When I was in second grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I said, “I want to be happy.” I have no clue what made me say that but this little nugget of wisdom pretty much sums up why I do what I do today. Happiness in committing to a cause that includes others: After completing a double degree in Doctor of
Medicine (MD) and Master in Business Administration (MBA) at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) in Manila, Philippines, I decided to become a public health professional, devoted to understanding and contributing to building a more effective and equitable health system in the country. I am a licensed physician but I prefer to see myself as a public health professional because as a teacher once taught me, “why save only one life when you can save thousands or even millions at a
My training and background taught me the importance of systems thinking and of placing greater care and attention to the marginalized and disadvantaged. I launched my career as a Public Health Leadership Fellow of the Ateneo Center for Health Evidence, Action and Leadership (A-HEALS) and led a research on mothers’ access to the health system in partnership with the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO). This project, done after Typhoon Haiyan, was eye-
opening in particular because the typhoon was one of the strongest that had ever hit landfall in human history and it devastated the second poorest region of the country. Seeing more closely how system inefficiencies place unjust burden to the poor and marginalized, I was even more resolved to dive deeper and help by contributing systematic solutions to age-old problems. My own formation taught me
that my personal happiness should always include that of others, especially those who are most affected by structural and systemic inequities.
Happiness in new life, relationships and small victories: At present, I am a Consultant for Health Systems Management in the Province of Northern Samar, one of the poorest provinces of the country but one with equally great potential. I work with an amazing team and we call ourselves ‘ProPHase’ which stands for ‘Professionals for Public Health – Aligning Systems for Equity’, and which also alludes to the stage of the biological cell cycle where the creation of new life begins. Through the partnership with local champions, our hope is to contribute our own drop in the bucket, which we hope will send out ripples of influence towards systemic and lasting positive change.
Also, I currently am one of fifteen Inaugural Fellows of the Leaders for Health Equity (LHE) Fellowship Program of the George Washington University. The mentors and colleagues I’ve had the honor to learn from are inspiring beyond words and I am constantly motivated to face everyday challenges journeying with fellow guardians of health equity.
These two engagements I have now reveal to me everyday the joy of working with people and communities. Of course challenges come and at times they feel overwhelming but there’s nothing like being able to find kindred spirits who believe in the same values and are willing to work together towards creating a better world. Working with them through complex challenges and emerging together victorious, even in small, everyday wins, is priceless.
Happiness in the simple everyday: When I’m not working, I find joy in spending time with my family, friends, my pets and nature, seeking to find goodness and light wherever I am called to be. Although I have a long way to go, I can tell my second grade self that I think I have fulfilled my dream of being happy and I am eager to experience more.