Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Dexter Cabalza @dexcabalza­INQ

Infectious disease expert Health Undersecre­tary Enrique “Eric” Tayag is taking off his dancing shoes after over three decades of public service.

During the flag ceremony on Monday at the agency’s central office in Manila, Department of Health (DOH) officials and personnel thanked Tayag for his “exemplary service for the health of the nation” and informing the public about the government’s health programs one dance—or two—at a time.

“On behalf of the entire department and the health sector, I thank Undersecre­tary Eric Tayag, for his time and talent [during] all these decades in the service of the Philippine health sector,” Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said.

“I am witness to his well-deserved progressio­n from a young infectious disease doctor and epidemiolo­gist to health undersecre­tary, chief Informatio­n officer and DOH spokespers­on,” he added.

Herbosa said he was certain that Tayag’s passion for service would continue even after his retirement following 35 years of public service.

Nimble feet

The dancing doctor, who just celebrated his 66th birthday on April 4, showed that having a sense of rhythm could help make the government’s health programs more accessible and easily understood by the public.

Tayag’s fellow doctors cheered when he was finally appointed as DOH spokespers­on in 2022, saying it would boost the morale of other homegrown government workers.

For health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon, Tayag was just fit for the role.

“He is an expert in infectious disease being a former president of the Philippine Society for Microbiolo­gy and Infectious Diseases, an expert communicat­ions person, charming and engaging,” he said.

During the government’s massive catch-up immunizati­on campaign launched in different parts of the country last year, Tayag danced to the tune of “Chikiting Ligtas” (Safe Children)

to encourage parents to have their kids vaccinated. His moves also made doctors seem less threatenin­g to children who were scared of injections.

In 2016, he bopped to Loco-Loco’s “Mosquito” music to alert people to the Zika virus, which is spread through mosquito bites.

Too busy to dance

Tayag also jived to Korean superstar PSY’s “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman” to promote “Pilipinas Go4Health” which advocated a healthy lifestyle among Filipinos amid a rise in noncommuni­cable diseases.

At one time, he also romped to Katy Perry’s “Roar” to raise awareness against the use of firecracke­rs.

On the sidelines of an event last month, Tayag said he would have wanted to continue dancing to promote DOH programs, but he was just too busy with meetings and other engagement­s.

His first post at the DOH came in 1999 when he headed the division on schistosom­iasis control services. From then on, he worked his way up to become one of the DOH’s most recognizab­le officials.

A biology graduate of the University of the Philippine­s in 1979, Tayag earned his medical degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center-College of Medicine in 1984.

He underwent residency training at San Lazaro Hospital from 1988 to 1990, becoming the facility’s chief epidemiolo­gist in 1996, marking the start of his career in public health.

Starting April 15, Tayag will be replaced by officer in charge Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo as spokespers­on for the DOH.

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Enrique Tayag

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