News
January 10 2017

St. Teresa, Dr. Raul G. Fores, and the Hospital with a Heart

By: John Vincent G. Pastores, MD, Member, MakatiMed Advisory Committee Consultant, Department of Surgery
 
The Roman Catholic Church recently canonized Mother Teresa as St. Teresa of Calcutta. Known as the “Living Saint” during her lifetime, she led the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation of nuns which primarily serve the poor all over the world. In the Philippines, they are also known as “Alay Puso”, a familiar group of sisters noticeable in their blue and white habits and simple slippers. Based in Tondo and Binondo, their mission includes searching for the underprivileged, the homeless, the hungry and the forgotten, the poorest of the poor. The sick among them, those who cannot afford even a tablet of aspirin, are taken to their centers or to hospitals. The seriously ill and those with rare and complicated diseases are brought to Makati Medical Center.
 
Our hospital started serving these nuns and their patients way back in the early 80’s when they were cared for by Dr. Raul G. Fores, one of the great founding fathers and the only living pillar of our institution. He was our highly-respected CEO and our beloved Medical Director after Dr. Constantino P. Manahan. Every Monday from 12 noon to 6 in the evening, patients of Mother Teresa gathered at the famous and iconic Room 200, incidentally but symbolically adjacent to the charity wards of MakatiMed. They wait for their turn to be seen by Dr. Fores and his clinic staff. I was very fortunate to have worked with him at this stage of his career.

In his clinic, the wealthy mingled with the impoverished. Business suits and signature dresses touched tattered “sayas” and torn “sandos”. Bare feet and worn-out sandals tripped over Ferragamo shoes. And nobody complained. There was no discrimination in his office. Everyone awaited his turn. The beggar at the street corner received the same attention as the president of the Philippines. Dr. RG, as he is fondly called, had a remarkable brand of charity. He never charged priests, nuns, pastors, missionaries, medical colleagues, government officials, relatives of MakatiMed employees, friends of his friends, relatives of his friends, even neighbors of his acquaintance! I have often wondered how he earned a living! He would even spend his own money to buy things for the hospital, from mirrors to shoe cleaners to small medical equipment. In all of these, he stuck to the biblical principle “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”.

Indeed, aside from being humble about his personal deeds, he practiced his brand of modesty with the hospital that he loved so much. While other hospitals were beginning to advertise, he believed that the best way to let people know the good things MakatiMed was doing was through word of mouth. Nothing compares to a genuine testimony of a happy, satisfied, and grateful patient. Our hospital pioneered so many medical breakthroughs, rare and formidable surgical operations, promptly adopted modern technologies, and kept abreast with world standards of knowledge and expertise in healthcare. As the country’s premier hospital and as its leader, he chose to consider all these excellent services and achievements as things we owed our patients and not something to brag about to the media.

Dr. RG showed his charitable heart among his colleagues as well. He opened MakatiMed to the young doctors and selflessly offered them the opportunity to join the medical staff without asking for anything in return, except for their steadfast commitment to best medical practices and adherence to moral and ethical standards. Most of all, he demanded fierce loyalty to the hospital. The doctors who were fortunate enough to know him, work for him and work with him, and felt the genuine respect and trust that he had for them. They, along with the hospital employees, were what we affectionately called the “MMC Family”. These are the people who would be eternally grateful to him and to MakatiMed.

Dr. Fores is still very much with us. Though he has retired, he is always lovingly remembered as the gentle and kind doctor impeccable in his favorite attire—barong and light-colored slacks—or in his spotless smock gown over an immaculate white scrub suit. His compassion, sincerity and generosity reflected in his legendary bedside manners, qualities worth emulating.
St Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa during her life on earth, was known as the Living Saint. Her nuns continue her legacy. In the office of Dr RG Fores, and now exhibited in the Chaplaincy, is a framed personal handwritten letter of Mother Teresa expressing gratitude with the words, “The Lord holds you in the palm of His hand”.

Come to think of it, the one who coined the tagline “Makati Medical Center, the Hospital with a Heart” must have been thinking of Dr. Raul G. Fores.