By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio
CEBU CITY, Philippines — He has no power nor position that would compel him to stand up and help Cebu City in the pandemic, but he has just the right expertise to do so.
Doctor Bryan Albert Lim, an infectious disease specialist practicing in Cebu, was brought to the forefront of the war against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the middle of what seemed like a helpless time in the city’s history.
It was May 2020 and Cebu City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country with the rate of increase in cases surpassing cities in the National Capital Region.
When all hopes seemed lost, Lim volunteered to help the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) formulate the principles and the protocols in dealing with the pandemic, assisting the state’s health department in doing so.
The 37-year-old doctor graduated as magna cum laude for his pre-medical degree, Bachelor of Science in Biology, from the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu in the early 2000s.
An already great Cebuano mind, he left for UP Manila to take his medical studies and completed his Doctorate in Medicine shortly after.
He then trained at the Philippine General Hospital specializing on Internal Medicine and subspecializing on Infectious Diseases. He worked in both clinical medicine and public health before returning to Cebu City as an Infectious Disease specialist.
The fates have decided that Lim was needed in Cebu City at the time of the pandemic, because this specialist was what the city would need during these trying times.
“As a doctor, and an Infectious disease specialist, as well as a Cebuano, I felt that it was my moral, ethical, and intellectual responsibility to help out. Also, having worked with various private and government institutions, I felt that I could contribute in bridging different sectors. Besides, protecting Cebu is very personal to me, since we are fighting for the safety of our home,” he told CDN Digital.
In spite of his knowledge and expertise, the novelty of the coronavirus still brought fear to Lim as every response the city, the country, and the entire world had to do was then based on loose information of the virus continuously being studied for its virulity and transmissibility.
Furthermore, he was worried that because Cebu City’s health care system was not designed to handle a pandemic, it might eventually fail resigning Cebuanos to their doom.
“My fear was we will not be able to contain the pandemic since our existing health (care) system was not designed for the pandemic. So we had to do a lot of modification, coordination, and collaboration to establish a unified system. However, the pandemic came very close to home. I lost my father to COVID, and my mother also got COVID, thank God she recovered. So, now, COVID is very personal. I empathise immensely for all those who suffered,” said Lim.
The death of his father made him more determined to help the city face the pandemic. Even though he knew the virus would still be around until vaccines arrived and herd immunity achieved, the doctor wanted to give Cebuanos a fighting chance.
He believes that a strong unseen foe such as the COVID-19 can be defeated if the community works together with the government and the health care system.
He said that the work the EOC had done in the past year had proven the capability of Cebu City to withstand a global threat.
“Everything is 20/20 in retrospect. Of course, when you look back, you get to see where we can do better. But still, during that moment, it was truly a challenge since we never had a collective memory of a pandemic, and our systems are not built for that. I think I can say, our leaders did what they could with what we had. For me, I’d rather help rather than bark on the sides. Afterall, we have the same goal,” he said.
After a year of fighting the pandemic, Lim still has fears that people will soon forget what they are fighting for. He called it “pandemic fatigue,” which would lead people to forget the lessons of the past year and jeopardize all the work that the city had done to contain the virus and rebuild the economy.
The doctor can only hope that people will accept the presence of the virus so they can act on it and help prevent its spread especially that cases are once again rising in the city.
Doctor Lim is among the 20 esteemed individuals who will be recognized for their contributions to Cebu City during the pandemic on its 84th Charter Day on February 24, 2021.
Lim said he was honored and felt unworthy because many Cebuanos had done so much more for the pandemic. Yet he is grateful to have served his fellow Cebuanos.
“It is my hope that our love for Cebu will triumph over everything else. As I always say, the solution to this pandemic is love. When you love yourself, you would wear a mask and face shield, practice handwashing and physical distancing because you don’t want to get sick. When you love others, you protect the elderly and the vulnerable. And when you love society, you become involved in the solutions,” he said.
Doctor Lim may not be a politican or a government employee, who is expected to serve the city during a crisis, but he was a Cebuano, who stood up to help with all that he could for a city he loved.