Dr. Vicente Santos, Jr. Blazing his own Trail with a vision

There are lucky mortals who know from the moment they reach the age of reason what they want to become in life. They do not waver in their resolve and pursue their dreams head on. Dr. Vicente O. Santos Jr. is one of these lucky souls, who, from childhood knew that he wanted to be a doctor like his father, whom he emulated and looked up to as his role model. Dr. Vic clarifies that his father, Dr. Vicente M. Santos Sr., an obstetrician-gynecologist, did not impose his will upon any of his children. Dr. Vic Sr. always told them that the medical field entails a lot of sacrifice and commitment, usually at the expense of family time. But this did not deter Dr. Vic from realizing his dreams. He pursued his studies in medicine even without knowing beforehand what field he wanted to specialize in. Eventually, his vision for his future became clear to him: he wanted to be an ophthalmologist, improving people’s eyesight and healing their eyes, which are windows to the soul.

DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF FATIMA

Dr. Vic Senior’s dedication to his profession extended to the marginalized in society. He put up a prenatal and postnatal clinic in front of the family residence in Valenzuela, Bulacan. Every expectant mother from all walks of life who needed his care was attended to. In spite of his thriving practice, Dr. Vic Sr. stayed grounded and focused on the people of Valenzuela. “My parents were hardworking, frugal and prayerful. My mother was religious and as people can see, the hospital my parents built was named after our Lady of Fatima, who is the family’s guiding light to this day.” His parents’ work ethics inspired Dr. Vic when he was growing up and studying at Ateneo de Manila University from grade school to college. His mother, Juliet O. Santos, was not into the field of medicine but had a doctorate degree in Philosophy, Honoris Causa. She also held a degree in Chemical Engineering and belongs to the famous Olivares (Pest Control) family. Given his parents dedication to their craft, Dr. Vic knew that one day he and his siblings would take over the hospital’s management and evolve into a family run business.

The Fatima University Medical Center started with 20 beds and graduated to what it is today – a medical center with 150 beds and boasts of the latest in modern medical facilities with a goal to promote the best in primary health care. They are opening another medical center, their second in Antipolo by the end of this year. They currently have five universities in Valenzuela, Quezon City, San Fernando, Antipolo, and Nueva Ecija. Our Lady of Fatima University Medical Center is an offshoot of the hospital, which makes the once upon a time medical center into a teaching hospital. Dr. Vic Jr. teaches at the school and shares his expertise with the students who want to be eye doctors. He aims to increase the number of ophthalmologists in our country “we only have 2,000 eye doctors in a country with a population of 100 million”, he says. There was a time when Dr. Vic spread himself thinly, working in the capacities of: Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Medical Director of FUMC, as a professor, an ophthalmologist, and surgeon. He soon realized that he needed to focus on a specific niche in order to be more effective. “So now we have Dr. Hernando Cruz as Chairman of the Ophthalmology Department while Dr. Oscar Payawal is the Medical Director of FUMC. “Dr. Vic is an alumnus of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center and finished among the top 20 in the medical board examination of 1992. He did his ophthalmology internship at St. Luke’s and capped his training with a 2-year fellowship in medical and surgical retina specialization.

OUTREACH PROGRAMS

Today, as president of Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC), Dr. Vic encourages outreach programs in nearby communities of the medical center as well as other areas like Pangasinan. FUMC has medical missions such as “Unang Yakap” for mothers and newborns and “May Malasakit sa May Sakit” for various health concerns. It pursues such missions with the assistance of pharmaceutical and drug companies, non- government organizations and fast food chains. He believes that FUMC can provide world class health care using the latest in medical technology.

SMILE

One of the more advance technologies in ophthalmology that Dr. Vic has in FUMC is the Carl Zeiss Visumax Femtosecond Laser, a machine that performs a non-invasive revolutionary procedure for myopia and astigmatism. There are only two hospitals in the Philippines that carry this machine – St Luke’s and FUMC. Initially, Dr. Vic was one of only six ophthalmologists who were specially trained to do eye procedures using the laser machine. He is now designated as the official trainer for Asia in the Carl Zeiss certification procedure having trained ophthalmologists from Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Philippines. The procedure is called SMILE, which stands for Small Incision Lenticule Extraction. It is done with the Femtosecond Laser and it is one of the most advanced lasers using precision optics requiring just 5 minutes per eye with a recovery time of less than 5 days. A Femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second thus making the procedure fast, safe, bladeless, flapless and painless. The cutting edge laser machine was unveiled in 2012 and FUMC acquired the machine in 2014. Local and foreign patients have come to avail of the procedure prompting Dr. Vic to say that where eye treatment is concerned we are not lagging behind other more advanced countries. To date, Dr. Vic has trained four more Filipino ophthalmologists to use this laser machine with three more scheduled to be certified under the Fatima-Carl Zeiss training program, increasing the number of eye doctors doing the SMILE procedure. Once again this big hearted doctor wants to tie up with some like-minded groups or organizations to help improve the eyesight of people who need it but cannot afford it. “We’ve got athletes, policemen, the military, firemen, etc. who need 20/20 vision. For them I can provide professional help pro bono and with SMILE, they can see clearly, perform their tasks more effectively and in the long run, serve their country better.” He advises everyone to have a regular eye check-up and “to keep your eyes healthy, never take them for granted.”

FAMILY BONDING & SOLIDARITY

Before the family matriarch passed away, she advised her children to take up the Executive Education of the Harvard Business School Families in Business Program. “It taught us to know ourselves better, the ability to judge ourselves and others fairly, and even how to compensate ourselves. And to better equip myself in handling the business challenges of an institution, I went back to the Ateneo Graduate School of Business for an MBA in Health.” The siblings wrote the Santos Family Constitution and every year, they spend time together to review, assess and to make changes if necessary. His siblings are: Dr. Yvonne Santos-Guevara, an OB-GYN like their father; Dr. Caroline Santos- Enriquez, president of Our Lady of Fatima University; Dr. Mylene S. Abad Santos, a radiologist who is at the helm of the center’s technology requirements; Enrico Santos, Vice President for finance of FUMC; Don August Santos, Vice President for finance of Fatima University and Robert Santos, the family artist, who also takes care of the school’s basic education program.Dr. Vic is not shy to say that he gets his strength and inspiration from his wife and children. He is married to Dr. Mary Ann Reyes- Santos, who is into Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine. They have three sons, all studying in Ateneo: Angelo, Alfonso and Vicente Ignacio.” Not one of them has expressed any intention to be a doctor,” comments Dr. Vic, but like his father, he is not wont to influence them to go into the medical field. They are however aware of the Santos Family Constitution and they don’t miss the family’s Christmas with the Orphans yearly gift-giving party. Dr. Vic enjoys sports and was a rated tennis player in his youth. He shifted to golf in his 30s. Traveling with his wife and their three sons is his favorite past time.

PRESENT CALLING

Dr. Vic has opened an office in Centuria Makati to make himself more accessible to patients in Manila so they don’t have to trek all the way to Valenzuela, Bulacan. He also took it upon himself to continue to train doctors to use the latest Carl Zeiss Laser so more people can avail of the latest technology in eye care, a task he considers his accidental calling. Dr. Vicente O. Santos Jr. has come a long way from the young boy who watched his father working long hours in his medical career. Just like his father, Dr. Vic is equally devoted to his medical profession and more. “I try to give 100% of myself in all my endeavors- whether in sports, in my profession as a doctor, as a philanthropist, in my teaching career, as president of FUMC, and most of all as a good husband and father. But I still have a lot to accomplish,” he says nonchalantly. The future is bright and the technology in the medical field is constantly evolving for the better. To whatever direction it moves, Dr. Vicente Santos will move with it, with his resolve to better serve his patients and give them the latest and the best in eye care.