PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL SPEECH
(PPA 2017 Annual Convention)
This year’s closing ceremonies would probably hold the record of being one of the longest, if not the longest, so in advance, I have made an attempt to make my inaugural speech NOT too long-winded.
To all the past presidents and officers of the PPA; to my present and stalwart fellow board of directors; my distinguished and revered mentors; my dear colleagues and friends; our dedicated pharmaceutical partners; our dear family members and friends present – good evening!
As I was preparing for this inaugural speech and prepare to assume this crucial position, it evokes a lot of memories of the firsts that I have experienced in my journey in psychiatry.
I remember my very first day as a pre-resident, standing outside the steel double doors of the Makati Medical Center basement and waiting to be ushered in by the chief resident at that time, Dr. Rhoda Cruz. I was there looking up and staring at the neuro-psychiatry unit signage and vividly remember having felt that I was going to be in this for the long-term. And so it has been. From that moment, there have been many firsts which followed.
I think I should also share with you that during our annual convention last year, I came with the intention of expressing to Fa and the rest of the board my regrets about not running for the BOD again. Not because I did not want to serve PPA anymore, but simply because I was tired and I wanted to rest. But as soon as I entered the venue for Dinesh Bhugra’s pre-convention workshop, Dr. Ed Tolentino and Dr. Lou Querubin swiftly sat me down and told me I had to run again as I am being discerned for the position of vice-president. And perhaps because deep inside, I felt it was also something I needed to do and something that I was just resisting, I acquiesced, and I now find myself standing in front of all of you delivering this speech.
I guess what I am initially saying is that, I do believe that in this lifetime, all of us are called into a personal and uniques mission. It may be big; or it may be small, but in the end and in the grand scheme of things, it will always be important and worthshile.
Now, looking into the horizon, once again, just like I have felt at the beginning of the year for the past three years that I have been working for PPA, I am feeling that one year is too long. Yet, simultaneously, it is too short.
Maybe because I am very well aware that there is a lot of work to be done and that in reality, the work never ends. Maybe because I was fortunate enough to have been blessed to work with dream teams whose agenda was nothing short of embracing their positions and carrying out their roles and responsibiitie to the best of their abilities.
But this is where I am; this is what is happening now; and thus, I am fully embracing this eternal moment and the moments to come in this year of my servitude to the PPA.
In the coming year, I am intending and hoping to endeavor towards what I believe are critical points that need to be upheld, and then some that need to be initiated.
1) First and foremost among my thrusts is education and the strengthening of the knowledge-base of our members.
I think most – if not all of you – would agree that we are treading on very unsteady waters not only locally but globally. I think change has come and as I was pondering on this I came across what I hoped was a personal insight worth remembering and sharing, which is that: the challenge for each and every one of us is that more so now than ever, in the midst of all this unecrtainty and chaos, we need the fortitude to be able to ground ourselves. Specifically, we need to make an attempt not to get sidetracked by this widespread unrest and instead, make an effort to focus on doing what we have been doing; what we know best and what we do best. Working towards a better version of ourselves as mental health professionals and more importantly, as human beings is something that we have full control over. It is a choice that is well within our reach.
So, to go a bit into details, as early as in two weeks time, we are holding our very first academic activity, which is a workshop on practical psychodynamics by Dr. Michaels Casher from the University of Michigan.
We are also preparing something major, maybe even monumental in the history of our local residency training program, which is a formal master course on psychopharmacology and mood disorder, to be facilitated by no less than a luminary in the field of mood disorder, Dr. Roger McIntyre. I have been personally coordinating with Roger and to date we are just workig through the details like schedules and the specific dates of the didactics and supervision sessions. But this venture is most definitely a go for him and he is in fact very much looking forward to it.
Additionally, we are hoping to hold a stand-alone research paper competition and case competition among our existing training institutions, which will be outside of our two major midyear and annual conventions.
I will be continuing what our outgoing president Dr. Flores has initiated during her term, which is the four-day comprehensive addiction course, hopefully in larger batches this time so as to be able to accommodate more members at one time and include even our colleagues in the Visayas and Mindanao region.
– I am fortunate enough to not have bent over and backwards to look for thes opportunities because even before standing before all of you and taking oath as PPA president, these opportunities came to me and landed in my lap. Thanks to colleagues like Dr. Tofi Sison, Dr. Lulu Ignacio, and Dr.
2) Moving forward… In keeping with our vision of advancing and situating the PPA in the global backdrop, another major endeavor in our horizon is the annual convention for 2018 which will coincide with the AFPA Regional Congress.
For those of you who are yet familiar with AFPA, it stands for the Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations, which is the main federation of the various national psychiatric associations and organizations in Asia. And among the 24 countries and member societies of AFPA, we are fortunate enough to have been invited to serve as the host country of their regional congress for 2018.
Its current president is Professor Shigenobu Kanba from Japan, and as early as mid-2016 I have been in close communication with Dr. Afzal Javed from Pakistan who is the president elect and incoming president of AFPA. He also happens to be the secretary for scientific sessions of the World Psychiatric Association which also conducted its regional meeting here last year in conjunction with our annual convention. So this means that we are in for another international event for our annual next year, which something that we are all looking forward to. If only for this, 2018 will certainly be a busy year for PPA. Incidentally, I would also like to make mention that our very own Dr. Lulu Ignacio is AFPA’s current secretary general. I would also like to thank Dr. Tante Della for graciously and generously accepting the task of chair for the scientific programme for the event.
3) Of late, I have been openly expressing my feelings of gratitude for the good fortune of having had very dynamic forerunners in the persons of Dr. Ed Tolentino, Dr. Lou Querubin, and our outgoing president Dr. Fareda Flores, for the past three years that I have been with PPA, as they have all done serious work in their term and subsequently laid very solid plans for our association, which means that at some level, part of the job I need to do during my term merely would be to uphold and see these projects to their end.
Of course, one of these important projects is the Philippine Mental Health Act, which was initiated during the term of Dr. Ed Tolentino, who is also currently the chair for the ad hoc committee, and the most recent major development of which is the upcoming senate TWG or technical working group meeting called by the office of Senator Risa Hontiveros, the purpose of which is to discuss and review the existing mental health bills to aid them in coming up with a committee report.
4) We will also be organizing trainings on capacity building toward psychosocial readiness and response to crisis and disaster and this is a project to be spearheaded by its current chair Dr. Beth Santos, hopefully even possibly incoporate it as part of our current training institution’s accreditation requirements
5) On top of working towards the realization of a mental health law, we will simultaneously be conducting major psychoeducation fora on various common psychiatric conditions starting with depression and suicide and starting with major universities, to which Ms. Kylie Verzosa has committed to supporting and speaking as our ambassadress.
6) Needless to say, it would never be possible to do all of this by myself. I am a full-blooded introvert, for crying out loud. And I may be a Freudian/psychodynamic by training, but I am a Jungian at heart. I am a typical Hades; a dreamer and an introspective who typically lives in the dark recesses of the underworld. I often say, my inner journeys pale in comparison to my outer journeys. But I believe it is also in the underworld that I go back to every now and then that am able to gain and gather strength to do the work that I need to do. And as Carl Jung himself says: “Who looks outside, dreams; but who looks inside, awakens…” And therefore, I would need your logos to complement my eros.
At this point, just allow me to quickly thank first of all my immediate predecessor, Dr. Fareda Flores. Thank you, Fa, for respecting my unique energy and allowing me to be me during the past year that we have worked together. I may not have been able to produce ultra-rapid results all the time, but it is because I believe in coming up with something beautiful at the very least and more so, soulful and meaningful work.
I would like to thank all my colleagues who have been part of the board of directors for the past three years that I have been serving PPA. I have learned valuable pearls of wisdom from each and everyone of you. Through you, I realized that apart from my being a Hades, I can also be a Zeus or an Hermes, as the case may be, and tap into that temerity and boldness that is necessary to stand up for what I believe in and do the work that needs to be done.
I would also like to give special thanks to Dr. Minda Manas, our executive director who incidentally and fortunately also happens to be a very good friend, oftentimes bordering on talent manager (I swear she can give Tito Boy a run for his money; and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one time during one of our board meetings she suddenly blurts out questions like “sex or chocolates?” or “lights-on or lights-off?”. But seriously, thank you for being there.
And finally, as I bring myself to close this address, I call to mind not such a famed quote from an eminent or historical figure, rather, it is more a simple but profound truth and perspective from a graduating student of a small university. His name is Promise Olomo (yes, his first and given name is Promise, which I think is quite lovely and interesting). He once said that ‘Maybe – just maybe – many of the things we automatically think and rule out as impossible are perhaps nothing but challenging possibilities’. Such that, ultimately, when we shift our paradigms and make the decision that difficulties, or even the impossible for that matter can be done, it is no longer a question of “Can we do it?”, but “How do we do it?”
The next year for the 2017-2018 batch of Board of Directors begins now. I would just like to express that I am looking forward to working with you and serve the Philippine Psychiatric Association with you.