By CJ Balicanta (Class 2020) and Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020)
As a way to launch their organization to the public and in an effort to formalize the practice of public health in the country, the fledgling Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP) conducted its First Lecture Series last Saturday, April 14, 2018, at the Buenafe Auditorium of the UP College of Medicine in Ermita, Manila.
In attendance were over 100 participants from all around the country, representing various stakeholders of public health such as the academe, research, government policy, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. Hosted by Dr. Rowena Alcido and Dr. Paolo Victor Medina, the event featured a series of talks and fora by prominent medical figures and practitioners, who shared their experiences on the state of public health in the country and insights on ways to improve the health of all Filipinos.
After the invocation and the singing of the National Anthem by the UP Medchoir, Dr. Joel Buenaventura, Vice-chair of the Board of Directors of PSPHP, gave his opening remarks and reiterated the importance of the Society in unifying the public health agenda and providing a platform for professional training and development.
The morning session started with a retrospective look at the challenges in public health in the country over the last 40 years. Dr. Ramon Paterno, faculty of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, discussed the optimism and eventual failures of the Primary Health Care approach in the context of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This was followed by a look into the future of public health. PSPHP President Dr. Lester Sam Geroy and Dr. Joel Buenaventura enumerated the many forefronts by which efforts to improve healthcare are underway, be in the Department of Health, rural practice, government policies, and hospitals.
The highlight of the morning was the session entitled “Personal Stories: Ganyan kami noon”, featuring three former DOH Secretaries: Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, and Dr. Paulyn Jean Ubial. They shared many interesting and inspiring anecdotes about their time as health secretary, as well as the challenges and triumphs they experienced as medical practitioners before assuming the position. A common theme among all three guest speakers was their unwavering dedication and compassion when they became Secretaries of Health. The session was moderated by Dr. Ryan Guinaran.
For the afternoon session, Mr. Paul de Leon, Chief of the Research and Development Management Division of PCHRD, and Dr. Beverly Ho, Chief of the Research Division of the Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau of DOH, presented opportunities for public health physicians to participate in major government research projects and other activities organized by the DOH.
The afternoon forum, moderated by Dr. Jacqueline Momville, was a discussion on the role of public health physicians in achieving the strategies and goals set by international agencies and the Philippine government. The panel was composed of physicians working in various facets of public health: Dr. Luisito Ruiz, Chair of the Board of Directors of PSPHP, Dr. Alvin Caballes, Chief of the Social Medicine Unit of the UP College of Medicine, Dr. Francis Gomez, President and CEO of New Marketlink Pharmaceutical Group, Dr. Juan Alfonso Leonardia, Vice President of PSPHP, and Dr. Renato Menrigue, Jr., President of the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines (AMHOP). Their unique perspectives on solution to public health problems reiterated the need for intersectoral cooperation and partnership to achieve these goals. They also stressed that there are numerous viable career options for fresh medical graduates in the field of public health.
To synthesize the learning points of the day’s lecture series, Prof. Ernesto Garilao, President of Zuellig Family Foundation, gave his closing remarks, emphasizing the role of public health physicians in nation building and the cooperation of various stakeholders in public health to achieve set goals.
The last session of the day was a business meeting, headed by the officers of PSPHP, to reiterate the mission and vision of the Society. They encouraged participants of the Lecture Series to join as members of the Society, highlighting privileges such as expanding their professional network, opportunities to join conferences and request for research grants, as well as aiding in applying to possible career options.
The officers and organizers of the Lecture Series hope the event will serve as a springboard to attract more public health practitioners to join the organization, support its causes and activities, and to promote future endeavors such as the planned upcoming National Convention in 2019.