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TOFIL Awardee

Dr. Anthony C. Leachon
TOFIL Awardee for Medicine, 2010

 

The hero worshipper

 

“A hero is a man who does what he can.” – Romain Rolland

 

If Dr. Anthony C. Leachon had a personal identifier or PID, it will be “hero worshipper.”

Like the majority of Filipinos, he lived a hard life. What made him a unique individual, however, is that he grew up being surrounded by “heroes” and had since fashioned his life doing the best he can.

At a tender age of eight, he already knew what it felt to lose everything. He was in Grade 2 when his family’s house in Pasay was razed to the ground. For nearly a week, he and his siblings wandered the streets of Manila when they got separated from their parents at the height of the fire. He had to drop out of Don Bosco School because his parents could no longer afford his studies and they were forced to relocate to the family’s ancestral home in Calapan, Mindoro. His father tried to build a law practice in the province while his mother gave up her job in the government to start a small rice mill business.

“Rebuilding was not easy for all of us. Life was tough. I had to transfer to a public school,” says Dr. Leachon. “Seeing how hard my mother worked motivated me to excel. Her constant words reverberated in my ears, ‘Mag-aral ka mabuti para umasenso ka. Hirap na hirap na ako sa gilingan.’ (‘Study hard so you’ll succeed. I’m already very tired working in the rice mill.’)”

In a child’s eyes

His visual recollection of his parents’ hardships spurred Dr. Leachon to dream of becoming a doctor. To his young eyes, being a doctor meant being a picture of success, like his uncle Dr. Alex Cueto. “He was an icon in the family – successful yet remained caring and benevolent to his extended family. He sent money from the States to help the family. Tito Alex personified what I wanted to be: accomplished, admired, influential and a generous family role model,” he says.

Aside from his parents and uncle, he also grew up in the company of other role models and personal heroes: four aunts were public school teachers while his grandfather, Epifanio Cueto, Sr., was Calapan’s first mayor who was killed by Japanese forces during World War 2.

“I was raised to believe that to excel in anything, I must passionately believe in it. That’s how I always operated. I was passionate about being a doctor. I believed in the myriads of opportunities it provided me to do good for other people,” he says.

Tipping point

Now the hero worshipper is being worshipped in the medical profession.

He practices medicine as an internist and cardiologist at Manila Doctors Hospital. He is also the Director for Medical and Regulatory Affairs at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and member of the Board of Regents of the Philippine College of Physicians.

He has earned several awards and recognition as an outstanding medical professional from the Professional Regulation Commission, the Department of Health (DOH), the Gerry Roxas Foundation, and the JCI Senate Philippines, among others.

When he was named “2009 Physician of the Year,” Dr. Leachon said, “The Filipino physician is the new Rizal... transcending beyond the usual role as a healer—a Renaissance physician, leader, educator, advocate, change agent, a catalyst for social change.”

Greatest act

Yet of all the things he has done for his patients and his country, Dr. Leachon considers authoring the Health Education Reform Order (H.E.R.O.) as his greatest personal legacy. For pushing for the passage of this significant Executive Order, Dr. Leachon received the Presidential Citation for helping the government with its preventive health education advocacy.

 

HERO remains the largest physician-led advocacy on comprehensive health education and disease prevention. It has made possible the medical checkup of around half a million elementary school students all over the country by volunteer doctors and health workers.

The program targets one million school kids through the support of local government units and PhilHealth. By 2011, H.E.R.O. will be included in the school curriculum.

Dr. Leachon says his dream is simple: “To see within my lifetime the realization of our collective dream for our country: healthier and more enlightened Filipinos who have easy access to health care.”

And if all Filipinos will end up educated and healthy because of one man’s dedication to a cause bigger than himself, then Dr. Leachon’s act of heroism would have been fulfilled.

 

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