Lead with integrity, heal with compassion

Column-Dr Anthony Leachon photoPreventive Health Education

By Anthony C. Leachon, MD

(The following is Dr. Anthony Leachon’s valedictory address as president of the Philippine College of Physicians during the closing ceremonies of its annual convention last May 13, 2015)

LET me start this valedictory address with a very bold declaration of my passionate love for PCP. To the degree that a human being can love an institution, I love this organization – and I love the people I worked with here. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have toiled with you and journeyed with you in the pursuit of our collective vision as a college. I am blessed by your friendship and the profound lessons I have learned from journeying with you.

To the leaders who have come before me, who have set both the foundation and the architecture for our mission, my deepest gratitude and highest esteem to you. To Drs. Ning Lopez , Nits Collantes, Chad Carungin, Gina Nazareth, and to all others who shall succeed them, we entrust to you the future with our highest confidence and trust.

My heartfelt thanks as well to all committee chairs , organizing committee of this successful convention and to all leaders and to the hardworking and dedicated Philippine College of Physicians staff led by Minette Galario and Judy Concepcion

The past year or rather the past 20 years with PCP have been quite a journey for me. I take this privilege of sharing with you some personal reflections from that journey. I’d like to weave them around this year’s convention theme.

This year’s convention theme “Lead with Integrity, Heal with Compassion” is a beautiful catchphrase of who and what PCP is all about to me. The plenary talks in the past days summarize and exemplify my key feelings and thoughts.

Cong. Len Robredo’s “Leading with Integrity: Upright but not Uptight”, and Dr. David Fleming’s “Ethos y Medicos” bring us back to the charisma and essence of medical practice.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Integrity requires us to be TRUTHFUL, HONEST, and ACCURATE in all our actions. The Mexico City guidelines, as presented by Dr. Kiko Tranquilinio, are parameters for voluntary codes of business ethics in the biopharmaceutical sector that keeps us in tune with what is ethical and upright. “To Lead is to go before or show the way; to influence, induce or cause. To lead with integrity is not an option in our profession; it is an imperative.”

The Future of Internal Medicine with ACP President Dr. David Fleming and the Impact of the ASEAN Integration by Dr Jose Cueto provided us the context of our leadership challenges and opportunities. To embrace the future, we must influence positively and show the way to our colleagues and stakeholders. We must do so amidst the current tide of changes not only in our practice but the world around us, and the new realities that confront us.

The “Rewards of Serving the Underserved: The Joys of Rural Practice” by Dr. Edita Miguel brings home to us the highest reward of healing, the priceless joy of being a physician for the poor and the underprivileged.

To heal with compassion is the heart of our calling; to take joy in this privilege of becoming God’s vessel for health and wellness.

Perhaps everything has already been said about “Leading with Integrity and Healing with Compassion” in our convention. I wish to add by simply sharing with you some perspectives from your Board Governance and Leadership.

In 2010, then PCP President Eugene Ramos led us in crafting a strategy map that identified the pillars of PCP’s journey into the future. These pillars were a systematic clustering of related processes that support PCP’s key result areas. These were: People and Culture, Structure and Processes, External Publics, and Membership Development.

The Framework initiated by Dr. Ramos provided for a continuity and alignment of thrusts in the succeeding terms. It was fueled by a dream where we imagined:

• The College influencing health legislation and policies in the country
• The College shaping the ambitions of the medical students and young doctors to be internists
• The college setting the standards of medical care in the country. It influences decisions, behaviors and health outcomes

The dream continues to be relevant and compelling; the framework useful and effective. Last year, the Board and the Committee Leadership revisited the framework and fine-tuned and realigned the parts a bit. We placed People and Culture at the foundation and re-clustered the pillars into three:

1. Enabling Processes and Mechanisms
2. Membership Engagement; and
3. External Linkages

These are the three major Internal Processes by which we clustered our Core Processes. Included in Enabling Processes are Research, PSBIM, ACCREDITATION, RTP. In Membership Engagement are CME, Convention, Chapters, and Societies; in External Linkages are Media, External Relations, AFIM, and ACP.

As we re-Imagined the PCP, we were asked to capture our essence in just a few words, in one sentence. This helps remind us of our cause and reinforce it with our actions. What is the mantra of PCP, if it were a person? Apple’s was “Think Differently”. For Coke it is “To Refresh the World.”

We chose: I.M: Healing and Leading with Integrity

The context then was:
• The medical practice, especially its business side, has been under scrutiny
• The Integrity and Moral Ascendancy of doctors were in question; we were demonized as greedy, non-compliant and irresponsible citizens

As an organization, we were focused on regaining our ascendancy and integrity:

• We led in dealing with BIR and worked towards the restoration of confidence in our integrity as responsible citizens: We did it without compromising our dignity as professionals;
• We actively championed the passing of the sin tax law and were active in the promulgation of its IRR;
• We rallied our members to be responsible citizens, by enabling them with tools for compliance with government reportage and filing requirements;
• We strengthened our enabling mechanisms to have radical shifts in the mindsets and approaches in our core processes:

– In Engaging our chapters: From thinking nationally – to acting locally, and to diminish the divide between the so called imperial Manila and the provinces
– In our ways at PSBIM: From one committee gatekeeper to adopting collaborative team approach and shared objectives with all stakeholders
– In our ways of Accreditation, RTP and RITE: From a mindset of Regulating and Auditing to Regulating by Collaboratively Providing Enabling Support

There are a host of other change agenda that we have identified as imperatives: These are in our ways of engaging members, in our ways of managing and sharing information, in our ways of decision making that are characterized by Inclusion, Empowerment, and Consultation.

We know we cannot change overnight. We realize how deeply rooted we are in our long held ways of doing. We are creatures of habit. But we must rise above our own comfort zones and embrace the future.

For to Lead with Integrity means:

1. To listen to the voices in the organization that is faintly audible;
2. To train our sights to the signs of the times, the new phenomena that shape the practice of medicine, the new forces and dynamics in the market, the growing empowerment of patients through technological advances;
3. To challenge the status quo and experiment on new ways to bring us closer to the core of our professional calling.

Our mantra, “Leading with Integrity”, is not complete without its twin: “Healing with Compassion”.

It is said that a doctor is the face of God to a patient. S/He heals, s/he gives hope, and s/he performs miraculous acts in the eyes of the patient. Healing is more than a privilege; it is a gift. It is our covenant with our maker. It is the essence of our profession.

To heal with compassion is enshrined in our Hippocratic Oath – to minister to all, regardless of creed, social status, and ability to pay. To do no harm to those we take care of; to be gentle and sensitive in our bedside manners. To not just administer medicine but to engage the patient in an informed and enlightened conversation that buoys the spirit and enlightens the mind.

Many of our members are heroic personifications of this compassionate healing. Many of them are unsung heroes who have become the face of a compassionate God to their patients. A good number of them are not here anymore at the closing ceremonies as they dashed back to the provinces because of their commitments to their patients. Many of them are not fellows in the strictest sense; for they have not hurdled the academic validations required of a fellow. Yet, they too are PCP.

They fully embrace our mission. They act always in the best interest of their patients. They extend professional help to the poor and the needy.

We welcome them to the free exchange of information and experiences of experts among our colleagues. We inspire them to increase their medical knowledge and understanding through continuing study and association with physicians of the highest intellectual and ethical standards.

This is the spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration in our leadership tenet. This is the spirit of empowerment that governs our leadership. We enable and support them to be fully integrated, acknowledged and rewarded.

I know that this has been a subject of contentious discussion. While we affirm the college’s unbending standards of its academic requirements and validation, we shall also seek other means to acknowledge outstanding and exemplary performance of our members – those that lead with unquestionable integrity and heal with life-changing, awe-inspiring compassion.

In closing, I go back to a question that I posed a year ago as I assumed the presidency of the college: What does it mean to be a Filipino physician today? What is PCP’s relevance today?

I am a Filipino physician. I am called to lead with integrity and heal with compassion. As such, I must embrace a two-fold task: The task of healing and becoming a vessel of health and wellness to my fellow human beings and the task of performing my obligation to lead with integrity – in my practice, in my relationships to my patients and my community, in my responsibilities to my country.

I am called to lead with integrity, to update and innovate my medical practice in the digital age, in a country where medical care is still inaccessible to millions of poor people. As a compassionate healer, I am called upon to connect, to inspire patients to embrace health and wellness, and promote a culture of wellness. Above curing, caring. More than profiting, Inspiring. Innovating to reach more, to inspire more so that others can live more.

That is our PCP. The PCP that calls us to Lead with Integrity and Heal with Compassion. Finally, let me tell you what a young resident physician at Manila Doctors Hospital told me.

“Dr. Leachon, why are you really passionate about the medical profession and Philippine College of Physicians?”

Well, I responded by pulling a business card from my left side pocket. This card has my full name with an MD and the four big letters FPCP.

This business card gets me an audience with the President (Three Ph presidents), cabinet secretaries, prominent physicians, and personalities across the globe. It opens the door. But it’s the full commitment to the ideals of these four letters that make us relevant Filipino physicians. Our colleagues, media partners, health advocacy allies, and patients trust us because we do practice our profession with competence, compassion, and integrity.

Honestly, I’ve never been more proud to work for any organization in my life.

Vital Signs Issue 75 Vol. 4, May 1-31 2015

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