Medical ethics professorial chair lecture culls lessons from the pandemic

The enduring lessons on medical ethics that were learned from the COVID-19 pandemic were highlighted by the newest Doña Victoria Ty Tan Professorial Chair in Medical Education, Prof. Angeles Tan Alora, MD. On November 14, 2023, the former Medicine and Surgery Dean delivered the professorial lecture in front of the Thomasian medical community and officials, at the Dr. George S.K. Ty Multi-Purpose Hall. Dr. George S.K. Ty, founder of Metrobank, is the son of Doña Victoria Ty Tan, after whom the professorial chair is named.

With the title “Enhancing Ethical Behavior: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Tan-Alora acknowledged the lasting effects of change that COVID-19 brought about. Among them was undeniable surge in the use of online technologies, which inadvertently led to the prevalence of “incomplete knowledge,” brought about by “rampant mis/disinformation and predatory journals.” Tan-Alora also lamented the capacity of the “ubiquitous social media landscape” to blur the line between truth and fiction.

In terms of patient care, the isolation of many patients during the pandemic necessitated an “adjustment of goals of care to patient’s values” and called for “personalized, dignified, humane care” especially when patients were stigmatized due to the highly virulent nature of the virus and the fear of getting infected. Tan-Alora also lamented how poor governance and communication of policies hampered much-needed copping with the pandemic. Apart from an unprepared health system, leaders were also motivated by “self-interest as the primary goal.” Emotional reactions also prevent balanced discussions on needed actions, and misconduct marred effective healthcare delivery.

With these as a backdrop, Tan-Alora said that “trustworthiness” of those serving patients must be recovered. “We must recover their [the patients] trust. Only then will they cooperate and comply with health policy,” the Metrobank Outstanding Teacher awardee said. The road to regaining trust back is the professional’s humility “to be an accountable steward society and to my God.”

Tan-Alora saw hope in the immense amount of compassion shown during the pandemic. She called on continued to support for patients and those who may not be ill, but who have been forced to isolation due to mobility restrictions that may lead to “being lonely, depressed, and in need of compassion.” The need for compassion shows the need for developing “a culture of sensitive caring” and “be present physicians.”

The pandemic, Tan-Alora averred, “magnified the hardships of health inequities” and “made visible stark realities on the ground [that exerted] discriminatory impact on class, age, occupation, and socioeconomic status.” She recognized that those who were already at a disadvantage were most vulnerable, suffering death and being victimized by unscrupulous individuals who took advantage of disinformation in order to make a profit.

Tan-Alora is an eminent educator of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, her alma mater which she also served as Department Chair and Dean. Apart from being UST’s first-ever Metrobank Outstanding Teacher Awardee, she has earned many plums and is an influential figure in the field of medical and research ethics. She is one of the pioneers of the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board.

The Doña Victoria Ty Tan Professorial Chair in Medical Education was established by the Metrobank Foundation in 2019 to support professors and clinicians in undertaking avant garde and relevant studies to upgrade the delivery of medical education. Managed by the UST Research and Endowment Foundation, Inc., the Professorial Chair will be granted to a total of ten medical educators, the first two being Prof. Sandra Navarra and Prof. Fidela Moreno.

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