AWARDED the Meritorious Award for Community Service by the Knights of Columbus and recognized as the Most Outstanding Physician by the Philippine Medical Association, Dr. Arturo Mendoza Jr. remains humble and steadfast in serving his kababayan in Olongapo City.
A promising physician from the very beginning, Mendoza had a world of options on how to steer his career. Nevertheless, he chose to settle in his hometown and make it his mission to raise the quality of medical care in James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital (JLGMH) a tertiary training hospital, formerly, the Olongapo General Hospital.
More than that, he inspired a new generation of doctors to do the same—his very own children, who, along with the rest of the medical staff of JLGMH will ensure that what Dr. Mendoza had begun will continue for the benefit of the people of Olongapo City.
When and how this advocacy began, as well as his future plans for the practice of medicine in his beloved province follows in this Q&A.
The Sunday Times Magazine (STM): What made you decide to practice in Olongapo?
Dr. Arturo Mendoza Jr. (AMJ): I decided to practice here in Olongapo because when I came here in 1984, I saw the glaring absence of surgeons. Most of the doctors were general practitioners who are forced to do everything, so to deliver the needed care—I decided to become a general surgeon and practice here.
I was among the few specialists who came to Olongapo after a challenge and invitation from then Mayor Dick Gordon to help rehabilitate the old Olongapo General Hospital—to turn it into a training hospital that is staffed by competitive specialists, and fill it with modern equipment so that patients need not go to Manila or other places to undergo treatment.
Olongapo General Hospital eventually became the James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, a tertiary training hospital with four accredited training programs, and subsequently the first ISO-certified Hospital in central Luzon.
STM: As director of the hospital, what are the challenges that you encountered in the beginning and how did you manage to overcome them?
AMJ: As chief of hospital I was faced with many challenges, the biggest of which was the challenge to remove the stigma of the old government hospital, and turn the institution into a hospital comparable with other private hospitals of the same category. The initial task was to change that notion that government hospitals are less efficient and less effective in providing quality medical services due to lack of funds and lack of adequate and well-trained human resources.
I believe with a good relationship and the full support of the city administration, and the medical and paramedical staff and personnel, I was successful in removing this stigma. Patients now see the hospital differently—it now functions as a referral center, that though it is solely funded by the city government, it functions as a regional hospital catering to patients from all over Zambales, part of Bataan and Pampanga, and as far as Pangasinan, with a combined population of almost a million people. But it is still a work in progress, as there’s a lot more to be done.
STM: How would you describe your management style?
AMJ: I want to encourage everyone, starting from my own children to all my hospital staffers—resident physicians on training, nurses, etc.—to be the best they can be and to give their best in everything they do. I want to be remembered as an advocate for excellence. One who will not accept a mediocre performance.
I always told my children since they were young, “If you think you can, you can,” and I challenged them, “Be the best of what you want to be.” Be the best doctor, the best nurse, the best radiology technician, the best pharmacist, the best helper. It does not matter what you do, just try to be the best or at least give your best in everything you do.
STM: Alongside your office in Olongapo, what are your responsibilities as president of the Philippine College of Surgeons?
AMJ: As president of the PCS, my recent projects were directed to the patient, and include the following:
The SURE program (Surgery to Unvisited Regions for Education) with more emphasis on the surgical mission component. We recently had a Memorandum of Agreement with the AYF (Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation) that provides additional financial support to all our surgical missions, and vice-versa. We also provide additional manpower to their ongoing surgical missions, all are to be held in coordination with members of the PCS in the 12 chapters nationwide.
We hope to establish Ambulatory Surgical Clinics in our 12 chapters.
We continue our advocacy in promoting public information on Cancer, Trauma, Infection, and other common surgical conditions, through public fora, lectures, workshops, etc.
We help the Department of Health in its manpower study and help in providing more doctors in remote areas of the country.
We take an active participation in Disaster Control and Management.
We help to ensure safe conduct of foreign medical missions that will deliver quality surgical care to our indigent patients, through proper coordination and monitoring of every mission with the different chapters of the PCS, by having a MOA with League of
Cities, League of Municipalities and League of Provinces.
STM: Having achieved so much both as a doctor and a family man, what else do you hope to do in the future?
AMJ: I want to paint after retiring. In fact, I already started painting. I was encouraged by my doctor daughter-in-law Roxanne who also paints. My wife decorates with paintings all over our house here in Olongapo.
I also want to spend more time with my children and my grandchildren when I retire.