Happenstance: Dr. Connie Cruz is given the distinguished QJG award by PSA president Dr. Angel Gomez, son of the pioneering anesthesiologist after whose honor the lifetime achievement award is named after.
The ‘Iron Lady in Pink’ gets the Quintin J. Gomez Award
Mark Andrew B. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — At the turn of the century, the vision of one man propelled the growth of an unknown medical practice in the Philippines. Since then, the course of healthcare has changed as Dr. Quintin J. Gomez built the foundation of a formal anesthesia organization.

Known as the “Father of Modern Philippine Anesthesiology,” Dr. Gomez’ significant contributions have earned him the honor of having the most prestigious award for a Filipino anesthesiologists named after him. The Quintin J. Gomez Award (QJG) is only given to an individual who had made outstanding contributions to the science and practice of Anesthesiology, in terms of professional competence, service to the Philippine Society of Anesthesiologists (PSA), international recognition, and social responsibility and consciousness.

Throughout Dr. Gomez’ lifetime, he advocated for the equality of access to safe anesthesia across social strata and geographic distance, emphasizing the role of dedication, leadership and political will to achieve this goal.

This inspired Dr. Ma Concepcion L. Cruz, described by some as the “Iron Lady in Pink,” to uphold the ideals of Dr. Gomez; earning her the title as this year’s QJG Awardee.

The career of Dr. Cruz started after she graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. She found her passion in the field of Anesthesiology and finished her residency training at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

During her residency, she discovered her niche in the subspecialty of Obstetric Anesthesia, and pursued a fellowship training at PGH as one of the pioneers of the program. The excellence that she displayed both as a clinician and a researcher earned her a faculty position in the same institution where she was eventually appointed as the assistant chair for training. While holding this position, she restructured the training program to better equip its graduates for the specialty examinations. Her passion for training doctors to deliver safe anesthesia care did not end in her home institution. Realizing the rich training potential of subspecialty hospitals of the Department of Health (DOH), Dr. Cruz conceptualized a consortium of these hospitals, which materialzed into the DOH Consortium of Anesthesia Residency Training (DOH-CART).

To date, this institution has graduated 30 anesthesiologists practicing in different parts of the archipelago.

Her contributions to Philippine Anesthesiology catapulted when she became the head of two major Anesthesiology organizations: the PSA and the Philippine Board of Anesthesiology (PBA).

As the PSA president, among her major achievements were the creation of the Anesthesia Education Commission and the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance; and the institutionalization of the title, Fellow of the Philippine Society of Anesthesiologists (FPSA). Recognizing the key role of technology in bridging gaps, under her leadership, the PSA invested in digital equipment capable of multipoint conferencing.

This paved the way for teleconferences between regional chapters, eliminating distance as a hindrance to access to education. She also brought her innovative thinking to the PBA. She spearheaded the creation of Philippine Anesthesia Digital Census (AENDICUS), the first online anesthesia database in the country, which benchmarked the practice of anesthesia in training institutions and promoted a culture of safety.

As the chair of examiners of the PBA, she created a task force to develop a standardized curriculum for anesthesia trainees. This assisted different training institutions in designing academic activities for their residents. She also pushed for a more efficient undertaking of the Continuing Demonstration of Qualification (CDQ) for diplomates, creating the Online CDQ.

These are only a few of Dr. Cruz’ accomplishments and as to this day, she continues to demonstrate her passion for upholding anesthesia as a well-respected practice.

Answering the challenge of Dr. Quintin Gomez — “We need a strong political will that transcends the empty rhetoric of power” — she rewrote her purpose to provide solutions with innovations and reconcile the quest for excellence with modernization. Her commitment to improve the access of every Filipino to anesthesia care without compromising safety is a testament that this lifetime award bestowed on her is an accolade well deserved.

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