Asian Eye institute
IT could have been a scene during sale weekend at the mall for all the hustle and bustle. Nurses and support staff flitted in and out of the examination rooms. Practically every bit of space in the waiting area was taken up, the patients and their companions either skimming through magazines or watching an adventure program on the TV along one wall. The ladies at the reception juggled phone calls and actual patients, while the guard shepherded even more visitors through the door.
This was the scene at the ninth floor facility of Asian Eye Institute
at the Phinma Plaza, Rockwell Center. On a regular day, doctors and staff attend to some 150 patients, although the number of people actually on the premises is sometimes as much as double this.
The chain of events that led to the establishment of Asian Eye started in the US in the 1990s. For about a decade, then Lopez Group chairman Oscar M. Lopez (OML) had regularly made the trip to Boston, Massachusetts to have his glaucoma treated. There he met Dr. Felipe I. Tolentino, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty and senior clinical scientist at Harvard’s Schepens Eye Research Institute. The world-renowned ophthalmologist also happened to be a Filipino who devoted a lot of his time to helping the poor in his native country through various charitable undertakings.
OML and Dr. Tolentino realized the need for a “center of excellence in eye care in the Philippines” and, in short order, buckled down to the nitty-gritty of realizing their vision. Asian Eye institute
Back in Manila, OML enlisted the participation of business’ leading lights, including the Phinma Group of Ambassador Ramon del Rosario, Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Manuel V. Pangilinan and Washington Sycip. Also among the institutional stakeholders are Lopez Group companies ABSCBN Corporation, First Philippine Industrial Corporation and First Philippine Holdings Corporation; Meralco; Rustan Marketing Corporation; and Sumitomo Corporation.
Meanwhile, in the US, Dr. Tolentino, who later became the founding president of Asian Eye, gathered a core team of seven Harvard Medical School-trained Filipino ophthalmologists.
On September 18, 2001, Asian Eye accepted its first patients at the ninth floor of Phinma Plaza at the Rockwell Center, Makati.
“In a nutshell, Asian Eye’s mission is to become the premiere eye care center in the Philippines, and to deliver to Filipino patients the same level of care that patients get in First World countries,” Anna Karina Peña-Gerochi, Asian Eye vice president and general manager, said. “Also part of our mission is to advance the science and practice of ophthalmology in the country; we want to contribute to the progress of the whole industry, and to be a resource for other doctors, locally and internationally, in terms of what the best practices are, and what new and effective treatments are available for patients.” Asian Eye instituteAsian Eye
’s current roster includes over a hundred personnel distributed among the flagship facility in Rockwell and two satellite clinics. In addition to eight ophthalmologists, the medical team includes a low vision and contact lens specialist and an anesthesiologist. There are also optometrists, nurses, technicians and other allied medical personnel, as well as support staff for research, quality, marketing, finance and HR. Dr. Juan Ma.
Pablo Nañagas, former administrator of Asian Eye, now serves as medical director. Benjamin Liboro is president. The Rockwell clinic has 20 examination rooms, diagnostic centers, a laser center, an optical dispensary, four surgical suites, and a laser refractive surgery suite. Business has been brisk, necessitating the clinic’s recent expansion. Asian Eye institute
“We wanted to improve the patient experience, so we separated some subspecialty services and designed the area for better patient flow,” Peña-Gerochi said, referring to the eighthfloor facility where the interview with LopezLink was conducted. The satellites at the Mall of Asia and Trinoma, which are relatively newer at two to three years old, include examination rooms and diagnostic machines. In the past nine years, some 60,000 patients young and old have been treated for various eye problems such as cataract, retinal disease, or glaucoma, or have availed of the various other services on offer at Asian Eye, such as LASIK,
oculoplastic surgery, visual rehabilitation, pediatric ophthalmology and and optometry.
Asian Eye’s advantage over its competitors, according to Peña-Gerochi, is its sustained commitment to high quality for the benefit of patients, which permeates the whole organization and receives the full support of its stakeholders. “From the selection and structure of the medical team, to the design of facilities and systems, and the training and management of staff, we are serious and relentless about innovation and continuous improvement, to do what is right and good for our patients,” the VP stressed.
“We’re also very proud of how our ophthalmologists and optometrists are leaders in their fields, and are able to not just bring the latest technology here to Asian Eye, but also share the same with their colleagues in the industry so that more people can benefit from them.” Just last month, three of Asian Eye’s specialists—Dr. Harvey Uy, Dr. Marimel Veloso and Dr. Bobby Ang—were invited speakers at the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology conference in Beijing, with close to 10,000 ophthalmologists from all over the world in attendance. For Asian Eye, intense competition locally and regionally, plus a market that still needs to be educated in terms of the standards of eye care remain its biggest challenges.
“There’s a large part of the market that is not aware of the kind of eye care they can and should get. First of all, they wait until there is already a problem, and then for any kind of problem they still go to an optical shop, that’s the general Filipino mindset,” Peña-Gerochi said. Asian Eye institute
To help address this, Asian Eye’s chief optometrist and low vision and contact lens specialist and the president of the Philippine College of Optometrists, Dr. Jesse Caguioa, regularly invites Asian Eye doctors to speak about different eye diseases at the organization’s conferences. This is part of their advocacy to train optometrists to detect these diseases so that they can properly refer to ophthalmologists for the benefit of the patient. As it starts its tenth year of providing world-class eye care to Filipinos, Asian Eye
is looking to boost its medical team with new members within the year as its doctors are “working practically at capacity already.” Also on the horizon are plans to secure international accreditation, enter the profitable medical tourism industry, and put up more satellites or an additional big facility within Metro Manila.
Peña-Gerochi also hopes to expand the center’s research capability even as Asian Eye, through its medical team, has already made a name for itself as the foremost research facility for ophthalmology in the Philippines.