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Medisina at Politika by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan     

Purpose for being: a vignette


Gifts of Medical Research, Natural Justice, Ministerial Responsibility, Political Ethics, orRobocall’ Affair? Any of them could have been the topic for this issue. I thought, however, it is time to pause and share a vignette on how this column came to be. Until now – five issues completed since starting – I have not informed you of the rationale for its being. Without even a single statement from yours truly as to its purpose, suddenly you saw this new bi-weekly, Medisina at Politika, popped out in the pages of the Pilipino Express and launched with the inaugural piece on Canada’s Medicare, a three-part series , followed by How Doctors Think in two parts.

The first topic provides you with a backgrounder on Medicare as it began to be intensely discussed again by the two levels of government. For sure as the sun rises in the morning, it will again be headline news in the coming months. The backgrounder has also been meant for those who follow the Philippines’ search for a comprehensive universal health care insurance plan. They may wish to share their perspectives on our Medicare system with families and friends in the motherland.

The second topic provides practical suggestions on how you can help sharpen your doctor’s critical thinking even more and thereby enhance diagnosis-making to 100% accuracy. A reminder at this juncture: remember to ask the mind-opening question, “What else can it be, Doctor?” whenever you feel you want that extra ounce of certainty from your physician and surgeon.

Yes, the editor introduced my column as a vehicle that will discuss “issues that are relevant to the Filipino-Canadian immigrant in our community.” Concise, her editorial introduction is insightful and sums up the raison d’ etre – the purpose for beingfor my column: toinformand engage you on the broader issues in medicine and politics, not to diagnose a disease nor prescribe a treatment and not to foster political partisanship. It will help if readers would let me know whether I continue to rise to that editorial challenge.

Struggle of a neophyte’s pen

Each of us has many stories of life lessons learned, of opportunities seized or ignored, of invitations accepted or declined. My column, in part, fulfills a long overdue acceptance of a standing invitation from our persuasive editor to share my insights from lessons learned in medicine, politics and community advocacy. Since these spheres of experiential engagement are directly about citizens and their health and well-being, individually and collectively, I had long wanted to oblige. After all, I did spend some 27 years in medical practice, research, teaching, lecturing and writing and some 17 additional years in elected public office as a school trustee, Member of Parliament, and cabinet minister in the Government of Canada, plus some 44 overlapping years as a volunteer, here and abroad. I could not in all conscience allow my stories of fulfillment to remain untold and hidden in the repository of retirement living. To simply look back is only sentimental nostalgia.

Yet, I managed to rationalize the delay. I could not overcome my trepidation until I remembered – last December it was on the eve of my 50th anniversary as a physician – one Latin adage learned way back then: Disce ut semper victurus, vive ut cras moriturus. “Learn as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.”

Energizing in its message, the adage shook me away from the inertia of hesitation, stirred my consciousness, and eventually moved my hands comfortably to my desktop computer. I quickly realized my task as a columnist-writer may not be as demanding since I need only harvest and distill from my experiences in the varied fields of society. But such was the struggle of a beginner.

Choice of the name

Expectant parents reflect on the eventual name they would like for their forthcoming newborn. We did, too. Like that universal parental behaviour, I considered a number of titles for my column and judged them on the basis of some self-imposed criteria. Medisina at Politika passed the test. Expressly chosen as a title in Tagalog with its content rendered in English, the themes I could discuss are at once palpably wide in dimension. Although of Greek, Latin and French derivations, these Tagalog words are easily capable of the obvious English translation. As a title, it reflects my wish to make this column a continuum of my life’s tour of duty. At the same time, I hope it would contribute to the Pilipino Express’ pledge to “provide evocative and provocative opinions … in both Filipino (Tagalog) and English” while retaining the cultural aura of a Filipino heritage, our common birthright.

Indeed, you may expect me to take a passionate proposition should such a view uphold and advance universal human aspirations and virtues; hence my considerations of the topics that I alluded to in the opening of this vignette. I must hasten to add that respect and dialogue, not division, shall prevail when occasions find us honestly differing in opinions.

Finally, why this vignette?

The making of a column is one thing. More importantly, your feedback is important. You may want to suggest a particular topic or theme that you may want addressed. Better still, you may want to share a story. You might have touched and made a difference in the life of someone – a loved one, a friend, a co-worker, a stranger – and not realize it until you begin a conversation. It may well be your story of fulfillment.I am waiting to hear from you. My e-mail:

I conclude with this thought: Share a personal vignette! I just did.

The Honourable Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, a retired lung specialist and University of Manitoba Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health and former Member of Parliament and senior cabinet minister, is widely published and has lectured in Medicine and Politics. He has been the recipient of several honours and awards, including the honorary Doctor of Science and Doctor of Laws, and is listed in the Canadian Who’s Who.

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