Rock Stars


Beatrice Concepcion, MD

Francisca Tolete-Velcek, MD

Jose Peczon, MD

Celso Antiporda, MD et al


Beatrice Concepcion, MD

UPCM 2004


Beatrice Concepcion MD, Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee generously shares nuggets of wisdom for those who would like to follow in her footsteps in their journey towards an illustrious medical career in America.



1.  Given all your professional accomplishments, what advice would you give your 30ish-year old self starting out in the US?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Give yourself grace. This is advice I would give my younger self and advice I still give myself today. Many of us can probably relate to this, especially when we are our own worst critic. Although setting a high bar for ourselves pushes us to strive and work hard, it can also prevent us from appreciating what we have accomplished.

2.  How did you seek mentorship from fellow UPMASAns?

As a medical student, I reached out to fellow UPMASAns for advice and support as I applied for a residency position in the United States. When I came for interviews, fellow alumni welcomed me into their homes. I did not spend for a single night in a hotel when I came for my interviews. As a resident and fellow, the UPMASA Chicago chapter was my family away from home especially during the holidays when homesickness was always at its peak. Today, fellow UPMASAns continue to be my support system in Tennessee.

3.  Can you tell us one lesson from a “fresh off the boat” story?

As a new intern, it took me some time to build my confidence and find my voice, literally and figuratively. As one of only three IMGs in my intern class, all I wanted to do was fit in. I was shy, insecure and did not want to stand out so during hospital rounds, I spoke very little (and in a very soft voice) so as not to attract attention to myself. Over time however, I gradually realized that my Philippine (and in particular, UP-PGH) background in fact gave me unique strengths. I learned to speak up and build my confidence and ultimately became unapologetic of being “fresh off the boat”. It’s been sixteen years since, and I continue to be immensely proud of where I’m from, and of being a UPCM graduate.

4.  How did you overcome any implicit bias or explicit discrimination as a Filipina International Medical Graduate in the US?

I let my work speak for itself. I try not to take anything personally and when I do feel discrimination, I use it as motivation to do even better.

5.  What can UPMASA members do to encourage each other’s professional development?

We should pay it forward. The support I received from those ahead of me was instrumental in my professional development. I believe the best way to show gratitude is to provide support for the younger ones. If you are in a position to offer observerships or postdoctoral fellowships, write letters of recommendations, house graduates on the interview trail, or simply be a resource person, please do so. Do not underestimate how much of a positive impact you can have on others’ lives and careers.




Jose Peczon, MD

UPCM 1957


His training and career as an ophthalmologist spanned forty years, specializing in glaucoma, and pioneering in the implantation of intraocular lens. A trailblazer in the UPMASAn journey in America, he did it all by himself and shares pearls of knowledge he picked up along the way. He proves to all that an UPMASA rock star’s light does not dim after retirement from practice. He has recently published “My Odyssey with Donna” a book about his career and life. It is highly inspirational, informative and entertaining. A must read for UPMASAns. A must read for everyone.


1.  Given all your professional accomplishments, what advice would you give your 30ish-year old self starting out in the US?

Medical practice has changed profoundly since I came out of medical school in 1957. During that time, the only question for me was whether to practice in the Philippines or the United States. Today, if I have permanent immigrant status in the U.S. and with the added benefit of a fruitful professional life as an ophthalmologist behind me, the question for me would be whether I want to stay in private practice alone or to have a combined private practice with academic medicine. I will seek the latter choice, a pathway that would allow me to be the best that I can be in any subspecialty that I choose and seek affiliation with a teaching hospital where I can help younger colleagues develop to their best potential while at the same time learning from them. If I have to do private practice alone, I will seek affiliation with a large group to take advantage of the economy of scale that will allow me to have the best office facilities, best diagnostic equipment and best ancillary staff to be able to provide the best care to the largest number of patients at the least possible cost. I definitely will not attempt to go into private practice alone, unless if I chose to go into a small rural community where my services are in great demand.

2.  How did you seek mentorship from fellow UPMASAns?

I did not seek mentorship with any UPMASAN when I was starting out simply because UPMASA did not come into existence until I was already almost midway in my professional life. During the Silver Jubilee of my UPCM CLASS 1957 in Boston in 1982, Cosme Cagas, the founder of UPMASA asked me, as President of my class, to host the first official UPMASA grand reunion. (There were small unofficial meetings before that). At that time, the total membership of UPMASA was less than the 35 members of my class who attended the reunion.

3.  Can you tell us one lesson from a “fresh off the boat” story?

I quickly found out that having graduated from UPCM where the weaning process for admission was rigorous and both the undergraduate and postgraduate training is the best in the country, I soon discovered that I was equal or even better than many U.S. medical school graduates.

4.  How did you overcome any implicit bias or explicit discrimination as a Filipino immigrant in the US?

I simply tried the best that I could be as a medical practitioner and tried to learn the culture so as not to stick like a sore thumb in society.

5.  What can UPMASA members do to encourage each other’s professional development?

I would make myself as an example for others to become actively involved with UPMASA at the chapter and national level. I will attend formal forums, such as continuing medication lectures, or simply as one-to-one encounters to help each other professionally.




Francisca Tolete-Velcek, MD

UPCM  1966




By Honorio Cruz, MD


Dr. Francisca Tolete-Velcek was admitted to the membership of the American College of Surgeons’ Academy of Master Surgeon Educators on July 29, 2021 and will be inducted at the induction ceremony on October 15, 2021. It’s another honor that Dr. Tolete-Velcek, one of the past Presidents of Society of Philippine Surgeons in America (SPSA)1993, has added to an already impressive resume.

Born and raised in Ilocos Sur, Philippines, Dr. Francisca Agatep Tolete-Velcek went to the University of the Philippines (UP) and obtained her Medical Degree, graduating in 1966. She came to the US to pursue her General Surgical training at St. Clare’s Hospital from 1966-1971 under the tutelage of the pioneering surgeon Dr. John Madden. She went to SUNY Downstate Medical Center for her Residency and Fellowship in Pediatric Surgery under Dr. Peter Kottmeier after which she joined the surgical faculty and rose to the rank of Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics and subsequently becoming the Director of the Division of Pediatric Surgery.

Dr. Tolete-Velcek is certified by the American Board of Surgery in General and Pediatric Surgery and Surgical Critical Care. She holds concurrent appointments as an Attending Surgeon or Chief of Pediatric Surgery at multiple medical centers in New York, she also serves as a Consulting Surgeon at several hospitals in New Jersey and New York as well as at the KLAICEVA National Children’s Hospital in Zagreb, Croatia and as a Visiting Professor at the UP College of Medicine and Visiting Surgeon at the UP-PGH Medical Center.

Her many awards include the Warren Wetzel Award for Excellence in Teaching from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Sergio Award from Healing the Children Foundation, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UP Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA) in 2010, the Philippine Presidential Pamana ng Pilipino Award in 2012, the SUNY Downstate Medical Center Presidential Award for Commitment to Excellence in Graduate Medical Education in 2017, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UP Medical Alumni Society in 2017, and the University of the Philippines Alumni Association Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award in 2018. She was inducted to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society in 2020. She is also a Member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem as Dame Commander with Star.

Dr. Tolete-Velcek has published 53 scientific articles in national and international peer-reviewed medical and surgical journals. She has delivered 186 lectures in national and international meetings.

As chair of the medical missions committee of UP Medical Society in America (UPMASA), she has led medical-surgical missions to various areas of the Philippines. She has also participated in multiple missions with SPSA in the Philippines and has also worked in many missions in Eastern Europe and South America.

She served as a Lt. Col. in the US Army Reserved Medical Corps and was mobilized to Operation Desert Storm at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and received the Distinguished US Army Service Medal in 1991.






By  Winston C. Umali, MD

Vice Chair, UPMASA Board of Governors 2021-2023

Board Director, UPAAA 2020-2021, 2022-2023


The University of the Philippines Alumni Association in America has recently concluded its 21st Grand Reunion and Convention – “ARISE: Pagbangon at Parangal” last October 22-24, 2021, a first of its history to have the entire event conducted virtually. Part of the biennial celebration is the recognition of distinguished U.P. alumni, individuals and groups who are embodiments of the Oblation, serving with pride, remaining strong and bold amid strife and challenges.  The UPAAA Distinguished Alumni Awards are intended to recognize them for their outstanding achievements that bring about substantial benefits to society and distinct honor to the University, giving exceptional contributions in areas or fields that impact on the community in the U.S. (local, county/city, state, or national) or at international level, in which the alumni have been active. Nominations are made by their fellow U.P. alumni and/or alumni groups in the U.S.  Evaluation and selection are made by the UPAAA Awards Committee headed by Dr. Francisco Sy. UPMASAns never fail to be named as recipients of these UPAAA Distinguished Alumni Awards. For 2021, from multiple nominees all over the U.S., nine UPMASAns were chosen:

Celso Antiporda, MD – Anesthesia/Community Empowerment

Silverio Cabellon, Jr., MD – Vascular Surgery/Medical Education

Susan Echiverri, MD – Pediatrics/Genetics

Felicitas Santiago, MD – Healthcare Readiness in Military Medicine

Aida N. Soriano, MD – Gender Equality/Women Empowerment

Jose Pamintuan, MD – Cardiology/Healthcare Leadership (Posthumous)

Modesto Rivera III, MD – Urology/Medical Missions

Cornelius I. C. Turralba, MD – Radiation Oncology & Community Empowerment

Mariano G. Yogore III, MD – Pathology & Medico-Legal Jurisprudence

The awards ceremony was graced by the participation and congratulatory remarks of UP System President Danilo Concepcion. Each awardee was given a chance to briefly express their appreciation and speak about their advocacies. Most endearing was the speech given by Dr. Elvira Lacdao Pamintuan, the wife of the late Jose Pamintuan, MD, past UPMASA National President. As a former UPAAA Distinguished Alumni Awardee myself, I was very proud of our medical colleagues, and pleased to have played the piano and serenaded them before the program ended. Congratulations to our winners!