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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Succession, the Eufemio way

/ 02:00 AM August 04, 2022

(Third of four parts)

When I used to visit Dr. Edgar “Gar” Eufemio’s former clinic at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, I marveled at the huge space, with multiple treatment rooms shared by other doctors who specialized in various orthopedic areas. Conveniently located on the same level as the radiology department, the clinic reassured patients of high-quality care.

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When Gar’s father, the renowned oncologist Dr. George Eufemio, passed away, Gar wanted to keep his father’s clinic, which housed the latter’s awards, books and other personal items. Gar offered to pay rent but wanted to stay in his current clinic.

However, he was told that he could only keep his father’s room if he moved in. His father’s room was significantly smaller, a floor below, away from his partners and the radiology department.

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After discussing with his family and his team, “it was unanimous,” Gar says. “We transferred to daddy’s room, even if it is small and far from the action. It is the best way that I can honor him. I have a spot in the clinic where I built a mini-museum. I allow his former patients (who still pass by once in a while) to come in and look at his memorabilia. My clinical practice there is great because he is guiding me until now.”

I concur. In recent years, while waiting for my turn to be seen by Gar, I gaze at the photos of his father, and I cannot help but think about my own father Dr. William, who passed away before Dr. George. Our two dads, fellow doctors, treated each other with mutual esteem, and Gar is a longtime friend.

“You never realize how much someone means to you till they’re gone,” Gar says.

He lists the traits he inherited from his father: “the same temper and colorful words, the same work ethic, the same obsessive dedication to our patients’ welfare, the same fierce loyalty, the same decision to serve the Philippines and practice here.”

Gar believes his father was “smarter, more punctual than I. He definitely went through worse [things in life].”

His father did not have as secure a childhood growing up. When the young George was five years old, he and his mother and sisters were sent to live with their ancestral family in Fujian Province, China. In the cargo vessel, the passengers became seasick, and George’s 13-year-old sister became the mediator between passengers and crew.

“My sister had a way about her that made people warm up to her easily,” Dr. George reminisced in his memoirs. Unfortunately, she died not long after of an undiagnosed abdominal illness that he later on believed to be appendicitis. George became the eldest in the family, and he returned with his mother and younger sister to join his father, an insurance company manager, back in Manila.

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Clearly, the Eufemios come from no-nonsense, can-do, resilient roots. Born in 1930 in Binondo to migrants from Fujian, Dr. George studied at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital then trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In his memoirs, Dr. George’s mentee and friend Atty. Dr. Joel Macalino recounts those early times, when our country’s laws were at times skewed against non-nationals: “As a natural-born Filipino of Chinese descent, Eufemio has had to strive hard for acceptance without compromising the culture of his descendants. When Eufemio became surgery head, he saw to it that acceptance would not be based on [political or social] criteria other than the usual qualifications.”

Dr. George truly loved the Philippines. Gar says, “He hated it when people talk about why things aren’t working here and [then conclude that] we can’t do as well as other countries. He believed we can be as good as any country on earth.”

Dr. George was also very generous. At the wet market in Greenhills, he once asked a vendor, “How much per kilo?” When she answered, “250 pesos,” he told her, “You’ll never make enough. I’ll buy five kilos at 300 pesos per kilo.” She gifted him with a free bunch of bananas after.

Next week: Doctors are healers

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