College of Medicine Family Gathers for Dean Sendoff

By Er Pilotin (Class 2021)

MANILA [FRIDAY, 1 JUNE 2018] — Over 200 guests, including family, faculty, staff, students, administrators, and friends, graced the Grand Ballroom of the AG New World Hotel in Malate for the thanksgiving ceremony of outgoing dean Dr. Agnes D. Mejia.

Presided by Dr. Anthony Cordero, the program started with the UP Medicine Choir leading the doxology and national anthem. College secretary Dr. Salome Vios opened the ceremony by drawing allusions between the Vicente Manansala painting “Arts and Sciences” and life in medical school working with Dr. Mejia.

Administrative officer Criselda Austero and LU7 intern Mark Milan spoke on behalf of the staff and students respectively. Their messages were followed by a soulful rendition of Josh Groban’s “Thankful” by Dr. Armando Crisostomo.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Rody Sy provided timely updates on the status of the planned seven-floor Academic Center building. Among the key points of his address were lawsuits that have been filed against the former contractor and insurance company. Construction of the building was abruptly halted last 2016 due to a “sinkhole” on the excavation site. Although the site has been sand-filled, the disaster led to the indefinite closure of the Medical and University Libraries, as well as temporary closure of student hangout spots or “tambayan” beside the site.

On a more positive note, Dr. Sy presented a new building proposal brought about after consultations with UP President Danilo Concepcion. The new 11-story structure, which will be named the Medical Sciences Building, will be erected a short distance from the original construction zone of the Academic Center. The first 7 floors will be used by the College of Medicine.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.01.51 AM.pngMANILA—Dr. Rody Sy presents to everyone a new building plan to supersede the Academic Center. Construction of the latter was halted two years ago.

Afterwards, everyone was treated to a video presentation directed by Dr. Rafael Bundoc as commissioned by Dr. Mejia. The short film, which Dr. Bundoc described as a “playing coffee-table book”, featured the members of the Dean’s Management Team as each of them summarized the various thrusts of the dean’s office. The updates on faculty development and the redistribution of funds for uncompensated faculty received applause from the audience. The video was met with a standing ovation.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.04.02 AM.pngMANILA—Outgoing Dean Agnes Mejia with her Management Team pose for a picture during her Thanksgiving Ceremony last Friday.

In her end-of-term report address entitled “Our Shared Journey of Enrichment: Looking Back and Beyond”, Dr. Mejia enumerated in greater detail the many milestones reached and challenges faced under her leadership. She was proud to have achieved “close to 90%” of her vision through the collective effort of her management team.

“More than a dreamweaver, I believe a dean should be an enabler,” she stressed during her speech.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.05.38 AM.pngMANILA—Dr. Agnes Mejia presents her end-of-term report on the occasion of her thanksgiving ceremony.

Challenges faced during her deanship included the Academic Center disaster which prompted a directional shift towards renovation of sections of the Calderon and Salcedo Halls, as well as acquisition of laboratory equipment; the accreditation of the medical program by the ASEAN University Network, which “will enhance the college’s regional standing in the era of ASEAN integration;” and the establishment of the Center for Patient Safety [sic].

With regards to student matters, Dr. Mejia admitted that monitoring compliance with the Return Service Agreement remained a “formidable” challenge, and that the increasing trend of graduates reneging on the terms of the RSA was “a sign of a deeper problem which may need a reevaluation of the medical program as a whole.” In spite of these issues, she did not reserve her appreciation of the students’ vigor for service. She also oversaw the 18-month process of revising the college’s admission policies, and the increase of accepted applicants per batch from 160 to 180, in order to better equalize chances for aspiring medical students.

Towards the end of her message, Dr. Mejia acknowledged the patronage of the University’s Board of Regents. She also thanked her family, and expressed her anticipation for the future of the college under the leadership of incoming dean Dr. Charlotte Chiong. She received thunderous applause after her keynote speech.

Dr. Madeleine Sumpaico, Associate Dean for Faculty and Students, called the Management Team—affectionately nicknamed the “kitchen cabinet”—to the stage for picture-taking, before closing the first half of the program in time for lunch and a dance number by the UP MedRhythmics.

A festive ambience enveloped the second half of the program as Dr. Mejia and all guests were entertained to musical performances by students and doctors. Many of the songs were curated from the outgoing dean’s favorite hitmakers. LU3 student Leandro Salazar played violin renditions of ABBA’s “I Have a Dream,” Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and Beatles hits “Imagine” and “Hey Jude.” Other singers included former UP Diliman chancellor Dr. Sergie Cao, PGH director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, and actress-singer Pinky Marquez.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.07.00 AM.pngMANILA—A cake replica of the College of Medicine main building was an eyecatcher during the event.

The UP Medchoir then returned to the stage to perform an a cappella arrangement of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” while Mr. Milan invited the dean to a short dance. The choir closed the program as they led the Awit ng Kolehiyo and UP Naming Mahal.

Planning for the event took more than a month with the guidance of Dr. Mejia, said head organizer Dr. Ruzanne Caro. The musical performers were invited by Dr. Melfred Hernandez from the Otorhinolaryngology Department.

Dr. Mejia was the 16th dean of the College of Medicine, and had served the college for two terms, from 2012 to 2018. Her leadership facilitated the shifting of the academic calendar from June-March to August-May, the construction of the Academic Center, and various reforms. Among these were the 18-month process of revising the admission policy, the shift towards an outcome-based curriculum, and the reallocation of the incremental tuition fund for remuneration of previously uncompensated faculty.

She is bound to be succeeded by Dr. Chiong, a head and neck surgeon and director of the Philippine National Ear Institute and the Newborn Hearing Reference Center, beating co-nominees Dr. Crisostomo and Dr. José Florencio Lapeña, Jr. in the selection process.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.07.51 AM.pngMANILA—Dr. Mejia chats with incoming dean Dr. Charlotte Chiong during the lunch.

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