Jul 12 2020

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The year UPMASA became virtual

2020, the year UPMASA went virtual.   By Henry Echiverri, Chairman of the BOG.

The just-concluded University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society in America Board of Governors Townhall Meeting on Zoom held July 1, 2020, was lauded as the Virtual Annual Grand Convention of 2020. It had the requisite Business meeting and the atmosphere of the Pabidahan. The virtual gathering place became the rendezvous of schoolmates longing to chat with each other. The ZOOM event was capped with an after meeting “daldalan” and “hotel hallway” catching up that would not have ended if the host did not have to work the following day.  Even a scheme of one of the hosts to play piano in the background was pushed aside because of the never-ending good-byes and quick tsismis.   All in all, that live Annual Grand Convention UPMASA-fix was certainly missed but this was good enough.

Overall, 98 attendees signed in, many in their Hawaiian best, Floral shirts for men and floral printed tops for women.  There were abundant leis around necks and cut flowers within.  The host put up an Aloha sign and fake Palm table trees as a backdrop.  The attendees came avidly as if they were going to a concert to listen to performances of their rock stars. The performances were presentations given by the Chancellor Carmencita David-Padilla, Dean Charlotte Chiong, and PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi.  They talked about current events and plans for the University of the Philippines, the College of Medicine, and the Philippine General Hospital.  Talks on what is going on in our beloved alma mater and PGH.  
In light of the Covid-19 Pandemic and cancellation of both the Spring and AGC Board of Governors face to face meeting, we had to rely on basic e-meeting Forum on the UPMASA website. We added on a session of GoToMeeting in April and more sessions of virtual meetings for this last “AGC”, using Zoom.   We fondly called the Zoom meetings ZOOMBOG. It felt like we were doing marathon Zumba sessions.  The first 2 sessions, each 3 hours long could have been performed to imagined dance music we fondly called “Covida-loka”.  

Like family gatherings, sometimes the discussions were contentious.  Mostly, the conversations were very serious and formal, but still respectful and collegial.  

The Board of Governors meetings culminated with the  July 1, 2020 Townhall Zoom meeting. Along with the Board of Governors, the invited dignitaries, and the general membership, we also invited the 25th and 50th-year celebrants to join and be heard.  The UPMAS President, Dr. Johanna Canal who is a 25th-year Jubilarian, was given the floor to speak.  The Speaker view mode on Zoom brought the faces of the celebrants into closer view as they asked unique questions.  Their faces must have evoked the participants’ fond memories of their own 25th year silver anniversary celebrations.  We reminisced our own year of celebrations and could only smile and feel nostalgic at how they must be feeling now.   
The Forever Young 50th celebrants’ face, role models to many UPMASAns must have awed many of the other alumni. The attendees toggled views in the gallery and called out the names of friends and familiar faces.  It was very much like scanning the ballroom during a live gala at the AGC looking for familiar faces. The enjoyment of recollections together even on ZOOM is the essence of that UPMASA fix.  Like an intoxicating drug, it gives UPMASAns devoted reasons to look forward to the next UPMASA event.    

I was once asked by a non-active Alumni why I bother going to UPMASA.  I told him, just attend once and you will find out why.   For now, we will Zoom because, by this time, we are all seasoned ZOOMbies.
As a stroke Neurologist, and I began using Telerobot virtual presence in 2005 activating a robot that I could control remotely with a laptop.  Who would have imagined the transformation of doctors’ visits into Telemedicine and video by a single stroke of a viral pandemic? Just like the virtual UPMASA, the world will never be the same!


Some tidbits from the virtual meeting:  Ongoing and Future Infrastructure Projects of the University of the Philippines and PGH
(watch for the upcoming UPMASA Newsletter for details of our dignitaries’ presentation)

UP College of Medicine Library
Medical Science Building
National Institute of Health
PGH Clark
PGH Diliman
PGH COVID Isolation Ward

General footprint 

Location of the different projects in relation to the Calderon Hall and PGH


University Library

Florentino Herrera Library will be connected to the Medical Science Building from the 3rd Floor


Medical Science Building

After a bit of set back because of the COVID Pandemic, the MSB Project is just a little over 3 months behind in its timeline.  It is projected to be up in late 2021

National Institutes of Health

At its initial groundbreaking stages

PGH Clark 

Servicing the recently concluded South East Asian Games, it is now officially the PGH Clark.  However, it is currently designated for COVID care but it will become a Center that will offer multiple specialties

PGH Diliman

Conceptual drawing of the future PGH in Diliman complete with future Medical School

PGH – COVID Referral Center

PGH continues its fight against the Covid pandemic while it starts rebooting its normal operations.  It is building a Covid isolation ward in this location

COVID Isolation Ward

Conceptual drawing of the future isolation ward


Pictured is the PGH Director himself picking up and safeguarding the supplies purchased by the COVID Fund donation from UPMASA.  It has also helped with the transporting and housing of volunteer frontliners.

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