by Lance Nolasco

“You might be wondering what someone wearing a dark coat is doing in a white coat ceremony.”  These were the introductory words of the President & CEO of Universitas, Atty. Oliver M. Tuazon, in his keynote speech in the recently concluded White Coat Ceremony of Cebu Doctor’s University Hospital (CDUH) in Cebu City last January 17, 2018. 

A White Coat Ceremony is a landmark event in the life of a newly-minted medical doctor, where he formally receives his long white coat and stethoscope before he starts his residency training.  This concept was explained by Dr. Enrico B. Gruet, the Director of Continuing Medical Education at CDUH, after Dr. Jose Antonio Quiteves, the Assistant Medical Director of the teaching hospital delivered the Welcome Remarks. 

During the ceremony at CDUH, the white coats were donned upon the new residents by the head of the residency program and its training officer, while the stethoscope was handed to them by Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III, the President and Chairman of the Board of the CebuDoc Group of Companies.  Dr. Yong delivered a brief but attractive message to the new residents, as he revealed to them the new residents’ quarters of the teaching hospital, replete with a library, lounges, free WiFi, hot showers, among others.  The new doctors could not contain their joy, as shown on the smiles on their faces, as Dr. Yong showed to them images of the architectural plans, which also includes a new chapel, in honor of his father, who had the habit of praying at the back pew of their current chapel after making his rounds in the hospital.

Dr. Philip Anthony Larrazabal, reciting the Hippocratic Oath with the newly appointed residents

Going back to the Keynote Speech of Atty. Tuazon, he first made an attempt to connect with the new medical residents, given that from the outset, as a lawyer, he was a stranger in the medical field. He told them that his standard answer when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up was, doctor!  He ended up pursuing a masters degree in Microbiology, under a sandwich program between the University of the Philippines (course work) and a professor from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital (thesis work).

He shared that it was the topic of his masters thesis that led him to Cebu Doctors’ for the first time more than a decade ago, when he delivered a lecture before a group of gastroenterologists on the point mutations in the ribosomal RNA of Helicobacter pylori—the leading cause of ulcers—that made them resistant to macrolides.  He fondly recalled that it was at that time when he met the founder of CDUH, Dr. Yong, who himself was a gastroenterologist.  And the doctor who brought him over to Cebu for the talk, Dr. Bernadette Moscoso, is also a gastroenterologist.

Since he was teaching general biology and microbiology courses at the University of the Philippines for almost ten years, most of his former students are now medical doctors. He quipped: “When they are in shock to discover that I am now a lawyer, I always tell them, that I specialize on medical negligence cases, and so they could always get me as their counsel”, which drew laughter from the audience.

Atty. Tuazon giving his keynote speech to the newly appointed residents of Cebu Doctor’s University.

In the main part of his speech, he talked about one of the core principles Universitas Foundation — competence. He told them to strive to be the best doctors that they can be. Each of them should pursue excellence in order to give the best service that their patients deserve. He connected competence with humility, that is “to acknowledge what you know, and what else you need to know.” He told them about the ‘scariest event’ of his life, which was when he presented a paper in Australia before a group of scientists who he was quoting on his review of related literature. “It was an edifying experience, and it helped me remain humble in spite of whatever achievements I may have, because I know that they are just given to me on loan.”

He also challenged the residents to be diligent. He explained to them that diligence comes from the latin word diligere which actually means, “to love”. Thus, he elucidated, “only when you love what you do would you blossom in what you do. You may end up messing things up, not because you are incompetent, but because you have lost the meaning of what you do, because you have failed to love.”

Furthermore, he stressed to them the meaning of sacrifice and how it is the consequence of love. Sacrifice, as explained by Atty. Tuazon, comes from two Latin words sacrum and facere. Sacrum means “holy or sacred”, while facere means “to make”. He then added, “At its deepest meaning, one who sacrifices is one who makes himself/herself holy, and makes that person or thing he/she sacrifices him/herself for holy.” But he warned them not to treat their residency training as a sort of a narrow tunnel in which they are enclosed, such that they will “sacrifice” everything for it. He told them that their training is not just all work. They need to live a balanced life, and they can achieve it by forming good habits, and one of them is the habit of serving.

Atty. Tuazon being awarded after giving his keynote speech (L-R: Mr. Mier Villegas, Engr. Oscar Tuason, Dr. Enrico Gruet, Atty . Tuazon, and Dr. Yong Larrazabal III)

Lastly, he summarized everything through the concept of “unity of life”. He challenged them not to compartmentalize their lives. “You are not a doctor from 8AM-5PM, a friend from 5-6PM, a mother/father from 6-9PM, or a Christian every Sunday when you go to church.  No, you are a Christian wherever you are and wherever you go, in as much as you are a doctor, a mother, a friend 24/7.” He gave Dr. Yong as an example of a person who lives unity of life. He told them that Dr. Larrazabal would kneel in the hospital’s chapel and pray for his patients daily after making his rounds in the hospital. He said to them, ”That is a clear example of a man who lives unity of life. He is able to integrate his life of faith in everything he does.” 

To end, he reminded the new residents that their white coat symbolizes the purity in which they are called to live their lives. He ended his speech by telling them: “We spoke about being competent, and so, may your competence be pure, such that you excel in your field without stepping down on others; We spoke about being diligent, and so, may your diligence be pure, such that your love for your work brings about honor to your school and to this beloved country of ours; We spoke about sacrifice, and so, may your sacrifice be pure, such that it may lead you to serve others with a pure heart and soul, as pure as your white coats. And finally, may you live unity of life in all its fullness.”

After the speech, Dr. Philip Anthony Larrazabal, the President of Cebu Doctors’ University and Chairperson of the Department of Radiology, asked all the doctors to stand up, and recite with him the classic Hippocratic Oath.  The event ended with a closing message from Dr. Maria Josefina Alfonso, Training Officer of the Department of Radiology. 

Group picture after the White Coat Ceremony

NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.

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