From "Legacy of Medicine": Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr., MD

Interview by Dr. Willie T. Ong Posted online 01:25 am 30 January 2018

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(This interview was previously published in "Legacy of Medicine: Interviews with Distinguished Filipino Internists" edited by Dr. Willie T. Ong and Dr. Anna Liza R. Ong, republished by permission of Dr. WT Ong. Photo by WT Ong.)

RAMON F. ABARQUEZ, JR., M.D.
Specialty: Cardiology
Hospital Affiliation: Medical Center Manila

Background Data:
Date of Birth: July 9, 1928
Marital Status: Married
Name of Spouse: Agnes Abarquez
Occupation of Spouse: Housewife
Number of Children: Three

Medical Education:
• Medical School: University of the Philippines (UP)

Positions Held:
• Professor Emeritus, UP College of Medicine
• Academician, National Academy of Science and Technology
• President, Philippine College of Physicians
• President, Philippine Heart Association
• President, Philippine Society of Hypertension
• President, Philippine Heart Foundation
• President, 2nd Pacific Rim Conference in Hypertension
• Vice President on Scientific Affairs, 11th World Congress of Cardiology Organizing Committee
• Consultant, Editorial Board: International Highlights and Discussions in Ischemic Heart Disease Journal, Medicine Digest, Cardiology Practice, Philippine Journal of Cardiology, Medical Progress, Dialogues in Cardiovascular Medicine
• Consultant, World Health Organization Task Force Western Pacific Region

What were the low points or high points that you reached during your working career?

As a Research Fellow of the New York Heart Association and with fellowship support from the Rockefeller Foundation, I was tasked to develop a technique to record the ECG of a patient during exercise. After various experimentation per advice of my consultants, there was no clear accomplishment. This was one of the lowest points in my training career. So I started to experiment on my own by designing the prototype of the current cup electrode by using rubber tubes and wire mesh. This resulted to the successful recording of the electrocardiogram during exercise not previously possible at that time.
The next low point came when my immediate junior consultant wanted to be the senior author of this novel work.
The highest point in my career was when I became the senior author (of the study) and presented the paper during a scientific meeting of the American Heart Association Convention in Florida. It was my first professional active participation in a scientific meeting.

What was your most memorable case?

A case of primary malignancy occupying most of the four chambers of the heart discussed in a clinico-pathological conference. We interpreted the echocardiogram as a technical error since the heart chambers were not visualized. Lesson earned: Don’t be a one-track analyst.

What do you consider as your major accomplishments?

a. The development of the methodology to record the interpretable electrocardiogram during any activity for the first time.
b. The demonstration that supplementary digitalis to anti-hypertensive agents can prevent left ventricular dysfunction and reduce coronary artery disease.
c. The proposal to World Health Organization Western Pacific Task Force to include the use of coconut products along with olive oil and fish oil in reducing coronary artery disease based on association studies.
d. Low total body potassium exists among diabetics and can be reflected in the electrocardiogram.
e. Primordial prevention of hypertension is an important proactive approach rather than mere reactive management.
f. Digitalis prolongs life among post-myocardial infarction cases.
g. The survival of Filipino patients following myocardial infarction is one of the lowest anywhere in the world.

What would be your advice to the medical student?

First - read, read, and read. Update yourself regarding the progress of medicine.
Second, obtain a background data before analyzing the present illness. The chronology of the illness must be in the form of pathophysiologic mechanism. Physical examinations and diagnostic procedures must be based on a pre-test and post-test evaluation, i.e. conceptualized expected findings. Then re-evaluate the patient if you did not find what you expected.
Third, give due respect to your patients always.

What would be your advice to the newly qualified doctor?

a. Do not forget the art and science of medicine.
b. Practice punctuality in all your undertakings.
c. Accept mistakes and queries graciously.
d. Be humble and honest in all your dealings.
e. Leave a legacy.

How do you want young doctors to remember you?

I am a simple-minded professional with an academic desire to leave a legacy for the upliftment of trainees and the improvement of patient care.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

When I introduced my bride-to-be to my colleagues using the name of my previous girlfriend!

What spiritual principles do you live by?

All men are created equal under the fatherhood of God. Therefore all religions are the same as far as goals are concerned but they may differ in procedures.

What philosophy or rule do you live by?

I live by the Golden Rule, and the philosophy that love conquers all.