Lecture Series to Honor Roberto F. Kuan Inaugurated in SLCCCM’s 25th Year
by Karren Tangonan
More than a year after his death, Saint Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM), commemorated the life of Dr. Roberto Fung Kuan through an honorary series of lectures on service, integrity, and professionalism last October 2, 2019.
Board members and medical officers of Saint Luke’s Medical Center, his former students and colleagues, his family, and the whole Lukan community paid tribute to the patron of servant leadership who passed away last September 15, 2018.
Roberto F. Kuan was more than a businessman
Known as the founder of Chowking, Roberto F. Kuan was the former Chairman of Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s Medical Center and St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine. He was introduced by one of his former students, as a servant leader, whose visions are guided by what makes the served people grow, having a potential to also serve, what will make them become healthier, wiser and more autonomous and what benefits them or what makes them feel not deprived.
In his welcoming remarks, the Medical Director of SLMC-QC, Dr. Benjamin Campomanes, honored Roberto Kuan as a generous and progressive man who always thinks of others. He regarded Robert Kuan as a real figure in his message on the impact of social consciousness in healthcare governance. He reminded medical professionals to follow Roberto Kuan’s example and hold onto the value of social responsibility in this age of corporate medicine.
Dean Susan Nagtalon also lamented on Robert F. Kuan’s part in SLMCCM-WHQM’s progress through the years. She said that Roberto F. Kuan acceded to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the college in 1996. And known as a visionary leader, he guided the college with the vision and mission, which played an important role into what it is now as one of the top performing medical schools in the country.
Plenary speaker, Dr. Edgardo R. Cortez, former President & CEO of SLMC, shared his experience working with Roberto F. Kuan. He described him as a labyrinth, restlessly thinking of many things. “Until his last breath, he is full of ideas” Dr. Cortez said, referring to Dr. Kuan, to whom he dedicated his lecture on medical ethics.
Robert Kelvin Kuan also shared a glimpse of life of his father—not just his enthusiasm for service, but also his life as a father to their family. His collective memories drew Roberto F. Kuan as a man who valued his family and invested time not only to businesses and accomplishments, but also to relationships.
On Ethics of Medical Practice
“Is it moral? Is it legal? Is it ethical?” Dr. Edgardo R. Cortez, the inaugural lecturer posed the question several times during his lecture as he shared many stories from his experiences as a medical professional.
Introduced as a skilled surgeon, manager having experienced being a medical director of two hospitals, a mentor, researcher, major influencer, recipient of national and international awards, Dr. Cortez delivered a lecture regarding the medical profession. He initially steered the lecture to healthcare ethics which is guided with basic principles, including autonomy, justice, professionalism, and integrity. Dr. Cortez reiterated the value of the principles that guide practitioners in decision-making to solve conflicts in patient-physician contracts, difficulties in charging, and dealing with difficult patients.
All the same, he recognized that there are some situations that aren’t covered by standard code of conduct, and deviations, though not encouraged, may be allowed. He said, “We may have deviations as long as you can prove that it is good for the patient.” He also acknowledged the importance of research in justifying deviations and the ethics committee in resolving such difficult situations. At the same time, he acknowledged how ethics can also be spoiled by bad morality.
Despite encouraging the audience to adhere to the code of ethics of whatever institution or organization they belong to, Dr. Cortez later on shared some encounters where what is ethical may not be the best for the patient and where what may be ethical and moral may not be lawful. When morality, legality, and ethics are not unanimous, he said decisions will be made on a case by case basis.
Until the end, Dr. Cortez strongly promoted adherence to the medical process, encouraging doctors to conform to the standards set by organizations for these are created mainly to protect both the patient and the doctor.
On Service Beyond Hospital Wall
An alumni of the college, Dr. Maria Adelwisa G. Belen was the first honorary lecturer. She is one of the Lukans who went out of the confines of hospital and rendered services to remote areas of the Philippines. She even voluntarily ventured to a field mission to Afghanistan as an orthopedic surgeon.
From her experiences, Dr. Belen gave a testimony on the difficulty of achieving health equity in the country. She dissected the barriers to healthcare access, which included religion, beliefs, topography, safety, lack of human resources, and infrastructure. She then compared the healthcare setting of the urban and rural area—accordingly, outside the cities, there is a lack of effective health system, lack of technological advances, lack of infrastructure, and effective health system, all of which undermines the competence of the doctors, despite their willingness to serve—and discussed how these differences contributed to disproportionate impact of low-quality health care to the poor.
“Is low-quality health care better than no care?” she asked, but was unable to provide a direct answer. She did, however, prompt her audience to embrace roles other than being a clinician and deliver service which the community can actually benefit from. She reminded the audience that they can be educators, counsellors, and mediators. Finally, she left a more important question to ponder—“Will I be able to help the community by doing this?”
On the Medical Profession in the Age of Internet and Social Media
Electric medical records, research digital networks, and bioinformatics are just few of the positive implications of internet and social media in the medical profession according to Executive director of Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN), Dr. Alvin Valeriano P. Marcelo. In his lecture, he introduced numerous digital platforms and their purposes in healthcare, and asserted that the future cannot escape from more innovations and transformation.
Even though he’s an advocate of eHealth, he recognized that while transformative technology will continue to innovate healthcare, its impact, whether bad or good, will depend on how they are managed. “Some of us will ignore it. Some will be passive. Many of us will participate,” he said. He acknowledged the extent of its danger as machines get embedded deeper into societal mindset, and as it penetrates the personal and professional lives of physicians.
“Ethics remain to be foundational. Do not give that part of our practice,” he reminded the audience. He pressed the audience to be wary as they allow these technologies into their practices, and urged them to always focus on their relationship with their patients, to always be attentive to their needs, and to always honor their trust.
In his final words, he advised, “While technology is here to overwhelm us, remember why you became a doctor to ground us.”
On Bullying in the Healthcare Environment
Hospital is also a harbor of bullying, as exemplified by Dr. Eric V. Nagtalon, in his data from various surveys and cohort studies.
According to Dr. Nagtalon, imbalance of power is the root of bullying. He said ‘erosion of collegiality’ among physicians due to specialization, hierarchical systems, and the competitive environment created bullying, and it was further propagated because it is tolerated, overlooked, and underreported. “It is difficult to identify. It has to be repetitive,” he said on why bullying is difficult to address.
Dr. Nagtalon forwarded his concern on the impacts of bullying. Not only does it negatively affect the victims, but it also ‘undermines patient’s faith as they become less likely to follow doctor’s recommendations’. He then cited data proving that mortality and morbidity of patients are increased due to poor patient care and safety as a result of bullying.
He paid respect to the initiatives of different organizations to combat this problem either as simple yet efficient as education of doctors, or to plotting guidelines on reporting abuse, anonymity, and protection from reprisal. “Cure has to start in the medical school,” Dr. Nagtalon said. He believed that by evaluating the trainers in terms of communication and social responsibility, less students will become bullies.
In his view, taking the responsibility to tackle bullying is for the patient’s best interest. If not addressed, Dr. Nagtalon feared that ‘we’re going to have doctors who have a lot of baggage with no soul’.
On Strategies in the Management of Common Medical Malpractice Issues
In his lecture, Atty. Antonio Alejandro D. Rebosa, M.D. warned young doctors and future doctors about how medicolegal theories become a reality, especially in this modern society when patients are more informed and able to gain power over health care professionals, and as this can consequently destroy their reputation and deprive them of their license. “Most of them are depressed and suicidal. Most of them would like to settle even if they’re not at fault,” he said, referring to some of his clients who are sued for medical malpractice.
“Will you apologize, litigate, or settle?” He challenged his audience to what they should do upon receipt of a demand letter. “Do not panic,” was his answer before going through the advantages and disadvantages of the said options. He advised them to keep calm and immediately review the case files while taking advantage of prescriptive periods. He, however, recognized the existence of some issues that require consultation of a trusted medical lawyer, and stressed the importance of having a medical lawyer in each hospital.
While his stories may only be a parcel of the whole reality of medical malpractice, Dr. Rebosa offered general rules on how one can prevent legal suits. He advised them to be wary of their own colleagues, as they can be a source of errors, make a habit of proper documentation, avoid tampering, establishing good relationships with the patient and their family, and embrace their own and their patient’s right.
Congratulations to the Total Scholars
One key event of the lecture series was the awarding of Total Scholars, which is given annually to students who have exemplified outstanding performances in the field of academics, extracurricular activities and leadership. Randy Franz Selim was the recipient of the Bishop Manuel Lumpias Scholarship for Passion and Spirit. Cooper Chavez was the awarded the Jose Ledesma Schoalrship for Academic Excellence. Finally, Ivanah Tupaz received the Robert Kuan’s Total Scholar for Leadership.