MANILA, Philippines?Dr. Conrado Dayrit, one of the pillars of Philippine cardiology, breathed life into the research and clinical undertakings of many of his students with his valuable insights and fatherly concern. Last week, at the age of 88, he breathed his last, leaving behind a legacy of lifelong commitment and dedication to not only treating patients but also healing them and finding new ways to improve their condition.
Research was a passion which paralleled his enthusiasm for clinical practice. He is recognized as the father of virgin coconut oil (VCO). He dedicated more than half of his life discovering its many health benefits and convincing one and all, skeptics and half-believers, about how it can preserve health and save lives even those of HIV-AIDS patients.
Dr. Dayrit was a professor emeritus of Pharmacology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, and was the author of over 200 scientific papers in local and international journals. He was respected by his peers both here and abroad.
Up to the time that he had to be confined to bed because of his illness two months ago, he was still a familiar figure making rounds at the Victor Potenciano Medical Center, where he remained as medical director up to his death. With his ever cheerful disposition which didn?t wane one bit since the first day I met him, he had this uncanny ability to make everyone feel that there is never a bad day. There can only be bad ways of looking at things.
I remember when I was a medical resident in training at the Philippine General Hospital, he would be among the first ones who would console me when I got lambasted by the other consultants during medical conferences. ?Cheer up,? he told me as he pat my shoulder after a conference. ?Your patient survived his heart attack and no medical journal in the world can refute you in how you managed him.? I managed to smile, much like that from a wounded soldier given an uplifting boost by his emperor.
As trainees, we would rotate under different consultants, and when I was under him, he noted during one of his rounds that I was too aggressive and unconventional in managing a young patient with complicated hypertension. Instead of embarrassing me in front of the other residents, interns and the patient, he pulled me to one side of Ward 5 of the old PGH and explained to me the rationale of sticking to conventional guidelines of treatment. He saved me from embarrassment, and fortunately the patient also survived despite my unconventional treatment.
Dr. Dayrit was one of the six founders of the Philippine Heart Association, the national organization for heart specialists and one of the oldest and most prestigious medical organizations in the country. He served as its president from 1957 to 1958. His term was part of the golden decade when the Filipino cardiologists were considered the best in Asia and among the best in the world.
I also had the rare privilege to lead the PHA in 1993-1994. Being one of the youngest presidents it ever had, it didn?t help any that the association had a lot of internal and external problems during my term. And so during the business meeting of our national convention, it was expected to have its fair share of debate and argumentation. Dr. Dayrit put his hands across my shoulder shortly before the meeting, and told me: ?You do what you have to do. You are our president.?
The ensuing exchanges during the meeting was heated and almost reached parliamentary tumult. Fortunately, my more senior colleagues, deferred?perhaps not necessarily to my person?but to my position as president, as I gave everyone a fair chance to be heard and penalized a few whom I deemed out of order.
I don?t remember even thanking him for that single important advice he gave me before that meeting: To do what I had to do and to have the boldness and confidence to do it.
In his death bed, Dr. Dayrit followed this same advice he gave me before that crucial business meeting. He did what he felt he must do and had the boldness and spiritual confidence to do it. With a tube connecting him to a mechanical respirator which breathed for him, he signaled to son Manolet (former Health Secretary Manolet Dayrit) to take the tube out, and let him go in peace. With dignity.
Dr. Dayrit may have breathed his last. But he will continue to breathe life to the many undertakings he has inspired and the many advocacies he has fought for.