Dr. Robert Louie Palomaria So (BL), MΣΦ 2002
Once a promising clinical intern and thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon-to-be at the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), Dr. Robert Louie “Robert” Palomaria So (BL), MΣΦ 2002, was more than set for a grand and, at the same time, lucrative professional career. An unfortunate event, however, effectively blocked this path for him. While taking the 2002 Philippine Physician Licensure Examination, he suddenly suffered a vein occlusion in his right eye which blurred his sight immediately, and eventually losing it entirely together with the opportunity to enter any surgical specialty. Fortunately, on the other hand, for a lot of Filipinos in need, the change in his trajectory meant immensely greater access, support and transparency to assure quality medical care as provided by the Philippine Government through the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC or PhilHealth).
Brod Robert was able to turn his personal misfortune into a still-growing victory of immense public health relevance. Such victory is sustained by a combination of his efficient, judicious and noble execution of his various work portfolio through the years, and by going much above his expected line of duty to spearhead reforms and pioneer pro-poor programs. Proving that an incorruptible sense of service can still be maintained when one uses the channels of the government, he was able to initiate, guide, and secure to fruition several institutions, legislation, policies and projects that maximize the access of the public, across the entire socio-economic spectrum, to affordable pharmaceutical products. These prominently include the low-cost medicine program Botika ng Bayan, the DOH National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management (NCPAM, where he also became its inaugural Program Director) and his remarkable contributions to the contents and the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 9502 (Cheaper Medicines Act).
Also, as part of PhilHealth (where he currently sits as the Vice President and the Chief Audit Executive of the Internal Audit Group), his commitment to dutifully and truthfully serve the Filipino public has led to the recent discovery of and subsequent legal action against fraudulent doctors, officers and employees. His timely development of several schemes such as Point of Care Enrollment (assessment and enrollment of non-covered indigents to PhilHealth upon admission to a government hospital), Case Type Z benefit packages (for underprivileged members requiring intervention for “catastrophic” illnesses) and primary health care packages also enhances the capacity of the institution to address inequities in the healthcare delivery systems of the country.