We pay tribute to Dr. Ricardo E. Fernando, the visionary founder and inspiration of the Institute for Studies on Diabetes, Inc. (ISDFI) and several other organizations the main mission of which is to empower healthcare professionals with the ability to deliver holistic and compassionate diabetes care to everyone—diabetic patients, their relatives who are also at risk to develop the disease, and the general community. We reprint in full his message delivered during the 20th anniversary of the founding of ISDFI
Fifty two years ago, I came home from Boston full of dreams for the promotion of diabetes care in the Philippines. A generous grant from my College Dean Agerico Sison fuelled the first diabetes survey at Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo netting a prevalence of 6.4 percent of the adult population. This entirely dispelled the impression that “diabetes was rare in the country.” Dean Sison’s last words to me were “Fernando, you will be famous.”
More interest in diabetes was stimulated by the 1975 First Asia Pacific Diabetes Symposium at the Hilton sponsored by Boehringer Mannheim, then came a weeklong Joslin Diabetes Symposium at the Philippine Heart Center for Asia followed by a conference on Diabetic Microangiopathy by Servier held at Punta Baluarte.
Afterwards I started yearly quarterly sessions on diabetes for internists sponsored by friendly drug companies – Novo, Ames, Pfizer and Med Asia Servier. These attracted significant numbers of participants.
Since then diabetes has dramatically and alarmingly increased all over the civilized world (150 million in 2000 to a predicted 300 million in 2030) challenging governments and health services with increasing morbidity and mortality.
The establishment of the Institute for Studies on Diabetes in 1989 was a meek answer to the enormous challenge confronting our still unwary and indifferent Philippine population—David and Goliath replayed! It was not easy entering the contest. The first five years can be considered a trial by fire! We never underestimated the strength of the opposition but we relied greatly on heaven’s support of the just. We never stopped believing that right always wins over wrong even if it takes some time.
“To our graduates, go where there are no diabetes services, especially in government hospitals, and start one even if you have to do it as charity” — Dr. Ricardo E. Fernando
The first ten years saw the Institute rising up with unexpected vigor. We had demonstrated that persecution usually strengthens the persecuted!
On our 15th year we had the satisfaction of “reaping a golden harvest” that encouraged us to further increase our efforts to reach more doctors, diabetics and their families. From a 100-square meter space generously provided by the UERMMMC we reached out to the reality of transferring to a new 5,000 square meter site in Marikina with ground breaking activities and slowly putting up a home of our own.
On June 16, 2009 we celebrate 20 years of ISD progress in our gallant fight against overwhelming odds. With 5 diabetes-oriented organizations united in the fight against diabetes today, one can still feel the inadequacy of efforts. We cannot yet rest on our achievements. Diabetes continues to sow illness and misery and death all over the world. The ISD faces the next five years with a strong battle cry –Prevent Diabetes – thru persistent lifestyle change and pharmacotherapy when indicated. Pretty soon stem cell technology hopefully will take over treatment by restoring healthy beta cells, but this is no substitute for prevention!
We must early target first-degree relatives (The only way to discover the limits of the impossible is to venture a little beyond the possible into the impossible!) and specially the children! The fight must be carried upstream to primordial levels if we are to head off a catastrophe.
What holds the ISD together is an amazing fellowship of doctors with a common spirit of brotherhood, love and service to the Filipino diabetics and their families. As long as these ties continue to bind us together, there will always be an ISD and heaven will continue to bless us.
“The only way to discover the limits of the impossible is to venture a little beyond the possible into the impossible!”
September 2017 Health and Lifestyle