In our last installments, we talked about the Community Pantry at the UP Manila (held at St Paul’s grounds) and UP Diliman Community Pantry.   We are happy to announce that the funds raised have been sent in various installments and continue to be sent as more funds come in.  Thank you to all those generous donors.  The need continues as the population struggles.

Please watch the UP Manila Community Pantry in action under Dr. Eric Talens of the UP Manila Ugnayan ng Pahinungod and of course our Chancellor Carmencita David-Padilla in partnership with St. Paul University.

Necita L Roa MD Charitable Foundation update.   The subcommittee that is overseeing the NLRMDCF Legacy met on May 10, 2021.  These were composed of Dr. Henry Echiverri, Chair of the subcommittee of ROA Legacy, members Dr. Vic Malabonga, Dr. Herbert Gaisano, Dr. Henry Co, Dr. Susan Echiverri and attended to by the PEF Chair Dr. Mariano Yogore and Finance Chair/member Dr. Geraldine Gomez Pinder.    The initial drawdown on this endowment for distribution this year was $67,446.76 and was awarded to 40 Nursing Students who are enrolled at the UP Manila School of Health Sciences (SHS) based in Palo, Leyte.  They come from all branches of the SHS.  As we know, the SHS is a 6 year step-ladder curriculum that starts with a 2 year course towards Midwifery (Step 1), followed by Nursing for 2 years. Those finishing Nursing will return to their sponsoring community to serve for 2 years then come back to the SHS to continue the MD program (Additional 2 years) before again returning to their sponsoring community to hopefully serve permanently or at least serve for 2 more years.  SHS for the step 1 are up and running in Palo (Leyte), Baler (Quezon), Koronadal (South Cotabato) and soon in Tarlac (Tarlac). The SHS program was an answer to the shortage of health care providers in rural communities and precisely was in keeping with and fulfilled the instructions of the Necita L Roa MD Charitable Foundation endowment.  We look forward to next years’ larger drawdown and expand our coverage even further south where the UP College of Mindanao is being conceived.


PGH Fire Aid

The 16th of June marks 1 month after the early morning hours of fire that engulfed the 3rd floor of PGH effectively stopping the daily 24/7 lifesaving grinds that took place at the Operating Room theatres.  Everyone is now familiar at the human heroism that took place from the ordinary manongs and manangs in the wards, the nurses and aides plus students, residents and fellows all saving the most vulnerable occupants of the Neonatal ICU and Pediatric wards housing them temporarily at the Chapel and various parts of PGH.  Miraculously, no one got hurt or died.  Tremendous outpouring of help came and within a week, the clean-up and reconstruction of damaged operative rooms, vents and other structures allowed the re-opening of the ORs.  Various groups rallied to provide Autoclaves and sterilizers.  But then, reality sank in.  There were very few usable surgical instruments left for our surgeons to use.

Not knowing exactly what the damage was, UPMASA quickly started the PGH Fire-Aid and upon the instructions of the Director and Chancellor, asking for funds as opposed to kind.   UPMASA is releasing the money collected hopefully this coming week to the Director’s Office to give to the purchaser of the Surgical Department.    However, the sum is just a little over $12500, enough to purchase a Major Surgical OR set plus other smaller instruments.  About 20 Major OR sets are needed costing about P400-500K/set.   Attached is a list given to us.  Highlighter in yellow are the instruments already donated, the green are ones urgently needed.  Others will be purchased as funds come.   I am circulating this official list and ask the UPMASA membership, individuals, classes (like Class 93 is donating 1 major OR set), chapters or groups to consider sponsoring some purchases.  People can donate through the UPMASA website button PGH Fire Aid and include instructions or send them to our Treasurer writing in the memo what it is for.


The Department of Surgery Chairman, Dr. Crisostomo Arcilla Jr in a recent communication, said solicited, purchased instruments or anything that we could scour from our hospitals will help.   With us, “nothing is ever large or small” and everything will be used in some ways (especially for the new Rural Surgery Pilot Program that UP-PGH Surgery Department will be embarking to do – read related article).



The Philippine Universal Health Care through Republic Act 11223 left some persistent challenge such as access to specialties like Surgery were concentrated mostly in urban and affluent areas, leading to a disturbing lack of access to essential surgical services in more rural or remote areas.   This was particular dramatized during the “covid focused” health care system all over the world where surgically treated illnesses were among those most neglected.

Other countries have implemented Rural Surgery programs in hopes of increasing access to safe and affordable plus quality specialist surgical services in these marginalized areas.    This program can be introduced and mainstreamed in the Philippines with a properly studied pilot implementation and will be the first of its kind.  The Co-Operasyon Rural Surgery Program will  collaborate with Mabini Community Hospital (MCH) in Mabini, Batangas and the UP PGH Department of Surgery (DOW-PGH) and will be supported by the DOH Center for Health Development.

The Pandemic and recent fire created reduced PGH surgical productivity creating need for cases for Residents in order to graduate and an excess of supply of surgical expertise.  The idea is to send a team of 3 Residents (1 senior, 1 intermediate and 1 junior) to go on a 1-2 week rotation and man the Operating Rooms and outpatient of MCH.  A General Surgeon (MHO of MHC) will supervise residents as on-premise consultant while PGH consultants supervise remotely through teleconferencing for every case or be on the premises as availability allows.  Cases that cannot be done because of safety and capability will be elevated to the Batangas Medical Center or to PGH.   This becomes a win-win situation where surgical expertise and access is spread centrifugally (rather than centrally focused).  Trainees will fulfill the requirements for their surgical residency and at the same time provide services where there were little to none.  It exposes them to potential areas where they may want to practice someday and elect to stay particularly if the collaborating hospital upgrades its capability in terms of support of these experts.

Parallel to this developing concept of Rural Surgery, the pandemic halted the UPMASA Medical Mission initiative. Serendipitously, this called for a search of alternative ways to channel the momentum that the UPMASA Medical Mission goes through when preparing every year.  The goal is the same: to provide Surgical and Medical expertise to remotely underserved areas of the Philippines, albeit doing it SWAT style, however, non-sustained and no lasting legacy except for memories and perhaps lasting change to those helped in that 5-day mission work.

Championed by an idea from Dr. Hernan Reyes, Emeritus Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Cook County Hospital Chicago, Illinois, a UST Graduate and a product of UP Diliman, and our very own Dr. Frances Tollete-Velcek and Dr. Susan Echiverri, an independent idea blossomed on supporting and sending Residents from PGH Surgery Department to rural areas to do teaching and service for periods of time instead of Medical Missioners coming from the USA.    While discussing the PGH Fire needs, Dr. Henry Echiverri mentions this intent to classmate Dr. Armando Crisostomo during a telephone conversation while the Department of SURGERY Business meeting was ongoing.   It was announced and accepted and the collaboration was born.   Hence, the Grant Application is now in the Project Coordination Committee’s table for adoption.   A monthly support of $2500 for 3 months as a pilot project to support the financing of the RURAL SURGERY Co-operasyon Program.  If successful, then the program will continue through individual generous support as UPMASA pass-through donation.

Rural Program Brief Description

The overall success of the Co-Operasyon Rural Surgery Pilot Program will become a blueprint that will aid in replication, policy-making and further innovation and improvement.   Imagine the implication once we have UP PGH in Diliman, UP College of Medicine in Mindanao, UP Medicine in Clark.  These centers will be the hub that will support the spokes of spreading the edge of Medicine and Surgery.

From Henry Echiverri MD, Chairman, Board of Governors, 2019-2021