Cager-turned-doc, nurse-turned-coach boost clamor for safety; lives, not stats, matter | Inquirer Sports

Cager-turned-doc, nurse-turned-coach boost clamor for safety; lives, not stats, matter

Now a health professional, Johan Uichico hopes people take safety measures against a pandemic seriously. —PHOTO COURTESY OF GAMEFACE.PH

Johan Uichico played for Ateneo in the UAAP for four seasons. He reached the Finals twice, playing alongside the likes of LA Tenorio, Rich Alvarez, Chris Tiu, Larry Fonacier, JC Intal and Doug Kramer, and was coached by the likes of Joel Banal, Sandy Arespacochaga and Norman Black.

Don’t ask him about his numbers during those stints, though.


“I don’t remember my stats; I don’t think I had any,” Uichico said jokingly. “I was a role player then.”

He plays a bigger role nowadays, for a team out to win a bigger battle. But even now, the basketball player-turned-physician doesn’t think in terms of numbers.


Alarmed by the mass of people who took the streets when the modified enhanced community quarantine came into effect, the 34-year-old radiologist posted on Twitter: “If you really can’t/won’t stay home.. please please please wear a mask, practice social distancing, good hand hygiene, and act as if you and everyone around were a COVID suspect. Kahit ’yun na lang please. YOU are more than numbers or statistics for us in the medical field.”

Rush to save lives

Uichico, a CT-MRI fellow at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), interprets CT scans and X-rays of patients in the hospital. And since one of the complications of coronavirus infection is pneumonia, a lot of COVID-19 cases wind up on his lap. Those patients are identified by numbers, but Uichico and all other physicians at PGH see them as more than that.

“A lot of times, when we talk about this health crisis, we refer to statistics, like how many cases there are or what’s the current death toll or this is No. 34 of something,” Uichico, who graduated from Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health in 2014, told the Inquirer. “But these are people. Actual human beings. We see them as someone’s relatives or a loved one. They are not just numbers.”

Every day, Uichico sees the rush in the hospital to save those lives—and says by protecting themselves, people can help in saving lives, too.

San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, who graduated with a nursing degree in 1991 at Colegio de San Agustin in Bacolod before detouring to a basketball career that saw him win multiple championships as a player and coach, also made a call for people to protect themselves.

“Wear a mask, practice social distancing,” Fernandez said. “People think that only people who are sick must wear masks. But sometimes, there are those who have the virus but are asymptomatic. There’s no way to know who has it and who doesn’t.

“Just to make sure, for as long as there is no vaccine, always be protected,” Fernandez added.


The safest way to curb the current health crisis would be to stay at home. But Uichico, who played for Magnolia in the defunct Philippine Basketball League before entering med school, understands that not everyone is privileged enough to survive being locked up.

“We have to understand that people lead different lives. There are those who need to go out to earn a daily wage. There are those who, psychologically, might need a little breather from staying at home,” said the 6-foot-4 ex-baller, who finished with a degree in biology before entering med school and completing his residency in 2019 at The Medical City. “So instead of just being negative about people going out, let’s try to offer solutions. For me, let’s always be protected and follow health guidelines.”

“The fight is not done yet,” Uichico said. INQ

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