St. Luke’s College of Medicine

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Speech of Mr. Robert Kuan


SLMC Cocktail Reception in honor of IP Chairman Robert Kuan

Quezon Ballroom, Shangri-la Hotel

Makati City

28 September 2011

Salutations . . . friends of St. Luke’s . . . past, present, and future patients of St. Luke’s . . .  ladies and gentlemen . . . good evening!


There is a song that goes, “the trouble with ‘hello’ is ‘goodbye.’” It was in 1996 that I said “hello” to the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s Medical Center. Since then, many things have happened.


When I took over, I had every intention of carrying on the legacy left by my predecessor, the late Atty. William H. Quasha and to pursue the vision that he had long held in his heart—of a world-class medical facility that would be the leader in health care in this part of the world.


We communicated the vision to everyone in the organization, made sure they were one with us, and secured their commitment to work on its fulfillment. The nitty-gritty lay with management, led by Joe Ledesma, and the medical staff, led first, by Dr. Arsenio Cantos, later by Dr. Joven Cuanang and Dr. Gary Cortez. And they both delivered. They raised the bar and challenged their people to step up to the new measures of service and discipline they had imposed. And they came through every time, turning out excellence at every turn. They equipped the hospital with the best tools of the trade—state of the art equipment that find out what’s wrong with a patient and cutting-edge equipment that made him well—and matched them with the best health professionals who not only know how to heal but who love life enough to care.  


We held the vision and took it a step further. Confident that we had attained world-class status, as proven by our three-time accreditation by the Joint Commission International, and eager to share the expertise of our people with a wider service base, we reached for new markets. We also started land banking, acquiring or leasing properties in locations where, in the future, we might be building new hospitals.


One of those properties was in Fort Bonifacio Global City, then a vast landholding that held rich promise. That promise has been fulfilled in St. Luke’s Global City, a shining testament to the best in the Filipino, truly a world-class facility that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best, anywhere in the world.


Those of you who were here 15 years ago—doctors and management—should remember a talk I had with you a short time after I took over the chairmanship. I told you then that you were here because you were good, because you were among the best, and not because you had connections or because someone had pushed a button to open the door for you. Many were the times when friends and associates would ask me to recommend their children, or other relatives, to a position in the hospital. But I had long understood that the job of the HR department to separate the chaff from the grain, was hard enough without me making it harder. That’s why I never made any recommendations. I thought then that anyone who wanted to get into St. Luke’s should get in on his own merit.


I also made up my mind early on, that I would not push for giving discounts. We have a social services program for patients who need help, an assistance facility that we have been able to maintain because of the patronage of our full-paying patients.  


I always say that St. Luke’s is not owned by stockholders, and that is true—it is owned by the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, and therefore it is owned by God. That is why the members of the Board of Trustees serve pro bono, gratis et amore. We receive no compensation and no allowances; our compensation comes in the form of the fulfillment we get from doing God’s work.


There are many things we at St. Luke’s are happy about and proud of. Although we consciously aspire for excellence in our work, we just as consciously want to stay grounded in the original mission of healing that inspired the creation of the hospital over a hundred years ago in a corner of Tondo.


This is why we are committed to keep our social services program which we run to the tune of over P300 million a year. We have also built a hospital in Taguig to cater to the needs of the needy in that town.


And as an institution of the Episcopal Church, we do our part in the work of church mission. To this end, we have spent some P200 million to build new churches and expanded or renovate old ones. We have so far built or renovated 56 cathedrals and churches all over the country, from the Mountain Province all the way to Mindanao.


St. Luke’s has come a long way from Calle Magdalena in Tondo, where its mission of healing began 108 years ago. The hospital has much to be thankful for. And I, personally, have many people to thank tonight.


Thank you to the medical staff—the doctors and nurses who are the core , the heart, of this hospital, for being the best at what you do.


Thank you to the teaching doctors at the College of Medicine for sharing your expertise with our medical students so that they may have what it takes to carry on with the tradition of excellence that has made St. Luke’s great.


Thank you to the non medical staff for your support and your contribution to the service ideals of St. Luke’s.


Thank you to the management team for creating a working environment that encourages honest work and inspires excellence.


Thank you to the United States Embassy for giving us exclusive accreditation as medical testing center for would-be immigrants to America.


Thank you to the HMOs, pharmaceutical companies and our suppliers for their cooperation, understanding, and support.


Thank you to our corporate donors and benefactors for the generous gifts that have enabled us to elevate our standards to higher levels.


Thank you to our Board of Advisers and the Quasha Law Office for the constant guidance and wise counsel.


Thank you to my family for the patience, understanding, and love. 


And thank you to my colleagues in the Board of Trustees for this asalto in my honor that brings together all the people who matter to me—my family, my friends, my fellow Rotarians, and my St. Luke’s family; thank you, too, for the solid support you have given me for 15 years, for acceding to my request to remain on the Board as a trustee and for allowing me to let go of my position as chairman of the Board.


A few years ago, the Asian Institute of Management published a book titled, “Taking AIM,” to which I contributed an article on “letting go.” In that essay, I said that “letting go” was the story of my life, a move that spelled the difference between frustration and fulfillment. I also said that one day, I would be letting go of my position as chairman of St. Luke’s.


Allow me to quote the final paragraph of that article:


“I shall carry on and continue doing God’s business in God’s world. When the time comes for me to go, or to let go, I know that God will find the right person to take my place, and He will bless him with the rich and enriching opportunity to do His work, His way, in the measure and manner as He has blessed me.”


I am happy and grateful that God has found the right person, and it is my privilege to introduce him to you tonight . . . Friends of St. Luke’s, and my friends, please join me in saying “hello” to the new Chairman of the Board . . . Mr. Frederick Dy.