rotation that day, she would often come earlier to attend the session in the vaccination center so as not to worry about preparations or travel time needed. The orientation and information drive would start at around 9:00 a.m., and—oftentimes, with two other volunteers—she would spend 15 to 30 minutes giving an overview of all the precautions and contraindications for vaccines in a manner that would be easily digestible to laypeople. They would also actively make an effort to clarify all the misconceptions that were often reported, along with any adverse effects that would make the daily news. Her days would often end at 5:00 p.m., after which she would get to bond with other healthcare volunteers; they would then discuss unique cases that they had all encountered over the course of the day, along with learnings that would help further enhance their approach to these patients in later sessions. On some days outside of the vaccination schedule, they would even go out to other barangays to educate. Orientation Zone at Valencia City Mass Vaccination Center. From left to right: Ms.Venadyl Hera Fuego, R.N., Ms. Keziah Agripo, Mr. Yobrem Silvano, R.N. Despite the challenges, Keziah felt the situation was ripe with many opportunities for learning. Throughout her service in the LGU, she was able to apply learnings from class and from her various SGDs when advising patients during post-vaccine monitoring, specifically regarding breastfeeding after getting vaccinated, as well as possible drug interactions with medications. She also appreciated being able to interact with various patients while also learning about their various experiences with COVID-19 that further influenced their decision to get vaccinated. Learning about various reasons for initial hesitancy such as a death in the family or a severe experience from the pandemic further motivated her to make a greater effort in learning. “...[O]nce I get to understand a patient’s story, it gets me motivated by learning more… about how to take care of them,” highlighting how medicine was not just about curing the underlying condition but ensuring the proper care and quality of life for the patient. Keziah was also provided many opportunities outside of the virtual medical setting through her various interactions with her fellow healthcare professionals. “Rapport building with colleagues and soon-to-be colleagues was very vital kasi sobrang humbling siya,” noting how they proceeded to offer her many chances to learn in a face-to-face setting. Outside of her duties in the vaccination drive, she was given the opportunity to observe and assist in a live birth, assist in blood drives, and suture in the outpatient department, among other things. She made active efforts to look for opportunities to learn, observe, and absorb information that would prove to be relevant in her future practice. The mass vaccinations were held strong by these community doctors of Bukidnon. From left to right: Dr. Mimi Lazardo, Dr. Carren Emirose Solidor, Dr. Pat Hamilton Abella, Dr. Marlyn Valdez Agbayani, Dr. Claire Rica Ree, Dr. Gretchen Dale Eduave-Abas, Keziah Agripo, Dr. Juniver Flores.Help, Learn, and Teach. The everyday mantra of a medical student’s daily grind.Featuring post-emergency outpatient department suturing and first blood donation drive in Valencia City since the start of the pandemic.Through all these experiences, Keziah reaffirmed how the experience helped her develop into a six-star physician. Through learning about research opportunities in medicine in the local setting, interacting with patients, learning how to communicate adequate information for the better health of her patients, as well as working alongside other healthcare providers in a setting that fostered holistic patient care, she was able to apply theoreticals from medical school in a real life setting. Most importantly, she highlighted the importance of healthcare as a team effort, not just an individual undertaking. In fact, she noted the most important question to be asked in these moments was “asa ko makatabang: how can I help?”, a question applying not only to patients in need but also to colleagues in the field of healthcare. In the end, Keziah notes the social aspect of medicine as an important part of health, sharing the experience with the patients, their families, as well as her future colleagues in a holistic, collaborative effort. In the same way that the oft-repeated adage states how “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to ensure that its members are always in the best of health.
Asa Ko Makatabang?: Learning Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By: Karl Gerard Reyes Crisostomo, UPCM 2023, Executive Editor of UPCM InSPIRE MagazineAs the first news of the coronavirus reaching Philippine soil started flowing in during the early months of 2020, Ianne Keziah Agripo, a then-LU4 student, felt a sense of unease and uncertainty. “We did not realize the impact of the pandemic until it hit the two-week mark, when all the classes were cancelled for a prolonged period of time,” she would later say. As soon as reality set in, she noted that there was a strong sense of helplessness. As a medical student, she felt compelled to help in whatever way she could. However, she was limited as she, much like her other classmates, was not yet a licensed physician. This was compounded by the fact that the pandemic took away opportunities for face-to-face training. However, equipped with a drive to learn and a willingness to serve, Keziah took it upon herself to find ways in the midst of a pandemic.The first opportunity came to Keziah through one of her organizations in the UP College of Medicine, the Regionalization Student’s Organization. She was able to assist in sourcing laboratory materials for COVID-19 testing, including cryogenic vials, microcentrifuge tubes, and filtered tips, supplied to provinces to further capacitate the labs that were not as well-equipped as their urban counterparts at the start of the pandemic. “The difference at the provincial levels was the [COVID-19 RTPCR] testing. At the time, there were no testing centers, only one in Cebu and one in Davao… all the rest were in Luzon or in NCR. We were thinking of how to address and help capacitate [these hospitals] in terms of their laboratories,” she remarked. While she felt she was able to contribute to the pandemic efforts—and she was able to interact with and form connections all over the country through sourcing these materials—she often asked herself if there was more she could do to further assist in these efforts.Another chance came from the APMC-SN and Asia eHealth Information Network, through which she was able to participate in driving advocacies digitally, particularly one for telehealth. Here, she was able to co-head an international digital health conference with Vince Tiu and Nonot Nacionales, in collaboration with Dr. Alvin Marcelo on the incorporation of hybrid care through telemedicine and the digital health strategy. When asked about her takeaway from this activity, she said “Telehealth can be used to [equip] remote areas—connect even the most specialized doctor to the most rural areas with no remote professionals.”While many opportunities were provided in the digital landscape to integrate and innovate in the field of medicine, she found herself searching for ground-level work, where she would be able to interact with and approach patients. While she appreciated everything that she learned previously, she noted that there was a particular dimension with regards to connecting and understanding patients that was difficult to elicit in a telemedicine setting. As luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself through the pilot vaccination program that was being conducted in the LGU of Keziah’s hometown, Valencia, Bukidnon. The information and knowledge gleaned from this program would then go on to be used in vaccination programs nationwide as a means to make the existing setup more efficient. To this end, she was assigned to be part of the COVID-19 information drive that would be occurring throughout the vaccination program as various individuals waited for their turn to get vaccinated.Valencia Mass Vaccination Center at the City Gymnasium. From left to right: Ms. Venadyl Hera Fuego, R.N., Ms. Keziah Agripo, Dr. Gretchen Dale Eduave-Abas, Hon. Policarpo Murillo IV, M.D., Dr. Rhogieh Nomus, Mr. Yobrem Silvano, R.N.“The challenging part was how do you bridge scientific jargon to layman’s terms na kaya ma-intindihan or ma-gauge ng mga tao all about immunization… bakit safe ‘yung vaccine.” She felt it was a big responsibility for her as the knowledge that she would imbibe upon those present would also be shared with their respective families at home. “...[A]ndun na talaga ‘yung responsibility to you, na you are holding the mic, and what you are saying is what gets to the patient,” she noted. Her efforts necessitated her to clarify misconceptions regarding the vaccine, and she climbed the steep learning curve that pushed her to keep informed. Through this, however, she felt that it gave further relevance to what she had learned over the course of her medical education, giving her an opportunity to learn and teach accordingly.While there were plenty of learning opportunities, she noted that volunteering while also pursuing her medical education was no easy task. “First and foremost, I was not living at home… kasi if volunteering, ayoko maexpose ‘yung family.” Keziah would find herself waking up as early as 5:00 a.m. before sunrise, drinking her morning coffee as well as perusing through her readings for class on that day. Afterwards, she would head early to the vaccination center to assist in the setup. Depending on whether there was a lecture or SGD in her rotation that day, she would often come earlier to attend the session in the vaccination center so as not to worry about preparations or travel time needed. The orientation and information drive would start at around 9:00 a.m., and—oftentimes, with two other volunteers—she would spend 15 to 30 minutes giving an overview of all the precautions and contraindications for vaccines in a manner that would be easily digestible to laypeople. They would also actively make an effort to clarify all the misconceptions that were often reported, along with any adverse effects that would make the daily news. Her days would often end at 5:00 p.m., after which she would get to bond with other healthcare volunteers; they would then discuss unique cases that they had all encountered over the course of the day, along with learnings that would help further enhance their approach to these patients in later sessions. On some days outside of the vaccination schedule, they would even go out to other barangays to educate.Zone 1: Orientation Zone at Valencia City Mass Vaccination Center. From left to right: Ms.Venadyl Hera Fuego, R.N., Ms. Keziah Agripo, Mr. Yobrem Silvano, R.N. Despite the challenges, Keziah felt the situation was ripe with many opportunities for learning. Throughout her service in the LGU, she was able to apply learnings from class and from her various SGDs when advising patients during post-vaccine monitoring, specifically regarding breastfeeding after getting vaccinated, as well as possible drug interactions with medications. She also appreciated being able to interact with various patients while also learning about their various experiences with COVID-19 that further influenced their decision to get vaccinated. Learning about various reasons for initial hesitancy such as a death in the family or a severe experience from the pandemic further motivated her to make a greater effort in learning. “...[O]nce I get to understand a patient’s story, it gets me motivated by learning more… about how to take care of them,” highlighting how medicine was not just about curing the underlying condition but ensuring the proper care and quality of life for the patient. Keziah was also provided many opportunities outside of the virtual medical setting through her various interactions with her fellow healthcare professionals. “Rapport building with colleagues and soon-to-be colleagues was very vital kasi sobrang humbling siya,” noting how they proceeded to offer her many chances to learn in a face-to-face setting. Outside of her duties in the vaccination drive, she was given the opportunity to observe and assist in a live birth, assist in blood drives, and suture in the outpatient department, among other things. She made active efforts to look for opportunities to learn, observe, and absorb information that would prove to be relevant in her future practice.The mass vaccinations were held strong by these community doctors of Bukidnon. From left to right: Dr. Mimi Lazardo, Dr. Carren Emirose Solidor, Dr. Pat Hamilton Abella, Dr. Marlyn Valdez Agbayani, Dr. Claire Rica Ree, Dr. Gretchen Dale Eduave-Abas, Keziah Agripo, Dr. Juniver Flores.Help, Learn, and Teach. The everyday mantra of a medical student’s daily grind.Featuring post-emergency outpatient department suturing and first blood donation drive in Valencia City since the start of the pandemic.Through all these experiences, Keziah reaffirmed how the experience helped her develop into a six-star physician. Through learning about research opportunities in medicine in the local setting, interacting with patients, learning how to communicate adequate information for the better health of her patients, as well as working alongside other healthcare providers in a setting that fostered holistic patient care, she was able to apply theoreticals from medical school in a real life setting. Most importantly, she highlighted the importance of healthcare as a team effort, not just an individual undertaking. In fact, she noted the most important question to be asked in these moments was “asa ko makatabang: how can I help?”, a question applying not only to patients in need but also to colleagues in the field of healthcare. In the end, Keziah notes the social aspect of medicine as an important part of health, sharing the experience with the patients, their families, as well as her future colleagues in a holistic, collaborative effort. In the same way that the oft-repeated adage states how “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to ensure that its members are always in the best of health.
Purpose of UPCM Inspire
As the official publication of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) community, the magazine aims to create a sense of community among various constituents of the UPCM faculty, students, alumni, and administrative staff.
This community magazine's namesake came from Dean Charlotte M. Chiong's strategic vision of the UPCM as discussed in detail in her inaugural speech in September 2018. Through this publication, the editorial team aims to share the progress of the many projects and endeavors that the college has initiated in pursuit of this goal.
Origins of te UPCM InSPIRE Magazine
The UPCM InSPIRE magazine, formerly known as the UPCM Newsletter, is the official magazine of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM). This was an initiative started by Dean Charlotte M. Chiong at the start of her term. With the goal of engaging and connecting the UPCM community as a whole, including its students, alumni, and faculty, through shared experiences and stories, the magazine realized itself as a biannual publication, released in both digital and printed formats. Aside from a core team consisting primarily of current faculty and students, the magazine also includes various guest contributors from all sectors of the UPCM community.
In late 2018, the office of the dean collaborated with a team of medical student volunteers for the release of the first issue. This student team, then composed of 14 medical students from different learning units, formed the editorial board and was able to publish the first issue. Eventually, the first faculty Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Angela S. Aguilar, was appointed to head the team.
While still retaining some elements of the old newsletter, the first issue was successfully released during the UPCM fundraising concert, “Musika ni Ryan, Medisina ng Ating Bayan,” on Sept 21, 2019. Given the experience earned in the first issue, the UPCM InSPIRE team reorganized itself and recruited more student volunteers to bolster its capacity and fill up additional roles. Furthermore, the magazine strived to distinguish itself further from the old newsletter format by focusing on engaging features and visuals. In the interim, plans were materializing for the eventual release of the UPCM InSPIRE website, which was launched on June 24, 2020. The second issue involved extensive collaboration with the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society (UPMAS) and was released to coincide with the annual homecoming celebrations of the college in December 2019. Recently, the magazine is currently working on its website and preparing for its third issue in time for the July 2020 college graduations.
In the coming years, the UPCM InSPIRE magazine hopes to further improve itself and to become a medium where the whole UPCM community can participate and connect.
Dr. Amparo "Ampy" Buenaventura-Kenny
Dr. Amparo “Ampy” Buenaventura-Kenny, 90, died peacefully in her sleep on July 7, 2020, in Antipolo City, Province of Rizal.
Ampy was born on October 31, 1930, in the City of Manila to Catalino F. Buenaventura and Carmen R. Buenaventura. She attended the University of the Philippines (U.P.) and graduated in 1952 with her medical degree, belonging to the first batch of post-World War II graduates. She took her medical residency training at the U.P. Philippine General Hospital – Department of Pathology. She then went to the University of Illinois College of Medicine and the Wesley Memorial Hospital both in Chicago, Illinois for her fellowship training in clinical hematology.
She got married in 1964 to Dr. Brian James Kenny, and the couple had two (2) children. From 1971 to 1992, she practiced medicine at the Kinderspital (Children’s Hospital) Immunology Department in Zurich, Switzerland. Ampy returned to the Philippines in 1995 and established a medical clinic in Alaminos City, Province of Pangasinan, providing free healthcare service to indigent community members.
In 2005, she was the recipient of a Special Award for Community Service given by the U.P. Medical Alumni Society. She dedicatedly continued her medical mission in Pangasinan until she reached the age of 84.
Ampy is survived by her husband Brian; their children, Anna and Urs; and her grandchildren, Roisin, Ronja and Juri. She is preceded in death by her parents, Catalino and Carmen; her sisters Ma. Luisa, Ma. Angeles, and her brother, Ramon.
May her family and friends take comfort in the truth that she showed sincere dedication as exemplified in her lengthy medical service mission towards her fellow countrymen.
Dr. Antonio R. Lahoz
He found joy as a servant-leader and a thought leader
Dr. Antonio R. Lahoz (Tony) was born on January 27, 1925 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, the second of three sons of Jose Lahoz and Lourdes Reyes. He attended local public schools for his elementary and high school education. In 1944, Tony began his Pre-Med studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) as a university scholar and a member of the varsity basketball team. He obtained his MD degree from the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) in 1953. Tony went on to train in General Surgery at the UP Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), becoming Chief Resident in 1957. During residency training, he met his future wife, Trinidad Rasay, an operating room nurse.
In 1958, Tony returned to his hometown with his wife and young family to establish a rural practice and begin blazing new trails. In April 1959, Lahoz Clinic was inaugurated; a private clinic with 10 inpatient beds was a relatively new concept at that time.
Unlike other physicians in town, Tony did not make home visits. He was a General Practitioner in the morning and a surgeon in the afternoon. In 1969, with a growing practice, he relocated and expanded Lahoz Clinic and Hospital. He was loved by patients and their multi-generational families.
Tony dedicated himself to improving health care and achieved this in so many ways. As President of the Ilocos Sur Medical Society (ISMS) (1963-1967, 1971-1973), he pioneered two projects. For Operation Salun-at (meaning health), ISMS members ventured to remote towns of Ilocos Sur to provide free consultations and free medicine, and conduct public health information campaigns. Operation Salun-at is the forerunner of ISMS’s ongoing medical missions. For the Medical Aid to Rural Indigent Areas (MARIA) Project, Tony partnered with the Philippine Medical Association to build medical aid stations in underserved areas that were staffed with physicians trained in community development.
Another way Tony improved health care was through education. He returned occasionally to UPCM to share his experiences in rural practice. He took charge of the UPCM regionalization program for Region I. He invited UPCM faculty to offer post-graduate courses to ISMS members. Locally, he started teaching in the nursing program at the University of Northern Philippines (UNP). Later on, he helped create UNP’s Step-Ladder Curriculum for Health Professionals that eventually became the foundation for the establishment of UNP’s College of Health Sciences and its College of Medicine. Through his leadership in the Rotary Club of Vigan and other civic organizations, these entities were able to expand their community outreach endeavors exponentially.
Tony peacefully joined his creator on May 4, 2020. He is survived by his wife, 9 children (four of whom are UPCM/UP-PGH trained physicians blazing their own trails in the Ilocos region), 15 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren.
Eduardo Reyes Mercado, MD, FAFN, FAANS
April 24, 1947 - June 24, 2020
Eduardo Reyes Mercado, UPCM Class of 1972, passed away peacefully on May 24, 2020 after a short battle with complications of lung cancer. He was 73.
He had a friendly outgoing nature yet he engaged everyone with thoughtful and deliberate attention. His neurosurgical operative technique was meticulous. His bedside manner and diligence endeared him to his patients. His calm demeanor, love for teaching, and incredible enthusiasm inspired colleagues.
He was “Eddie” to family and “Cadô” to friends and colleagues. Born in Benguet, Eddie was the third of five children of Doctors Pablo Mercado and Paciencia Reyes Mercado. He attended Grade School and High School at the Ateneo de Manila University at Loyola Heights.
A consistent college and university scholar, he completed BS Pre-Med at UP Diliman in 1967 and proceeded to the UP College of Medicine. At the UP College of Medicine, he performed well and his scholastic achievement was exceptional. He was a Rockefeller Foundation Exchange Scholar to the Kansas University Medical School from 1968-1969. After graduating in 1972, he spent two years as a general surgical resident at the Philippine General Hospital before he left for the United States to pursue neurosurgical training.
He was accepted to a straight surgical internship at the Presbyterian University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia. He qualified for a residency position in the neurosurgical service at Tufts Medical Center (then Tufts-New England Medical Center). Residency positions were competitive in Dr. Bennett Stein’s Neurosurgery Department and there was just a single slot available yearly. Eddie Mercado was accepted a year before the position was available. While waiting for the position to open, Eddie, upon Dr. Stein’s recommendation, completed a Neurosurgery Fellowship at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York with Dr. Joseph Epstein who was known for his work in spine surgery.
From 1976 to 1981, he was a Neurosurgical Resident at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Stein’s chief interests were arterio-venous malformation and pineal tumor surgery. His influence would have a profound impact on Eddie. While at Tufts, he was in the company great neurosurgeons. Dr. Volker K. H. Sonntag, was his chief resident. Volker eventually established the spine fellowship program at the Barrow Neurologic Institute in Arizona and was responsible for major publications in spine surgery. Dr. Kalmon D. Post, Eddie’s consultant at Tufts, was already internationally known for his work with pituitary, parasellar and cerebello-pontine angle tumors. Dr. Post, who would be the future Chairman of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, had a far-reaching influence on how Eddie performed his pituitary surgeries.
After completing his Chief Residency, he returned to the Philippines the next year. He was an Associate Professor at the Section of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, UP Philippine General Hospital from 1982 to1988. For a time, he was Dr. Faustino Domingo's Training Officer at the Neurosurgical Section. He took on academic and executive positions in several other institutions. He served as Chief of Neurosurgery in several hospitals and eventually had two stints as Medical Director of the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. He was chair of the Cardinal Santos Medical Center-Brain and Spine Institute for over a decade.
Cadô performed the very first micro-neurosurgical procedure in the Philippines, an STA-MCA bypass. Over the length of his career, he performed more than a thousand transphenoidal surgeries, the most by any Filipino neurosurgeon to date. He worked tirelessly to enhance neurosurgical education and training in the country and served as the Chairman and eventually the Executive Secretary of the Philippine Board of Neurological Surgery.
Inspired by his former chief, Dr. Bennett Stein, he was an eloquent advocate for developing the different sub-specializations of Neurosurgery. In 1996, Cadô Mercado together with a core group of neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and other specialists worked to make Stereotactic Radiosurgery more readily available to Filipinos. The result was the Philippine Gamma Knife Center at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center which opened in 1998, today a center of excellence for Stereotactic Radiosurgery in the country.
In 2005, his encouragement helped establish the Philippine Movement Disorder Surgery Center. For the very first time, Filipinos had access to Deep Brain Stimulation procedures for Parkinson’s Disease and Dystonia.
Cadô was instrumental in creating the Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, which championed the multidisciplinary team approach to managing patients with neoplasms of the brain and spine. Established in 2008, the Center organizes yearly symposia promoting unbiased, multispecialty, comprehensive neuro-oncology care.
An excellent Spine Surgeon, his best quality was his ability to meticulously discern a good surgical candidate from someone who was not. “Treat the patient, not the MRI,” he would always say. Very early in his career, he realized that true progress in the field of spine surgery in the country could only be achieved by collaborating and establishing a harmonious relationship with his orthopedic spine colleagues. In 2010, he established the Cardinal Santos Medical Center-Spine Center, a multidisciplinary endeavor of spine surgeons from both Orthopedics and Neurosurgery. The center has organized educational spine workshops and monthly case-management conferences.
Cadô Mercado believed in academic excellence as a path to excellence in patient care. In 2015, he established the first neurosurgical fellowship programs in the country: one year programs for both Stereotactic Gamma Knife Radiosurgery and Spine Surgery.
“Patient first!” was a maxim for Cadô. Recognizing that majority of our countrymen lacked resources for neurosurgical care, he spearheaded the establishment of the Cardinal Santos Charities Foundation and the Philippine Alliance for Brain and Spine Tumors, both registered foundations assisting marginalized neurosurgical patients with imaging, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and even surgery.
Skilled, competent, honest and compassionate; Eduardo Mercado was a steadfast friend and colleague. He was a pillar of Neurosurgery in the country and a beloved mentor to many generations of neurosurgeons.
He is survived by his sons, Luigi, Joaquin and Eric, his siblings Rolando and Rosario, and long time companion, Sharon Dunn.
Johnny Yee Fong, MD
September 14, 1946 - April 29, 2020
The World was His Table but Family First
On April 29, 2020 Johnny Y. Fong UPCM ’71 succumbed to complications arising from a subdural bleed. He leaves Grace behind, his enduring wife and partner in life for the past 40 years, 9 children, 17 grandchildren, and innumerable loved ones.
By many measures Johnny lived an extraordinary life. At heart he was a natural entrepreneur. Not just in the business of his profession but in the business of life.
Starting in 1971 with a residency in Pediatrics at the University of Illinois, his path first led to a pediatric private practice in Chicago. Then in 1976 he made a seminal move to the West Coast, and the city of Fresno, California became the capital of his life and his dreams.
He became a picture of the modern renaissance man. His mind ventured into many directions, reveling in innovation, opportunity, risk. He established several clinics, extended healthcare to underserved areas, took on the business of medicine. His interest segued into medical education. He helped establish a medical and nursing school in the Philippines, a nursing school in Saipan, and a vocational school for medical assistants in California.
He invented a safe restraint for children undergoing lumbar punctures and developed software for tracking immunizations. He loved playing lead guitar and drums. He enjoyed cartoons and wrote and published a children’s fairy tale book. His philosophy on the importance of family and community rooted him to personal agendas he considered imperative. He started the Tamaraw Lions Club in Fresno, diligently served at local and national Filipino American organizations, his medical alumni association the UPMASA, and his Phi Kappa Mu fraternity. He was generous with his time, ideas and service.
At his core he was an extreme family man, an indulgence borne from the supreme respect he bore his parents, a wellspring for the kind of family intimacy he engendered by years of dedicated family conversations, dinners and road trips, the fount of his overwhelming drive to care for his children’s wellbeing, careers, future and happiness. Of them he would say that his greatest accomplishment was the strength of his children. True, he was stern, and when he made up his mind, his direction could be painfully unwavering and unforgiving. One had to look beyond that agony to find burning sincerity and love.
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