The CochleHear Series: InSPIRE – The Dean’s Vision for UPCM

By Louie Dy (Class 2021), Lorena Osorio (Class 2021), Diego Mina (Class 2021), Lordom Grecia (Class 2021), Er Pilotin (Class 2021), Markyn Kho (Class 2020), Rory Nakpil (Class 2022), Hanna Ho (Class 2022)


Dean Charlotte Chiong heading the strategic planning workshop, which led to her plan, summarized as “INSPIRE”.


The dean’s flagship project, InSPIRE, refers to a series of goals – In for infrastructure, S for science and discovery, P for partnership for progress in healthcare, I for innovation in leadership, R for resource generation, fiscal management and governance, and E for empowering — for embracing wellness, diversity, and sense of community.


  1. Infrastructure

UP College of Medicine Medical Science Students’ Unit is a new name to revitalize the building construction which stalled last 2016. Besides the re-christening, the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society (UPMAS) is also bent on hiring a new contractor and a construction manager for the new site, so construction can begin immediately and independent of the Academic Center.

UP System President Danilo Concepcion has pledged to give about 70 million pesos for the expansion of three more floors to the original design. From the footprint of initially around 6000 square meters, this has now increased to more than 9000 square meters – at least 1/3 or 30% bigger footprint and space. There will also be three (3) more floors added to the proposed eight (8), and one of the floors will contain an auditorium that can house around 220 people.

A replacement for the Florentino Herrera Medical Library will also be built, which will occupy one entire floor in the new University Library. A bridgeway connecting the UPCM Medical Science building with the floor that houses the medical library will be created.

The dean hopes that the construction will be started again before the end of the year, and would be finished within the next two years. It would be then that the College could increase the number of entrants.

“We still have to decide whether we will increase the lateral entrants or the direct entrants,” says Dr. Chiong. “Everything has to be evidence-based, either on our survey of what the students want or on the performance of the college.”


  1. Science and Discovery

According to Dr. Chiong, among more than 36,000 indexed scientific publications from 1930 to 2018 in the Philippines, more than a third of those came from the UP System. Among those, the triumvirate of UPCM, UP Manila, and PGH comprise more than a third of the total number of UP publications — equal to UP Diliman’s output.

“Can you imagine? A small student and faculty population like ours, but in terms of research output, we’re the same as the biggest campus in the system? I think that’s something to be proud of,” Dr. Chiong heartwarmingly remarked.

However, she noted that only 4% of the faculty complement of UPCM (about 26 faculty members) have PhDs. Because MDs are considered masteral, she initially planned to implement a program wherein MDs with residency, fellowship, and publications are given PhD equivalents. This idea has been suggested to the UP Manila Chancellor since 2013.

“You can double the number of PhDs by just giving [those who have published numerous research works] to obtain their PhD by some means, “ says Dr. Chiong. “A PhD-by-publication means writing a thesis that will basically summarize the body of work that they’ve already done. Aside from the existing MD-PhD program, we’re looking at faculty also to have more PhDs.”

The dean is also aiming to further sharpen research-making among the students. Aside from just going through the motions of doing research, the aim is to equip and enable students to do publishable research — not to ask students to submit papers in thesis form, but actually to submit them in publishable format.

She is thinking of implementing a mentoring scheme similar to the existing one but geared towards research. Students going through their clinical years under the same clinical department can be converged into a group mentored by that department, and the goal would be to publish a case report or any paper before they graduate from LU7.

“That’s my dream for the medical students — to be knowledgeable about research,” she says. “I think it’s very vital, coming from the premier medical school of the country, that we have this ability to really publish and discover and establish your research careers early on; because I believe that research can help you be a better clinician. It’s very difficult to be a good clinician without being able to generate knowledge based on research.”

The possibility of having dual Masters’ degrees, such as MD plus Master’s Degree in Clinical Epidemiology, MD plus Master’s Degree in Public Health, MD plus Master’s Degree in Pharmacology and Biochemistry, is currently being explored.


  1. Progress and Healthcare

Dr. Chiong acknowledges that while UPCM has a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for some research projects, and with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) for the MD-PhD program, there is still a need for more partnerships.

The UP College of Medicine is ranked 70th among medical schools in Asia. The low score in internationalization may be due to the difficulty in getting international students given that the College is heavily subsidized by the Filipino taxes. This issue can be broadly attacked by having more international faculty appointed.

Along with the UP Medical Alumni Society of America (UPMASA), the dean plans that should UPCM alumni abroad spend time in the Philippines to help develop modules with the consultants, review the courses, or be involved in research or community work, they could be appointed as adjunct faculty or visiting professors.

Her current plan is to have clinical departments and basic departments get 10% of their faculty component from the visiting/touring faculty. In addition, Dr. Angela Aguilar from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is heading the new Office for External Linkages and International Linkages. This office would review exchange programs and seek out top universities to partner with the College. This will give students more opportunities to spend time on sandwich programs on Master’s Degree courses, PhD, or even electives.


  1. Innovation and Leadership

While Dr. Chiong acknowledges that UPCM has always been known to be the top medical school, leading in innovative programs and having a curricular development way ahead of the others, she is looking to add more new programs.

“We’re going to work on having a bioengineering program to allow medical students who are interested in inventing devices,” she says. “For example, [they can] work with the engineers from the UP College of Engineering, to come up with medical devices or just exploring new materials that can be used in the clinics in order to help us care for our patients.”


  1. Resource Generation and Stewardship

The dean and her team plan to institute some novel ways of being able to have more and better facilities for students. Space audits were conducted before the school year started to ensure the existing rooms used for lectures were in good condition. Chairs were refurbished, lighting and audiovisuals were improved, air conditioners were primed, tiles were fixed. They are currently studying the possibility of providing students with water for drinking.

During her run for deanship, Dr. Chiong did a limited survey of about 95 students. She found out that the administration had the lowest score — a failing grade of less than 3 in a scale of 1 to 6 — under infrastructure and student services, although they did fairly under academic reputation.

“Every time you want to institute change — especially for infrastructure — there’s always some kind of inconvenience. For sure things will get better once we get the new building,” she said.

Dr. Chiong added that she was in a simulation workshop of SimMan, a high fidelity patient simulator. Before students are allowed to deal with patients directly, the faculty should first see whether students have enough skills to deal with a myriad of problems in airway, breathing, and so forth, through the use of a patient simulator. Once the new building is built, they plan to have at least one floor or even two floors for simulation.


  1. Empower and Embrace

The Associate Dean for Faculty and Students, Dr. Chette Gonzales, and Dr. Benjamin Sablan, Jr. of the newly created Office for Resiliency, Diversity, Gender Sensitivity, and Community are planning on how to improve resiliency among medical students.

The mentoring system will be more structured such that there would be a standardized way for students to be mentored. For the first time, they will be tapping not just faculty but also alumni to take in mentees.

On the proposal of the UP Medical Student Council of having dogs for the students to pet before exams and allow the release of tension, Dr. Chiong says, “I’ve never been able to do that when I was a medical student like you, but I suppose things have changed dramatically and we need to be able to respond to your generational quirks and uniqueness.”


On the Medical Cash Grant and the Cost of Medical Education

Regarding the cost of medical education, the dean says that they are working on computing the reneging fee for the Return Service Agreement, taking into account  the cost of personal services, capital outlay, and the depreciation of the physical plant and equipment.

The Dean’s management team’s discussion with CHED clarified that because UPCM already has its own return service program, there will be no additional return service for those availing of cash grants from CHED. This is in contrast with other state universities and colleges (SUCs), which will require one year of return service per one academic year’s cash grant, in addition to serving as Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB).

However, cash grant funding will most likely only be for this school year. “There’s a 90% chance that it might not be continued next year,” says Dr. Chiong.

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