A Breath of Fresh Air
Dr. Malbar Ferrer and CiCAT’s advocacy for a TB-free society
THE fight against tuberculosis (TB) has gained strength because of the partnership between the government and the private sector. One of the strongest movers in this fight is the Citizens Iloilo Coalition Against Tuberculosis (CiCAT), a non-stock and non-profit organization of government institutions and private organizations, and individuals, which involved or have committed to work together for the prevention, cure and control of TB under the guidelines of the National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP) of the government.
CiCAT is headed by Dr. Malbar Galfo Ferrer, a physician who specializes in pulmonary medicine. He is a professional lecturer for the West Visayas State University (WVSU) College of Medicine, Head of the Center for Respiratory Care of St. Paul’s Hospital, Vice President of the Lung Care Foundation, Inc. and President of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians, Iloilo Chapter.
His other achievements include being selected as Outstanding Alumni by the University of Iloilo on its 50th Foundation Anniversary, Outstanding Buenavistahanon in the Field of Medicine and Outstanding Alumni of WVSU Centennial Celebration on July 2008 in the field of Medicine.
He is married to a nurse Ma. Catalina Gina Fernandez Ferrer and their children are Giana Marie and Magin Benedict.
Being in this field of expertise and involvement in CiCAT can be challenging on Dr. Ferrer’s energy, time and even health. Get to know more about him and CiCAT’s advocacy through the following interview.
Kathy M. Villalon (KMV): What are the challenges of being a doctor as well as a CiCAT convenor?
Dr. Malbar Ferrer (MF): As a physician, challenges abound provided by the myriads of disease that needs rapid and accurate diagnosis; additional challenges however, comes from making yourself well informed of the volumes of new information coming out from researches done all over the world in your field of specialty. Access to those information is not only important but essential for the benefit of patients. The challenge of daily decision making from diagnosis to making/maintaining patient rapport and good relations to family members needs careful attention as well.
As CiCAT chair and convenor, the challenge is more of organizational and human resource management. The coalition abound with talented member professionals who are achievers in their own right. To tap that talent and make it work harmoniously is quite fulfilling. That harmonious relationship should be reflected in the achievements and performance of the coalition in achieving the goal of fighting the disease of TB. If we have to refer to the statistics of TB in Region 6, then we may infer that the coalition works.
KMV: In a scale of 1-10, how would you rank Iloilo’s battle against TB?
MF: I may say 7-8. But the task has just begun. The problem in TB is enormous. It cannot be solved in a short period but the financial challenge poses a great threat to accomplishing the goal.
KMV: What are your suggestions towards an effective management of the country’s TB problem?
MF: I think you hit it right when you used the word “suggestions” to the problems of TB. No sure formula is available at the moment to fight the disease with reasonable degree of certainty. I believe that TB is more complex than we thought it is. The medical world has been grappling with the disease since more than a century ago but the bacilli that causes it just keeps fighting back; and getting stronger. The medical approach of giving antibiotic is not enough. TB has a psychological component as well as social, political and cultural. We have to understand it as a complex adaptive process rather than a single entity or as a bacilli that will just die once you gave an antibiotic. DOTS showed a promise but the system is not without flows. PPMD as a strategy is achieving some degree of success but only in the Philippines, primarily in Region 6. DOTS and PPMD has not quite taken off in other countries outside of the Phil. But I do believe that the
collaboration of public and private entities is necessary to make a semblance of success in our fight against TB. We need a determined and focus effort to combat TB. Aware of course, of the limited resources available.
KMV: You deal with TB patients everyday. How do you protect yourself from respiratory diseases?
MF: Through a clean and disciplined living like lots of exercise and eating healthy food. I use technology in the office by providing a negative pressure office so that air will not stagnate.
KMV: Who or what are your sources of fulfillment?
MF: My family, especially my children, my vocation, profession and advocacy as well as my civic and hobby groups like the Rotary and the Photographic Society of Iloilo. I’m the charter president of the Rotary Club of Iloilo West and was the Assistant District Governor Zone 1 of District 3850 for 2006-2007. I’ve been a member of the PSI since 2002 and became its president in 2006. I was adjudged Photographer of the Year for 2004, 2006 and 2008.