“Prima Lux, Pioneer Batch of AUP - College of Medicine: Shines and Makes HIStory with a Heartbeat for Humanity”
The “Prima Lux” or “First Light”, 16 aspiring physician missionaries, illumined with their respective accolades of flying hues, on the historic 1st Commencement Exercises of the Adventist University of the Philippines - College of Medicine (AUP-COM) on June 23, 2019 at Philippine International Church (PIC).
Candle lighting had been more significant during the consecration on June 21, 2019, graced by Dr. Lisa Beardsley - Hardy, Director, Education Department of the General Conference.
“Dear Prima Lux, Pioneer Class of 2019, the Department of Education in the General Conference Headquarters is proud of you! And we commend you the pioneer batch... The AUP stands tall among the 115 universities and colleges that belong to the Seventh-day Adventist System around the world. And with those, only six have medical school. AUP College of Medicine, you are number six. The College of Medicine will eventually have students from all corners of Southern Asia and beyond. And its graduating physicians and medical missionaries will go out from here with streams of light. You graduates are the first rays.”
During Baccalaureate on June 22, 2019, the highly esteemed pioneer batch testified of the Master Physician’s empowerment on their unique experiences throughout their four-year training in COM and in Batangas Medical Center (Clinical Clerkship), emulating the ‘Five-Star Plus Physician’ facets: Jon Sergei J. Aclan, Jessly Rose D. Acoba, Joy L. Belarmino, Alexzan D. Bernardino, Janina Bianca G. Cabili, Christopher Dale G. Chua, Lexan Erdin L. Cordial, Paul Rothwel C. De Jesus, Vanda Charisse C. Dejolde, Weamirson R. Estrada, Garces, April Rae O. Eimarlouyd P. Mansaguiton, Aedrian C. Rodriguez, Andy Graham M. Rosas, Nim Franzio A. Salazar, Julienne Rowelie A. Sanchez.
According to Jon Sergei J. Aclan, the batch president, and one of the facilitators during the panel discussion, “AUP College of Medicine aims to produce Five-Star Plus Physicians wherein a physician can be a clinician, educator, researcher, social mobilizer and manager, and most importantly, physician missionary.”
Guided by Biblical principles and strong mentorship of the Mother Dean (Founding Dean), Dr. Doris Mendoza, and numerous missionary-hearted faculty members, Prima Lux have been practicing those facets of the Five-Star Plus Physician since their first year within the portals of COM until they have completed the clinical clerkship both in Adventist Medical Center-Manila (formerly Manila Adventist Medical Center or Manila Sanitarium).
Dr. Mendoza uttered with delight:
"After several decades of innumerable challenges in the preparation and planning, we were given the go signal to open. After the ensuing four years of teaching and training in the mold of the Master Physician to become Physician Missionaries, with the motto, "Through Christ, Healing and Wholeness", we've come to this momentous day.”
HIStory Makers, Game Changers
With the idea that COM embraces the community not just by imparting knowledge and preparing professionals for the future, but also becoming avenue for others (non-Adventists) to know about the Master Physician, intentional efforts within and outside the campus had been generously done. Aside from the numerous medical missions, community outreach activities, chaplaincy endeavors at Batangas Medical Center (largest within Southern Luzon Region), a very significant fruit of the “First Fruits”, Prima Lux, has been a living testimony that “Through Christ, Healing and Wholeness” (COM Motto) could happen in its very core — a transformed and redeemed life through baptism. The healing of the Holy Spirit was evident not only among students but within the ranks of the faculty members, through the remarkable conversion of Dr. Elmer Valenzona.
Paul Rothwel de Jesus Founding Head of the Medical Evangelists Dedicated for Service (MEDS) shared the story of Dr. Valenzona’s journey to conversion (excerpt):
“With his slightly rude way of speaking to us, he was the faculty whom we were not comfortable getting along with. But when we started our clerkship, little by little, we’ve noticed something different about him. Something we are so happy to observe in him. Something we can say, a good change. He is someone who’s life was changed because of his observed dedication to the faith and missionary spirits of both his co-faculty (most especially the Dean) and his students.
For some reasons, Dr. Valenzona didn’t want the ongoing Bible study that we had and his plan to be baptized be known to others until he was ready (since He decided to have intensive Bible study on March 2019). He wanted it private and just between me, him, Dean Doris, and Delsie (another medical student). It was only last May 26, after our comprehensive exam, when Dean announced to my batchmates that Dr. Valenzona will be baptized on June 1, Saturday, right after the last day of our clerkship. We all gathered together for a special Thanksgiving Sabbath program for two reasons: End of Clerkship and the Start of a new life in Christ of our beloved teacher.
Then, he was baptized. He is now very excited to share his faith to others as well.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Valenzona channeled his feedback on graduation through Paul Rothwel:
“I witnessed the light and the work of the Holy Spirit in the success of the commencement.
Indeed, a celebration of humbleness of a true physician missionary.
Everyone was telling that our graduation is the best they ever witnessed”.
Another amazing answer to prayer was the unique witnessing privilege. The Administration of Batangas Medical Center had given a memo to the Surgeons: (in a nutshell) Never start performing surgery unless the clinical clerks from AUP-COM have offered prayers for the surgeon(s) and the patient(s).
In a Heartbeat: Whole Person Care
According to Dr. Doris Mendoza, the Whole Person Care blueprint was copied with permission from Dr. Richard Hart, from the Loma Linda Curriculum.
“He's a part of the journey of the AUP College of Medicine.” She shared during Tribute to Parents on June 22, 2019 at the College of Medicine.
Their friendship started in February 26, 2007 when he requested her to tell her testimony about her dangerous prayer, and what led her to coming to Loma Linda University for her training with Dr. Leonard Bailey for pediatric heart transplant.
“I cannot imagine how God orchestrates events that way.” She reiterated, after sharing more about God’s perfect timing, even for her encounter with Dr. Francisco Gayoba in 2011, leading to her acceptance for the call to leave her lucrative job as a professor, and her world of medical practice (West Visayan State University - Medical School’s Professor for 30 years and was a Department Head for some time).
Moreover, Dr. Peter Landless, Director of the Health Ministries Department of the General Conference, (former member of President Nelson Mandela’s cardiology team and a recipient of South Africa’s Southern Cross Medal), graced the Baccalaureate with a very enlightening message:
“If you want to know as a graduate, as a physician, as a practitioner, as a clinician, as a teacher, as a friend, as a family person, whether you are close to the Lord Jesus Christ. How are you going to know it? The fact that you go into a good medical school? The fact that you're sitting in church today? Maybe. but not really.
You will know that you are close to Jesus, when the things that break His heart break yours.”
Further, he urged: “Never let your compassion leave you. There are so much more, but there are many that will tell it to you. My prayer for you. new calling everyday: Never lose sight of the Master Physician, the Great Example, The Great Healer, Teacher, and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was moved with compassion. May that be something that moves you not only from now, but until Jesus comes.
Dr. Ma. Rizaline Ciron-Alfanoso, Director of the Health Ministries Department of Southern Asia-Pacific Division, introduced him as the speaker with an intensive information about his profile, previous and current position and practices.
On the other hand, Elder Samuel Saw, President of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, introduced the commencement speaker in a succinct summary (highlighting outstanding service and accomplishments): "Dr. Richard Hart is a gifted and a blessed person who is committed and dedicated, and whom the Lord has used to bless His church and institutions especially health care institutions around the world."
Dr. Richard Hart, CEO and President of Linda University Health, talked about crucial points to ponder upon, and to draw inspiration from:
"Medicine will give you struggles, that’s what society has leaned on us to share and give...with the courage to accept responsibility, to admit mistake and to move on, you could be provided the most rewarding career in country and world.
"To go where you are needed but not wanted, to live when you are wanted but not needed. That's what God calls on each of us, to go where we are needed but not necessarily wanted. Whether there's geographic location, or frankly whether it's into the life and heart of a patient, many times burned by society, hesitant to open themselves up, they wall them off. And your job as a professional is to work your way once again into those lonely hearts and bring peace and comfort."
Lexan Erdin Cordial, the batch vice-president responded to the charge on behalf of her batch mates:
“As a pioneer batch, we will strive to live up to our chosen batch name: Prima Lux, the First Light...As every heart is a mission field, it is our desire to not only alleviate pain and suffering of our patients, but holistically care for them, pointing them to the Master Physician because it is only through Christ there is healing and wholeness.”
Lexan is a recipient of the unique Mary and Martha Award (non-academic award, together with some academic awards) among many academic awards, which according to Dr. Mendoza, a gesture of appreciation to her unparalleled sacrifices and contribution in COM.
Meanwhile, Paul Rothwel de Jesus received an ACE award (non-academic award with numerous academic awards: Most Outstanding Clinical Clerk in the departmental rotations),
“It was really overwhelming. I did not actually aim to receive any of those awards. All I wanted since the beginning was to help myself embody the 5-star plus physician missionary during my medschool years by God’s grace. This is what I always prayed for. But the Lord was so good. I believe these were all God’s reward to give honor to Him, to AUP, to my parents and my whole family.
Jon Sergei Aclan, after receiving the Outstanding Leadership Award, had a surprising remark:
“Student leader since 4th Grade, recognized only now. I serve wholeheartedly, thinking of nothing in return. But getting things like this motivates me to do more (pero focus muna ako sa studies/internship, haha). Been wanting to get this since college, but God has other plans.”
He is the Founder of Project GifTED, winner of the Angat Buhay Youth Grant Competition in 2017, that brought AUP-COM in the international stage the same year. It was chosen as a model for mission and outreach endeavors that bagged an award in South Korea - Angat Buhay Youth Special Award, an additional grant worth 1 Million Won from Hanyang University during the 2nd Seventeen Hearts Festival. Project GifTED was one of the Ten Outstanding Medical Student Organizations of the Philippines by the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges - Student Network, awarded on February 7, 2018).
In his farewell address, Sergei acknowledged his late grandfather, Dr. Benjamin M. Jimenez, (who just passed away in March at the age of 93) who’d been his main inspiration for his pursuit to be a physician missionary and the founding of Project GifTED. He’s an alumnus of Philippine Union College (now AUP). He founded the Lipa Doctor's Hospital and the Berean Integrated School to further help his kababayans.
“Lolo Ben was the true embodiment of physician missionary.”
In his throwback tribute he mentioned that Dr. Jimenez “has helped countless individuals, provided scholarships and livelihood, planted churches, assisted schools and practiced Whole Person Care, treating patients Physically, Mentally, Socially and most importantly Spiritually.
In Retrospect: College of Medicine, a Fulfilled Vision
In the brief history of the College of Medicine written by Dr. Francisco Gayoba, AUP President, he mentioned:
“August 9, 2015, the medical program was inaugurated. We have a unique curriculum compared to other medical schools in the Philippines. Our medical students are not only trained to be clinicians, researchers, managers, educators, and social mobilizers, which are outcomes prescribed by CHED, but also as physician missionaries. They take religion and medical ministry courses.”
During an interview with him at the Administration office on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, he mentioned the same thing of what he’s written: “the University provides residential facilities for them where they can live in a healthy environment and have a church experience. Though Batangas Medical Center is our training hospital, our students also rotate at Adventist Medical Center-Manila. What we are providing is Adventist Medical Education.
We praise the Lord that after four years of rigorous training, sixteen students, our “first fruits,” graduated from the program on June 23.”
And if you wondered why the COM graduation was done on June, not on May, here’s the reason:
“Because of their clinical rotation schedule, the medicine graduation has to be later than this graduation ceremonies. The University is celebrating another milestone in its history. After 40 years of dreaming for a medical school, this year had our first graduates. We celebrate with the parents and sponsors who sent their students to the AUP College of Medicine. We celebrate with our alumni, supporters, medicine faculty and staff, for the inaugural class who graduated. Indeed, the Lord has wrought miracles in our midst. We lift our voices in thanksgiving and praise!”
Meanwhile, Dr. Miriam Narbarte, the Vice-President for Academic Affairs gave an update about the College of Medicine during the interview:
“The Doctor of Medicine program was accredited by the International Board of Education, which was recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
CHED mandated AUP-COM to accept foreign students if we are accredited by the Federation of Accrediting Agencies (FAAP). The College of Medicine is not yet accredited by FAAP, but AUP as an institution is FAAP accredited (Institutional Accreditation). It also has the government recognition through the accreditation from the Bureau of Immigration to accept foreign students. Above all these, we have the university’s Autonomous Status.”
Moreover, Dr. Mendoza mentioned during the interview after the Tribute to Parents, that CHED recognized AUP to accept foreign students within the Southern Asia-Pacific Region.
Elder Ted Wilson, President of the General Conference, in his felicitations, remarked “…With a mindset to serve, many prayers, and the work of the Holy Spirit, you are destined for great things! For “God has given you an opportunity to fill a high destiny. Your influence may tell for the truth of God…” (Messages to Young People, p. 21).
The legendary milestone of AUP College of Medicine is HIStory — His story of greatness, faithfulness, and lovingkindness for the physician missionaries; an amazing gift to humanity!
Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are meant to permeate your whole life. Growing out of scriptures that paint a compelling portrait of God, you are invited to explore, experience and know the One who desires to make us whole.