Response on Behalf of the Retirees
28th University Service Awards
January 27, 2021
By Dr Ruth Semilla-Beltran
Fr Mars Tan, SJ President of Xavier University
Members of the President’s Council,
Fellow Deans and Administrators
This Year’s Service awardees, My Co-retirees
Guests and friends good afternoon
“ Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65 years old, I still had pimples” – quote from the famous senior actor , the late George Burns. And certainly I do agree with him.
Joking aside, and standing here before you today makes me recall how 35 years ago, I decided to take the journey that led me to Cagayan de Oro City to start my practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist with the primary intention of becoming a faculty in the medical school of this prestigious institution . The reason behind was for me be given a visiting consultant status at the Cagayan de Oro Medical Center which was at that time, the only hospital with departmentalized clinical services manned by certified consultants in their respective fields of specialty. In short, it was the “ hospital to be” at that time. Knowing that becoming an active staff entails buying shares of stocks, I thought that it also had a policy of giving faculty in the medical school a visiting status -meaning that my clinic will not be hospital based but I can admit patients as visiting consultant – this was the policy at the Cebu Doctors’Hospital, Inc. where I finished my residency. This was 1986- I was already a new but poor OB-GYN specialist . and having gone this far in my studies and specialization under the Papa and Mama’s Love scholarship, I felt it would be shameful & embarrassing if I still ask for more support just to buy stocks—so I truly believed that the most practical means would be through teaching. But don’t get me wrong…. I really, truly love to teach too.
The Medical Director of COMC at that time was Dr Francisco Oh, the founding Dean of the Dr Jose P Rizal College of Medicine which opened on 1983. So at this point in time , the pioneer batch was already in their 4th year thus there was a need to have a Training Officer to handle the clinical clerkship program . I was fortunate to be appointed Training Officer of the SOM and at the same time offered an active staff status at COMC with the privilege of paying my shares of stocks anytime when I chosed to…..and The rest is history…
As a clinician, teaching students on acquiring clinical skills was a piece of cake , however, our teaching and learning strategies were purely patterned after how our teachers did it during our time. The terms curriculum, course syllabus, modules, instructional design were foreign to the majority of us faculty at the medical school As Training Officer and even department chair, I was left on my own to decide everything that needed to be taught and the methods of doing it . Unlike today when faculty development is very accessible for all, back then , we were left therefore to our own devices. In fact , the SOM was some sort of a Hermit Kingdom where everything was confined within its walls- no contact with our “outside world”- meaning , the rest of the university . We therefore had our own world - like AUTISTICS. But be that as it may, our students did well in the licensure exams THEN and even NOW.
From Training officer of 20 years , I was appointed after Dr Candida Canceko retired on 2006 . Being DEAN was a position I never in my wildest dreams aspired for- otherwise, I would have prepared myself well for the task. To be honest, I even said to myself that “ if I were to be Dean, it should be in my pre-retirement age , like 60”. But why accept??? Perhaps it was that sense of having to obey out of gratitude for Dr Oh who called me and emphatically said “ Ruth, do not make my baby die” that I accepted…. Perhaps it was the pressure from my other superiors and the rest of the faculty …..I FINALLY relented only after the assurance from Fr Jett that I should never give up my clinical practice.
I was 50 yrs old at that time and deep within me , I always get flattered seeing myself to be the youngest Dean in the Board of ( APMC) the Asso. Of Phil Medical Colleges as well as during XU AVP Council meetings . It made me feel like an alien during the early days because to me they were talking in Greek. Through time ,I gradually metamorphosed from a caterpillar to a butterfly all because I had no less than our former Dean Dr Canceko and Asso. Dean , Dr Agaton Panopio ( whom our students refer to as the “Mother and Father of Medicine”) who acted as my DEDICATED MENTORS. To these two wonderful selfless people, I am forever grateful.
Looking back, it fills my heart with pride and joy to see the School of Medicine have a base hospital finally on 2011; attain PAASCU level 3 accreditation since 2012 ; offer two masters programs in health : Master in Arts in Health Professions Education and Master in Health & Hospital Mgt.; establish two important community development programs : The Sustainable Sanitation Center which is now renamed the Dr Jose P Rizal Center for Global Health and the CECAP in collaboration with the Community Health Care Center of the German Doctors which was the only pilot site in Mindanao that offered competency trainings to health providers in performing the Singe Visit Approach in detecting and treating precancerous lesions of the cervix; and more than ever before this pandemic, to see our medical students participate in almost all events in the university intramurals and winning in many of the competitions and above all for having our school recognized as one of the ten top performing medical schools in the country. All these achievements cannot be attributed to a one man show - all these were made possible because of my team and WITH THE SUPPORT OF OUR UNIVERSITY ADMINSTRATION who worked hard and believed in ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND SOCIAL RELEVANCE that all these were realized. To my full time faculty – magnificent 17 and the more than a hundred part timers - Thank you for your commitment & dedication to teaching which is generally the road less taken by doctors. Let me not forget also , our non-teaching staff for the patience , perseverance and understanding that you have to endure in dealing with the medical faculty’s demands & idiosyncracies – my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all of you.
For all the years that I’ve been here at XU, I witnessed CHANGES in various aspects of university life. I have seen the evolution of lecture materials from the chalk & black board to whiteboards, transparencies, slides on carousels and eventually powerpoint presentations . The curriculum shifted from Flexnerian to problem based, competency based and now outcomes based. Students who used to remain silent, obedient and compliant to rules now are more empowered, outspoken, ,competitive , demanding and entitled. Faculty who were merely satisfied with their graduate degrees are now aspiring for more competencies and expertise thus obtaining masters or doctorate degrees and having Deans whose ages are very much younger than my pre-concieved idea in the past. And of course, our university leadership: 6 PRESIDENTS - half of which I had the privilege of serving in my capacity as dean. All of them : Frs Javier, Nebres, Samson, Villarin, Yap and and now FR Mars Tan have their own unique leadership style and qualities which I certainly admire and truly look up to as my north stars . With them at the helm and steering the ship that is Xavier University, reorganizations and restructuring processes were inevitable from time to time …all for a better and more effective operations that will ensure that the vision and goals of our institution are attained and that the ship remains afloat in spite of the recurrent storms that come along its path. These men have shown me that: Leadership entails one to sometimes make difficult and painful decisions. But one thing is certain, whatever that decision is, it is for the good of the many and for the organization as well. To all these stellar presidents and the rest of the administration and the XU community, THANK YOU FOR THE gift of FRIENDSHIP ,THE SPIRITUAL GROWTH that I EXPERIENCED TOGETHER WITH YOU , AND THE SUPPORT FOR ALL OUR ENDEAVORS OF THE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE. Our ship continues to sail both in rough and quiet waters but I can truly say, my experience of the ride was well worth it.
One time when we got a 100% PLE passing performance, I told Fr Bobby “ FR, puede na ko mag retire ha” and his answer was: “ Dili puede until you produce a topnotcher”. – this indeed has been my impossible dream and hopefully this will become a reality in the next years to come when that perpetual taker will have thrown in the towel for good.
Did I ever have any regrets accepting the deanship of our school? Reflecting on this question, I would be a hypocrite if I say NONE WHATSOEVER. As what one colleague told me when she learned of my appointment “ you will destroy your practice , so WHY DID YOU ACCEPT? ”. I guess you all know what this meant. Although there was some truth in her statement, I feel that being instrumental in forming competent future physicians is something money cannot buy. Furthermore, being an administrator which makes you worry about CHED requirements, PAASCU accreditation, student faculty & NTS concerns and trivial matters like parking spaces for faculty were all stressors that will pale against having those moments of sudden adrenaline rush due to adverse unforeseen events during labor & delivery not to mention sleepless nights and having to drive at full speed to catch a baby even at dawn. The key for me is to just live within ones’ means. And so I endured the FIVE terms or 15 YEARS with minimal wrinkles. Apart from the money matter issue my only regret is perhaps having my daughters study medicine here. This has nothing to do with academic issues at all , but it was more because there were situations in school that they needed me as a MOM but I ended up making them feel I was more of the Dean .
The singer , songwriter Zayn Malik said: “THERE COMES A DAY WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT TURNING THE PAGE IS THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU REALIZE THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO THE BOOK THAN THE PAGE YOU WERE STUCK ON”.
The greatest gift of retirement is TIME and this we classmates must plan how to use wisely so that we spend our remaining years in this world happy. NOW I look forward to doing things I missed like PAINTING altho’ I get to indulge in coloring books to destress me in the past 5 years until the Korean bug caught me DURING this pandemic . I will now have the time to upgrade my cooking skills which is limited to FRYING only. I look forward to DECLUTTER our home because this pandemic has really taught me to downsize, simplify and keep only the basic and important stuff. TRAVEL would have been top of my wish list but belonging to the vulnerable group, I should SET an example during these times. There indeed are so many things we can do as retirees in the remaining pages of this book called life. But my love for teaching will remain and for as long as I am able, I will MAKE MYSELF available. Also , for as long as my memory remains sharp and my hands remain steady, I still would love to TAKE CARE OF patients because I feel that age coupled with experience makes me a credible source of KNOWLEDGE ,WISDOM AND EXPERTISE.
To all the service awardees, Congratulations and may you continue to love what you do here at XU in spite of all the odds because at the end of the day, there is much to be grateful .
To my co -retirees, let us find joy in discovering our hidden talents and show the world that even in our senior years, we continue to make life worth living. As Mark Twain puts it : “ Age is an issue of mind and matter. If you don’t mind, it does not matter”. AMDG!