The Portrait of the Good Samaritan hangs on the wall of his office. Every time he enters, it seems to greet him warmly and remind him of his duties. Adjacent to it is a huge board that faces his table; strategically placed so that when he sits, the first thing he sees is the schedule for the month. On one corner of his room, one will see a set of table and chairs which he would offer to anyone who visits him. Patients, colleagues, students, PGH staff - people from all walks of life, are warmly welcomed to his office; and he is very eager to listen to their stories and concerns.

Dr. Eric Sta. Maria Talens Φ 1981, current Director of Ugnayan ng Pahinungod-Manila, was born on May 4, 1960 in Manila. He finished grade school from Letran College and San Beda College, and high school from the University of the Philippines Integrated School. He took up Bachelor of Science in Zoology in UP Diliman and proceeded to Doctor of Medicine at the UP College of Medicine. He finished his residency training in General surgery at the Philippine General Hospital in 1991. He got diplomates from the Philippine Board of Surgery in 1994 and Medical Care of Catastrophes (Society of Apothecaries of London) in 1999. He also earned a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology (Rockefeller Fellow) from the UPCM in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Philippine College of Surgeons (1995), Philippine Society of General Surgery (1999), and the American College of Surgeons (2006). He is an active Consultant of the Departments of Surgery of PGH, East Avenue Medical Center, and the Manila Doctors Hospital.

Dr. Talens lives a married life with two children. In the year 2012, he was made by Chancellor Manuel B. Agulto the Czar of the UP Manila Disaster Response Team and was tasked to formulate a Disaster Response Plan for the University. He and the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod had always been at the forefront of disaster response in UP Manila. 

 

The Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila

Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila was envisioned in 1994, during the term of UP President Emil Q. Javier. The idea of an Oblation corps was based on a study done by the UPM Department of Social Sciences that measured the knowledge, attitude, and perception of volunteerism in UP. In 1996, the Oblation corps was formalized, carrying a mandate to harness and nurture volunteerism in UP. Ultimately, its goal is to provide quality service to the underserved. People would often associate Pahinungod with relief operations and disaster management program; however, such were only one of the pilot programs of Pahinungod in the aftermath of several natural calamities in the early 90s. With partnerships with the national government agencies, LGUs, NGOs, and international relief agencies, Pahinungod mobilizes several medical relief operations teams that will respond to disasters in any part of the country at the soonest possible time. Pahinungod has expanded its services over the years. It now includes Gurong Pahinungod (an educational program coordinated with the Department of Education that promotes adult literacy), Health training/workshops, Disaster response/management program (which includes handling of dead bodies in disaster-stricken areas, Street kids’ program (providing for livelihood programs and enrichment of the artistic skills of children), and the ER volunteer program (which harnesses the skills of professionals and students in the medical and allied health field).

Dr. Talens receives the 2014 University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) Distinguished Alumni Award for Service during the UP General Alumni-Faculty Homecoming & Reunion last June.

 

Early years in Pahinungod until Directorship

Dr. Talens got involved in volunteer work in the early 80s when Pahinungod was still Oble corps. His first mission was in Jolo, Sulu. Yearly, thereafter, he continued volunteering especially in the far-flung areas of the country. In 1996, he became the first head of the relief operation and in 2000, he became the director of Ugnayan ng Pahingungod Manila. He ended his term in 2003 but was reinstalled as director in 2006. Through years of service to various provinces and municipalities, Dr. Talens had seen the change in our healthcare delivery system. We have felt that control over healthcare delivery was devolved to the local governments at present. In contrast to the previous plan of constructing hospitals all over the Philippines, today’s structure follows a referral system - from the smallest of the barangay health stations to municipal health centers, up to regional hospitals and national referral centers. In times of crisis, he believes that we have a good response protocol but there should be better evaluation. Dr. Talens believe that the current generation is socially aware. He believes that people will not volunteer in the first place if they are not aware of what’s happening around in the communities. He also added, “Volunteers don’t just realize the problem. They also are already good in what they’re doing. They will not volunteer if they are not performing well in the hospitals.” For him, Pahinungod now is more concrete such that its functions, goals, and vision are clearer. Moreover, he believed that the power of media and advertising played a huge part in promoting the awareness about Pahinungod and volunteerism. Ten years from now, he would see Pahinungod as going back from where it started, being a university-wide organization.

 Volunteers don’t just realize the problem. They also are already good in what they’re doing. They will not volunteer if they are not performing well in the hospitals.

 

The First Filipino Trauma Surgery Fellow

“It was by accident.” When Dr. Talens finished medical school in UP, he proceeded to his residency training in general surgery. After which, he practiced as a safety officer in an oil company. At that time, however, there was a need for a trauma surgeon in PGH and no one has ever trained for such subspecialty in the Philippines. At first, he did not have any plan on going abroad to train; but the then chief of PGH Trauma Division, Hawthorne Ma. Nejal Banez Φ 1961, requested him to train…and the rest was history. He became the first Trauma Fellow and the First Male Diplomate in Medical Care of Catastrophes in the Philippines. He is the Founding Director, as well as serving as Past President, of two medical societies: Philippine Society for the Surgery of Trauma (PSST) and Philippine Society of Ultrasound for Surgery (PSUS). He also served as director of the Philippine Society of Ultrasound in Clinical Medicine, Inc. (PSUCMI).

Dr. Talens was an Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Journal of Trauma (1997-2012), Editor of the Chinese Journal of Traumatology (International Edition) (1998-2012), Co-Editor of the Philippine Journal of Surgical Specialties (2009-2013), and an Editorial Consultant of the Journal of Medical Ultrasound, a journal of the Asian Federation of Societies for Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology (AFSUMB) (2006).

Despite his tight schedule, he would not forget to give back to his alma mater. He teaches surgery at the UP College of Medicine as an Associate Professor. He also shares his expertise abroad as an Asst. Professor of Surgery and Permanent Visiting Faculty at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

When asked how he is able to balance his schedule well, he responded, “Time management is a perspective. Uunahin mo muna ang mga malalaking bato, saka ang maliliit” (Time management is a perspective. You work on the big stones first and proceed to the smaller ones).  

 

On Phi Kappa Mu

For Dr. Talens, the Phi brods played a big role in his career. “Definitely, they helped me a lot.” He keeps in touch with the brods through social media, email, and during Phi gatherings. He entered Phi because of the plenty of connections he has in the Fraternity. He also added, “Once you become Phi, you’ll realize that you’re on the right track.” During his time, many of the achievers were Phi brods and he really looked up to them. The Frat, then, conducts regular GenMeets, socialization activities (always with the sisses), and review sessions. He even recalled that their Phi batch was able to publish a Frat newsletter.

Once you become Phi, you’ll realize that you’re on the right track.

He fondly recalls of brods Nelson Tibayan Sese Φ1981 and brod Dennis Tolentino Bautista Φ 1981 as the closest to him. Some of the brods he looked up to when he was still a student were brods Raymond Roy Ballecer Φ1975 and Glenn Mitra Batiller Φ1976. Ever since, the Phi Kappa Mu has been labelled as the “proud” Frat, according to Dr. Talens. But he wanted to clarify and differentiate “proud” from “arrogant”. No doubt, the Phi brods were achievers during his time; and that is one big thing that Phi is proud of.

“Phi is almost everything. It made med school fun and that, in turn, made me enjoy med school.” According to him, it is in Phi where he met great men that became his inspiration in life.

 

*******

Just like many personalities in the lime light, Dr. Talens also started with his genuine desire to help; until his desire grew to a vision to make an impact in the society. The awards and recognitions he received are only secondary to the communities and lives he and his team healed.  Truly, he is a good example of a man who renders nothing but service in its purest form. Service that seeks no glory. 

 

Established in August 1933 by the UP College of Medicine's best medical students, the PHI KAPPA MU (Fraternity of the College of Medicine) continues to uphold its tested tradition of Excellence, Leadership, Service and Brotherhood in the College, University and in our country.

Through the Fraternity's ideals and pillars, her Loyal Sons continue to lead, innovate and excel in the practice of medicine worldwide and in preserving the honor and integrity of the medical profession.

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