Dr. Enrique "Ike" Ona

A new Secretary of Health has been recently appointed by P-NOY, Dr. Enrique “Ike” T. Ona, former director of the renovated and refurbished National Kidney & Transplant Institute in Quezon City, a tertiary specialty PUBLIC hospital known as one of the leading kidney transplant centers in Asia.

Dr. Ona is quite unknown for the common people which probably explains the raising of eye brows of some when he was appointed by the adminsitration. Unlike the popular choice Dr. Jimmy Galvez-Tan (my own favorite, I really gladly thought it was him that P-NOY will choose), who’s really known for his uncanny ability to lead people (doctors, health care workers, and government officials) through his NGO and WHO work; connect with the masses through his various media appearances; and of course his previous achievements as past secretary of health, Dr. Ona’s own achievements have been unknown to most people.

Unfortunately, including me. I didn’t even know that he was one of the choices for the position until the news broke out this afternoon that he was already appointed. Dr. Ike is my brod in the Phi Kappa Mu, and I’ve met him only about twice during my undergrad years, so I didn’t get the chance to really get to know him. I only knew him as the topnotch Transplant Surgeon brod who headed the NKTI and brought it up from the ashes (literally and figuratively!).

That’s all about him that I knew until I saw this write-up from the graduation souvernir programme of UPCM Class 2008. He was their graduation speaker.

I’d like to share this with you so you could also get a glimpse of who Dr. Ike is. Remember that this was NOT written by me (but by Dr. Chay Sanchez of UPCM 2008). Also, it is not my intention to justify his being chosen through this write-up.

The post of the DOH secretary plays a vital role in the transformation that P-Noy wants to happen (or that all Filipinos want to feel, for that matter). The Secretary should be able to lead and implement projects, programs and laws concerning health which, for the past administrations, has not been given much emphasis or support. Who wants to run a country with an unhealthy population? I guess no one. We’re taught in the UPCM that health is a basic human right, not a commodity that only those who can afford avail. The DOH secretary should, at least, be able to uphold this assertion, as we say it in the hospital, WITHOUT FAIL!

I know Dr. Ike did an awesome job at NKTI, transforming it into the best transplant hub in the Philippines and in SEA, but no one can really tell if he can do an equally awesome job in transforming the DOH or the Philippine health care delivery system, or health education, or the national health insurance program.

But here are some points that, in my opinion, can justify why he can do great things in DOH:

  1. Leadership skills-wise, he’s been part of the government system as Director of NKTI for many years, and NKTI is under the system of DOH. He knows the ins and outs of government service. He even transformed the way NKTI procures/manages their funds such that it now becomes a self-sustaining government hospital (wonders when can PGH do this also…)
  2. He graduated from UPCM. ‘Nuff said. Takot na lang niya sa mga alumni kung may gawin siyang kalokohan.
  3. He’s Phi, and definitely a man of integrity, honor and justice.

So with that I offer my unwavering support for the NEW Secretary of Health, Dr. Enrique T. Ona, Φ ’57, UPCM ’62! Please steer the health care system of the Philippines to greater heights!

Dr. Enrique T. Ona
by Dr. Chay Sanchez, UPCM Class 2008

It has been a tradition to ask one accomplished personality in the field of medicine to inspire each year’s graduates as they start their journey. This year, the UP College of Medicine Class 2008 chose Dr. Enrique Ona, undoubtedly one of the Philippines’ best in the field of vascular and organ transplantation surgery, to share his experiences and thoughts about learning, living and loving the life of a physician.

A native of Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Dr. Ona graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in 1962. After passing the licensure exam for physicians, he decided not to join the clamor for the very limited residency slots in the Department of Surgery of Philippine General hospital, which were then seemingly reserved only for the top graduates and the “anak ng Diyos.”

Instead, he took his residency training in surgery at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, earning himself the position of chief resident and later obtaining fellowship degrees in surgery and experimental surgery in Boston and New York.

Training with other doctors from prestigious medical schools such as harvard, Dr. Ona realized that he was actually at par with them. “Kaya ko rin pala ang mga ginagawa nila,” he humbly thought to himself. It was then that he decided to train further as a Colombo Scholar in Organ transplantation at Cambridge University in England.

Realizing his social responsibility as a UP graduate, Dr. Ona came back to the Philippines to pioneer in what was then lacking in the country – organ transplantation.

Thus began his enviable record as a leader in his profession. He organized medical congresses and symposia, became an active member of international medical organizations and even had time for research. In 1979, he was recognized as the Outstanding Filipino Physician for Medicine.

One of the highlights of his career was his revolutionary work as the executive Director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. Believing that quality training, service and research are all possible if done systematically and with passion, Dr. Ona transformed the NKTI from being a fire-ravaged hospital into a modern, state-of-art health institution in just nine months. He established the most modern hemodialysis center in Southeast Asia and a word-class laboratory for hematology and oncology. Under Dr. Ona’s leadership, NKTI developed strategic planning processes for procuring funds to be used in the institution’s advancement. Indeed, much of what the NKTI is at present can be credited to his genius.

Despite his hectic schedule, Dr. Ona has not forgotten his alma mater. He is president of UPCM Class 1962, who have recently donated to the college a Students Lounge, where students may conduct meetings and practices, or simply, study. He is also a member of the Most Venerable Fraternity of the UP College of Medicine, the Phi Kappa Mu.

Dr. Enrique Ona is the husband of associate professor and hematologist Dr. Norma Ona. They have four children.

*taken from the Souvenir Programme of the 99th Commencement Exercises of the UP College of Medicine, May 18, 2008.

*Update*
Saw this article from Yahoo news. It has snippets of PNoy justifying his choices for his cabinet members. Here’s what he said about Dr. Ona:

Health: Director of NKTI, Enrique T. Ona.

“In our interview we saw in him the potential to become a complete alter-ego, especially given the fact that health agenda is No. 3 on our platform. And he has been given instructions specifically with regard to expediting universal coverage of PhilHealth, one of our campaign promises,” said Aquino.

No. 3 pala ha. Tignan natin. :-)

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