Good evening ladies and gentlemen, fellow stakeholders in the Asian Eye Institute.
First of all, let me extend my warmest congratulations to the employees, doctors, and management of the Institute on this, its tenth anniversary. I have said before that every anniversary is an opportunity for thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year; in this case we give a double dose of thanksgiving for the past year as well as the past ten years. And let’s not forget the double dose of celebration! For we really have so much to be thankful for.
I gathered from the invitation and the décor that the theme of this party is Grecian, or related to ancient Greece. In the spirit of celebration and a little bit of fun, allow me to juxtapose these causes of celebration with quotes from the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. And allow me to look back first of all on the past year.
The first quote, and one that I have used several times in the context of the Lopez Group business excellence programs, is this: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It seems that Asian Eye has taken this to heart in its continuous effort to improve and raise the bar for quality and safety. After being the first ambulatory health facility in 2006 to achieve triple ISO certification, Asian Eye just a few weeks ago became again the first ambulatory health facility in the Philippines to obtain international health care accreditation. The award is given by Accreditation Canada International, and is based on standards of excellence approved by the International Society for Quality in Health Care. Not content with minimum requirements, Asian Eye achieved the Platinum level award, reflecting a deeper commitment to quality and patient safety. More important than the award itself is how the process identifies areas for improvement—and there is always room for improvement—and fosters awareness, collaboration and accountability within the organization.
We also celebrate many other awards given to our institute and our doctors. In these achievements, the honor came as icing on the cake and almost a surprise, because the true goal was simply to do things well. I refer to the Trusted Brand Award from Reader’s Digest, where we were selected in its annual survey as top brand of choice for eye center in the Philippines; the Lopez Achievement Award for our Clinical Research Team; and awards to our doctors for outstanding research papers from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the European Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery, and the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology. Congratulations to Asian Eye personnel, doctors and fellows for bringing us honor here at home and in the global arena.
I look back now on the past ten years. What first comes to mind is the role of Dr. Felipe Tolentino in Asian Eye. Fil is not able to make it here tonight, but is no less a part of this celebration. Aristotle also said: “Friendship is essentially a partnership.” I am very glad to have found in Fil a friend and partner with whom I could dream of and bring to life the best quality eye care for Filipinos. Making the dream a reality required resolve and hard work, and this is where he was instrumental. As President and Medical Director from inception until 2007, his expertise and persistence guided Asian Eye on its steady course to become a world-class center, comparable to those in the U.S., in spite of the difficulties of startup and the challenges of culture. His dedication to the vision continues to inspire those to whom he has passed the baton.
Fil and I could not have built Asian Eye without the help of public-spirited businesses, individuals, and friends, who shared our vision. I would like to mention who they are—Shell, Philamlife, Sumitomo, the Phinma Group, Wash Sycip, Mrs. Kay Siazon, Ambassador Al Yuchengco, Ambassador Benny Tantoco, Mr. Peter Ng, Mr. Willie Chua and family, Mr. Manny Pangilinan, Mr. Luis Aboitiz, Jr., Mr. Jaime Zobel, ABS-CBN, and Meralco. We all knew there was a need for an eye center that could offer high quality care to Filipinos without them having to leave home. We had faith that we could answer that need right here in Manila. Asian Eye also could not have taken off without its team of young, intelligent doctors, armed with the best medical training and who shared our pioneering spirit. They could easily have established their careers in the U.S.; and having chosen to come home they could have had their pick of hospitals and practices. But they chose to take their chances with Asian Eye. Asian Eye was the game changer in the industry then, and these doctors bore the brunt of intrigue and skepticism in the early years. But with courage they dedicated themselves to what they knew best—healing patients, and working to discover better and better ways to do so.
We also celebrate today our pioneer employees, and there are eight of them that are still with Asian Eye today. Just like our doctors, they took their chances with Asian Eye; and their dedication and loyalty through the years is recognized not just by their colleagues and the company, but even by the patients themselves, who have come to rely on their familiar faces and their special brand of care.
From 2001 to 2011, many other institutions, organizations and people have touched Asian Eye. We have our doctors and employees, industry partners, the larger medical community, our local governments and regulators, all contributing their time, effort, resources, knowledge, and networks to help achieve our mission. We also recognize our patients, who have treated us like family, and whose trust in our care has always inspired us to deserve it. Indeed, and here I quote Aristotle yet again, “The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts;” yet without each part, there would not be a whole. And so I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of you who have helped shape the Institute into what it is today.
And what of the next ten years? There is certainly no lack of challenges for Asian Eye. There is still a huge backlog of Filipinos who need eye treatment. There is still much to be done to educate the public on eye health and disease. And there is still also the challenge of sustainability in the face of the increasing cost of better technology and the presence in the market of ever stiffening competition.
What will it take to overcome these challenges? In the last five years, I have climbed the highest peaks in the Philippines: Mount Pulag in Luzon, Mount Kanlaon in the Visayas, and Mount Apo in Mindanao. Earlier this year, at the young age of 81, I climbed, together with my family and some Lopez Group executives, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The formula is simple: preparation, patience, persistence, discipline, stamina. The beauty of this formula is that it applies to most everything we aim for in life—whether it is as simple as being able to get to work on time, or in my case, to climbing the six flights of stairs to my office everyday, or to scaling mountains at 81.
And so to Asian Eye, I wish you many more mountains to climb, and the patience, preparation, persistence, discipline and stamina to conquer! A happy and blessed 10th Anniversary!
Thank you very much.