If the character of a man is measured in what he does, then Dr. Manuel Tan Chua Chiaco is a lot of things indeed.  Besides being a highly respected and sought-after cardiac surgeon, Brod Chuck enjoys classical music, being a pianist and violinist himself. His interest in music was roused, when he saw the pianist biopic film The Eddie Duchin Story. After seeing this film, he took lessons in piano and violin for fifteen whole years and up until today he still plays during his free time.

Much of his interests began during his college years in the Ateneo de Manila University.  Brod Chuck became adept at photography, which started with him being the photo editor of the Guidon, the Ateneo college paper, which is still in circulation today. Apart from handling the school publication, he was also a member of the soccer and softball varsity teams. He also played tennis during the day, and his interest is currently tuned to golf, which he now plays during weekends.

Perhaps the most peculiar interest of his is the thrill of the hunt and shooting. His inspiration for this is his father, who used to be a member of the Philippine Asian Games shooting team. Nowadays Chuck enjoys practical shooting, owning no less than 12 handguns. His weapons of choice are the Para Ordinance .45 and the P-13. And while the Stradivarius violin remains a coveted aspiration for this accomplished Renaissance man, his artist’s depth, athlete’s dedication, and marksman’s accuracy proves that doctors need not be confined to sickbeds and syringes. Health care as a profession may take its cue from a man who is truly alive, remembering that its mission has always been to restore the human person to a vitality as vivid as Chuck’s.

Not one to rest on his laurels, he is the current Hospital Director of the Philippine Heart Center. He was a former Director of George Dewey Medical Center in Subic. Chuck has also been the Assistant Director of Manila Doctors Hospital from 1983 to 1986, the Manager of the Department of Surgery and Anesthesiology of the Philippine Heart Center from 1986 until his resignation in 2007, and head of Cardiovascular Surgery at Chinese General Hospital, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, and Manila Doctors Hospital.

However, in retrospect, Brod Chuck saw himself more as a banker than a doctor. “I didn’t want to be a doctor. I didn’t see myself doing what I am doing now. I had a full scholarship from Far East Bank in Ateneo, but my father who was a doctor wanted me to become a doctor. So I turned down my scholarship and took up AB Premed instead,” he says. “If I took the scholarship I may be the President of Far East Bank by now.”

In his entry to the UP College of Medicine, he followed other Ateneo graduates in the past and joined the Phi Kappa Mu.  This was never a decision he would regret, and as such, he likens Phi to “developing good friends, especially your batchmates.  Up to now, we are still helping out each other.  Phi doesn’t end in your years in Med School. Phi is for life.”

“People turn to one another for help, anytime, anywhere. When I go to the States, I stay with my brods. When I need something, I call the brods. It is a lifetime of networking.” Indeed, in step with the times as much as any teenager, Brod Chuck is quick to respond to any Brod by phone, text or e-mail despite his busy schedule. On the bustling Phi Network online, his emails are among the shortest and fewest but the ones that hit the most important nails most squarely on the head. It is an endearing analogy to represent Brod Chuck, whose diminutive frame dwarfs many of his peers because inside is a spirited man with powerful ideas and the courage to share and tell them to everybody.

Perhaps his candidness, valued in a leader of a fraternity, is rivaled only by his generosity in winning the favor and respect of his brods. “It doesn’t just work one way either; when they need help, they ask me. For example, when they don’t have money to pay for their condo rent, I give them. Being a brod, you don’t expect anything in return; it is taken freely without any conditions.” Brod Chuck once recounted how his ascent to the top of his career was influenced many times by friends and brods who would reach out to him, sometimes out of the blue, to teach a certain technique, or introduce him to certain people or hone his confidence to speak in public. Through his presence and involvement in the Fraternity, Chuck fosters a similar openness. He empowers young brods in many ways, be it through vital phone calls to important contacts, rallying the alumni for support, hosting dinner meets with the alumni board, or simply attending activities, lending his powerful yet unassuming presence. “You can depend on each other for the rest of your life… if you need anything, you don’t hesitate in asking; there is no fear of brods judging you or turning you down.”

A veteran PHI Brod and past Phi Kappa Mu Alumni Association President, Brod Chuck notes an empowering change in the Fraternity. “The brods are more involved now. The networking is also more active now. A younger brod can freely approach a senior brod without fear or hesitation thanks to Iggy Agbayani and Jess Socrates.” A significant insight from a man whose personal motto is as stern as it is pragmatic: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

For all he has done to help student and alumni brods using his formidable experience and vast network (Diamonds in the Rough), and beneath his achievements, reputation, and perseverance to be the best, he remains humbled and rooted as he says  “I just want to be remembered as a guy whom the brods can approach and turn to for help. I don’t want to be remembered for anything fancy, just an ordinary Phi, and what an ordinary Phi would do for a brod.”

 

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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