Before the interview even started, one could not help but feel the familiarity and fondness as fellow brothers chatted about the going-ons in their lives. Brod Francisco Perfecto Flores Ф1981 reminisced how he was a Phi even before his first year of studying medicine, and how he was always being helped by his brods in several ways. He had always consulted his brods regarding major milestones, especially when he entered the field of Public Health, in which he garnered the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Reward for Excellence this year. He was the Programme Management Officer of the WHO Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO), and led the development of the Resource Mobilization Management System. Its adoption by the WHO Headquarters placed SEARO in the limelight in the Planning and Budget of WHO.

Eyes Opened

Brod Pancho, as he is fondly called, has definitely had an amazing path in how he chose Public Health. He took up BS Psychology and he was initially interested in the specialization of Neurosurgery. However, after going through rotations in surgery, with its hours and hours of operating, he concluded that this was not his life. This was when he considered Internal Medicine. The possibility of a straight internship in this discipline even crossed his mind.

A natural leader, he visited medical schools all over the country for his role as President of the Student Council and Chairman of the Philippine Alliance of Medical Students, now called AMSA. This was where he saw the issues plaguing the medical field, which was only exposed further in PGH, especially in the ICU. It is where he learned that one mainly fails not because one is a bad doctor, or that the science has failed, but rather because of a defunct system that does not optimize its service to the community and its patients.

While at first he applied for residency and got accepted into Internal Medicine, he approached the chief resident and said he would rather go to Samar to serve in the province. While he was interested in Internal Medicine,, he realized what was happening. When he was working there, he focused all his energy and resources on one patient at a time. He eventually moved out of the clinics, knowing the ones who needed help the most were the sick patients whom no one is looking after. Samar was an easy choice for him since it was his father's place, and he chose the district where there was no doctor. He moved to Balangiga in Eastern Samar and immediately fell in love with it. He started out working in the clinics, then later on started working in the municipalities as a Municipal Health Officer.

Trade-off

One time, there was a provincial meeting that all Chief of Hospitals had to attend. The Chief of Hospital at Balangiga was sick at that time, so Brod Pancho was sent there instead. When he was there, his astounding attention to detail, shown through his insights and inquiries, were noted by the Chiefs of Hospital. When he went back to the hospital, he was advised that he had two options to make all these improvements in the system: either go into a specialization or go into Public Health (MPH).

With that, he reapplied to PGH. He also submitted his application to Harvard for Public Health, saying that if he were to go into Public Health it would be through studying in the best school in the world. The PGH results came first so he went back to PGH, in Internal Medicine. In the middle of February, he received the response of Harvard, saying they accepted his application. Now, he was faced with the choice of either being a clinician or going into Public Health.

He knew he could not serve two masters at the same time. While his seniors had residency first then shifted to public health, he knew that it was not for him. Since he got into the best public health school in the world, the path was clear. Once he got accepted into Public Health, he can no longer continue Internal Medicine.

 

For me, I cannot be myself without making a difference, without making use of what I have to make a difference.

 

It was a trade-off, but for him it was okay. He knew that it was not just a matter of being a doctor. Each one of us has God-given talents, it is just a matter of using it for service of others. For Brod Pancho, he cannot be himself without making use of what he had to make a difference. He noted that Public Health was where he could help more in a specific duration of time. In the clinic, it was an operation: removing the lens cataract, and then the elderly can see immediately. In choosing Public Health, more people will benefit in the long-run. 

Everything In Context

When asked about the qualities that were needed for a public health practitioner, he immediately noted that one will pay attention to context. Using a cup of tea as an example, he said that one must not just see it as a cup of tea, but rather as a cup of tea on top of a table, and the table as being in a room. While the cup serves it purpose, it is possible that with one flick it will topple over. He noted that it is not as stable than if it was more broad-based.

Likewise, he said a clinician would usually look only the patient itself. A Public Health professional on the other hand should always see those things in context. They see how to prevent the cup from being so unstable because of how narrow its base is through the institution of measures to prevent “toppling over”. They do not cure per se but focus on prevention. The main goal was to make sure the policies are in place so the general populace could benefit.

He mentioned with pride the brotherhood he received from the Phi Kappa Mu, and how his brothers and sisters always supported him in his endeavors. He praises the culture of Excellence in the Fraternity, with the Student Council having a Phi President, Phi Vice President, Phi Secretary, and Phi Treasurer during his time. He knew he was Phi quality even back then, and upheld the pillars to this very day.

Cutting the Red Tape

As for the prevalent problems in the regions he has worked with, he recalled how loaded with bureaucracy the processes were, which delayed the projects which could have helped the communities and patients at the time. He used to work in Bangladesh country office for WHO, and his office was one of the victims of this red tape. One of the projects he was working on was delayed by an entire year. In that year, he was caught in the middle since he had an agreement with the UK donor. He knew that WHO had to protect its name, and being late is a risk to its reputation. When there is a specific deadline, delays were inexcusable. In the eyes of the donors, their reputation would be ruined.

When the regional director invited him to join the regional office, where his job was to manage partnership, coordination, and resource mobilization, he noticed that this problem has been seen before and projects were created to solve this problem. It was started two years before he came in, but he noticed it was not going anywhere. His solution was to create an application that removed the majority of tracking problems and red tape, with which something that took three months before could be solved in two weeks. Paperwork that was hard to track of now had transparency, letting all the players see where the papers were. Paperwork that used to wait 1-2 weeks before being reviewed now take minutes or hours to be finished. Reporters get email alerts, removing the former problem of reports for the donors not being sent on time. Since it has all been calculated, the application saved a lot of staff-hours. It also reduced overdue reporting rates. It was recognized by the Director as well as the Director-General, the major boss of the organization.

With the experience he gained from working across the regions, he was aware of the right way to look at the systems, the policies, and the programs. He knew how to plan, mobilize resources, as well as coordinate with other agencies, donors, and governments. His expertise was so recognized, and his project so brilliant, that after the representatives from Headquarters saw his presentation, they immediately requested that it be used as the global solution. 

Global Solutions

When asked what impact he wanted to have on the problems of the Philippines, Brod Pancho remarked that he is working on an international problem right now, and that his solution is all-encompassing and will work globally. He mentioned the issue of resource mobilization, a basic condition to have an impact on people's health. He observed that there were some projects in which not all the money is being used, and that there were some countries that would return the money to the donor countries. When resources for projects are not being used properly, not due to inefficiency but for other reasons, it is a waste of resources which could have been used to help the communities.

Always a man with a plan, he had a solution thought out. He had thought of a way to prove to donor member states that WHO was an organization whom one can trust. He wanted to show that they can make the most of donated money within the agreed period and agreed deliverables. Brod Pancho has always considered himself as a planning person within the area of Public Health, so he made sure that they could maintain the trust of member states, contributors, and stakeholders.

As someone who looked at diseases in relation to different contexts, he saw the other organization as partners in helping the health system, so that the clinicians can do their job. Even if he is a public health person, he could understand clinicians due to his experiences in the hospital, and he can support them in what they need. At the time, there was an image of Public Health practitioners as second class doctors; some didn't even consider them as doctors. Brod Pancho knew that one is not better than the other, but rather they are one whole team.

Expanding Horizons

His advice to the freshmen was to not go to America or outside the Philippines, at least not immediately. He suggested staying here and going to the provinces. While some people would go immediately to masters, or go immediately to residency, it would be better to go to the province, or even the slums or tondos. He said that one should not be in a rush to become a specialist, because one needs to appreciate these things.

He pointed out that what he knows about public health is what he learned from Balangiga. There, he was a clinical doctor, a senior resident in the hospital, a municipal health officer work, as well as interacting with the community. He would be invited to baptisms, fiestas, dances, and he gained a lot of stories and experiences from his time there.

He mentioned the various escapades he joined in Balangiga that made him the all-around man he his today: from jumping into treating an emergency only to find out he would be treating an NPA member halfway through, treating someone in the Emergency Room while come straight from the beach, beach attire and all that, to learning how to embalm a pregnant woman.

Brotherhood

Regarding advising freshmen to join the fraternity, he said that while it was not absolutely necessary, it would be a great benefit to everyday life in general. He noted that there were different kinds of people, and that one may go through medical school, even through life, on one's own, and there is no issue about that. One thing he was assured of though, was that his time in the Phi Kappa Mu made it more enjoyable.

 

While going through [the fraternity], I had fun. While running for council, I had fun, I had support from my brods and sisses. And there was always somebody whom I could bank on.

 

He said that life is not just about being an MD, that learning to mix worlds will make you a better person in general. It will even prevent burnout in the clinics; having another life benefits you greatly.

As a final word regarding the brods, he reminisced how we would always take care of each other. He mentioned their harmonious relationships with the sisses, the most beautiful in the college. He would always remember how he had good time with his brods and sisses. He wished that we continue to preserve the warmth of brotherhood in our lives.

With this, we commend Brod Francisco Perfecto Flores Ф1981 for his astounding work as the Programme Management Officer of the WHO Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO), and for upholding the pillars of Excellence, Leadership, Service, and Brotherhood. His example will surely be followed by his brods of the Phi Kappa Mu, who will continually strive to serve and make a difference.

 

 

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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