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65th PHA President Dr. Raul L. Lapitan:
What’s Cooking Up with PHA?


Most people’s homes are designed or shaped by either the lifestyle or personality of its dwellers. But when visiting the humble abode of Dr. Raul L. Lapitan, the newest to grace PHA’s title of head honcho, it is almost hard to surmise, with all the aesthetic employed that hides all hints, that doctors coupled with five kids inhabit it.
Nevertheless, this is not surprising for someone like Lapitan, who not only has that acumen in the medical department, but flair in a few other doting hobbies. The new face on The Heart News & Views speaks about his current mission at the forerun of PHA, his interests and life.

The Hearty Cook
The classy look of the kitchen with an impressive array of equipment shows just how he is as passionate with cooking as he is with his medical duties. “I consider cooking not a task but a stress buster and an expression of my artistic inclinations,” he ponders, describing how the craft becomes even more special when he cooks for his family (wife, Dr. Rona Lapitan, an OB-Gyne and their five children – Lois, Celina, Jed, Karl and Dana) that gives him “most pleasure.”

Apparently, he seems to be just so enthusiastic with the chore that he holds no particular dish he could consider his own signature recipe. “I am into dish exploration. I love learning new recipes, recreating them and creating my own mixtures and blends,” he claims, haughtily describing himself as a “food artisan” with all his uniqueness in preparing fresh green salads, steaks, grilled dishes, pasta and sauces, and even his own version of paella, all rich with garnish.

But, of course, the cookery would be bare without any extra help of the prescription from the doc himself. Lapitan makes it a paramount concern that his masterpieces are prepared in moderation. “I always tell myself that the challenges and changes even in cooking are ceaseless.”

However, at the end of it all, medical scholar or not, does it qualify to the general palate? Lapitan contemplates on the time-immemorial argument over who are the better cooks among men and women. And as one would expect, he has interesting facts prepared with ample research referencing a March 2012 survey of the Huffington Post of a couple thousand women, as well as cyber-polling by Conversion Hub and Asia Food Recipe, which all seem to chauvinistically agree on male cooks. “But on a personal note, anyone can be a good cook as long as you put your heart into it. After all cooking is a passion.”

At the Helm
Out of the kitchen, and into the heart of the matter. Like all dedicated personnel who has nothing more and nothing less than the task at hand and the goals at point, Dr. Lapitan had had no inkling whatsoever about being lined up as one the leaders steering the boat that is PHA. “From the time I was elected as director, I knew there was no assurance that I’ll be PHA president in a few years time. I guess the members appreciate and acknowledge my efforts, and to them, I give my deepest gratitude.”

With that in consideration, the pressure entailed in the position comes in immense proportions, accordingly. He goes on to cite the accrued responsibility bearing on him now from his predecessors “who did an excellent and fantastic job keeping the PHA at the frontline of cardiovascular research, healthcare, education and advocacy. From simple decisions to major careful planning,
to accountability, no matter how you look at it, your only option is to do better or at least, be at par.”

With his leadership comes a fresh look at the PHA’s direction and, most importantly, challenges. Lapitan goes on to discuss his own take on turning around any shortcomings found in the organization through “greater commitment among members” and “quality research” in relaying advocacy, which he names as the primary challenges he faces in his turn at the helm.
“I firmly believe that each and every member of the organization has his/her own potentials and talents. Tapping their shoulders with decent recognition will definitely make a lot of difference. We just have to explore all other avenues and think of citations like reasonable incentives and recognition.”

In trying to walk this talk within his term that would only last a year, the doctor effaces any hesitation based on the amount of time given to him, and instead takes into consideration “the traditional system of ascendancy in the Board – you have to be a member of the Board for at least six years before reaching the presidency status. One year as PHA top gun is enough.”
His agenda is focused primarily on a more dynamic approach to knowledge-based sharing within the chapters, councils, committees and laymen.

Fiscal year 2016-2017 will see bigger CORE-GIVe (Continuing Medical Education to REinforce and Generate Drive for Excellence) milestones in the chapters. PHA has 13 chapters. A brainchild of Lapitan, CORE-GIVe came into existence four years ago during his time as Continuing Education Program Committee (CEPC) head. Aside from the cardiologists who practice in the provinces, GPs, internists and family med specialists will benefit from the activity. Steered by the CEPC, the topics/issues being tackled/confronted range from the disease itself, landmark studies, controversies and even treatment strategies and updates.

Lapitan also went on to discuss how ongoing protocols (atrial fibrillation, cardiac catheterization, rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease registries) initiated by the PHA will be fast-tracked and improved. So far, the Councils have completed the protocols on heart failure, cardiomyopathy and acute coronary syndrome. The association is also working on the participation of more training institutions.

Extensive website engagement will also be a priority to further achieve objectives in accessing all available information gateways to the public.

With regards to the PHA Advocacy, Lapitan aims at continuing the efforts already established for a comprehensive educational campaign on staying away from the risk factors (such as obesity, hypertension and smoking) via the 52100 code and knowing your numbers (body mass index and waistline, sugar and cholesterol levels, blood pressure).

Vigilance on the implementation of the CPR Law towards its complete incorporation into the primary education sector is another priority for Lapitan, along with increased partnerships with government and non-government officers for the installation of the automated external defibrillator in communities and the passage of the AED Law.

Considering this, a larger shift towards broader media affiliation would help in sharing PHA Research and Lay Advocacy programs to a wider base of TV/broadcast/Net viewership/listenership/readership.

Modified “Laissez-faire” tack
Sure enough, the length of his assignment could be more than enough for someone like Dr. Lapitan, who is understandably a perfectionist and sees to it that tasks are done in a timely manner. Citing his predecessors, he employs a management approach which he classifies as a modified “Laissez-faire” style of democratic-visionary leadership with, of course, a heart.

“We work as a team and I challenge each member to be proactive, creative and innovative. We move towards a common vision and shared dreams. I believe this can lead to a higher level of satisfaction, enhance efficiency and productive outcomes,” he points out, referring to his equally perfectionist fellow officers ‘who are leaders and team players at the same time.”

He says that PHA “is a well-organized, financially stable, strong, cohesive organization that is composed of highly motivated members, admired for their skills on supervision and integrity, who are steadfast in their mission and vision for the association.” With their help, Lapitan is set to “reinforce the mandates of PHA Councils on up-to-date continuing medical education, creation of guidelines and registries and innovate advocacies” in coordination with various government sectors, NGOs and advertising associates in the road to internationalizing the PHA Annual Convention & Scientific Meeting – which is the ultimate goal he aspires to begin to strive towards under his term for purposes of input exchange with foreign counterparts as well as upping the country’s ante with scientific conferences.

Should circumstances permit, Lapitan aspires to add another fold of contribution to the “Research and Education in CPR and the 52100 Advocacy” once he concludes service.

Life in Optimism
To the Cardiology Fellows in training, his peers, he is a respected mentor, a stern, soft-spoken, and effective advisor that demands attention whenever he speaks as he is the type to get results as soon as orders are carried out.

But when he is not donning the facade of a doctor, he makes it a point to be a vanguard of the latest not only in his hobby within the culinary realm but the tech industry as well – being the self-professed techie that he is.

Citing his parents and their humble beginnings as his inspiration in raising a family and motivating his children to be God-fearing and students extraordinaire, the 26-year-seasoned cardiologist just exudes with warmth as he took the time to revel about being a spoiling, occasionally strict but cool father to his children who are all fond of his “antics.”

Judging by the look of their house – its slanted front with a geometric touch, coated with a jovial yellow hue, reflects the happy and assured life the family inside has. Attesting to this is the space on the upper level reserved for family games and leisure, where chess and other board games are strewn and the spacious family/TV room.

He puts faith at the center of his life and tells his children – Lois and Celina who are both taking up medicine in UST, Jed an aspiring architect at the Mapua Institute of Technology, Karl who is in grade 9 at the Ateneo de Manila University and Dana who is in grade 6 at St. Scholastica’s College Manila -- the same with their chosen paths. The two youngest, Karl and Dana are just happy to aid in kitchen work every now and then.

He makes it a point to balance being a clinician, PHA President, and family man to his wife and children, and imparts with them and his subordinates a piece of wisdom: “Life is beautiful, full of surprises and challenges....Be strong in facing realities. If you fall, rise and learn from your mistakes. Be the best that you can be. Make sure to have Plan B at all times.”

In his new mission as PHA President, Lapitan draws strength and inspiration from people he has a lot to thank for in getting the spot, accordingly. “The PHA will accelerate its pace. The road may not be smooth but guided by the mission and vision of the PHA, with your support and active involvement, we can keep ourselves on track, no stones will be left unturned as we move forward.”