Dr. John Potenciano: A medical and spiritual path to healthcare

His thoughts on anti-vaxxers: ‘Ultimately, it will be their decision.’

By Vicky Vitug

Dr. John Potenciano,a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Albany, has a commonsense attitude toward vaccination.

He said, “Vaccination with two doses of the same vaccine is 94% to 95% effective. There’s no guarantee but regardless. Any degree of protection is better than nothing. So that’s why we still have to keep wearing masks. Right now, these vaccines are our very best bet to stay well, stay healthy and stay alive.”

There is nothing in his declaration that promotes one political ideology over another or elevates a singular religious belief. He is just saying — and we have heard this over and over from the CDC, doctors, and science adherents — that as the world looks toward a perilous future, we all need to get vaccinated and wear a mask in places where there could be a crowd.

But he is not judging people who refuse to get inoculated. As a DNP frontliner, his responsibility is to patiently educate his patients. “Ultimately,” he said, “it will be their decision.”

Dr. John did not reckon that he would step into a public health quagmire when he came to the U.S. in 2006. He did not even imagine he would become a nurse, and a DNP at that.

At that time, he was a successful orthodontist in the Philippines. He had a private practice with three clinics and was a professor of dental medicine. On top of that, he was a military dentist and had the title “Dental Officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Legal status only

One day in 2006, he and his wife Michelle came to the U.S. as tourists to visit his brother in Albany. He enjoyed the reunion with his family and relatives and fell in love with the place where his brother lives, Albany. The idea of living in the U.S. permanently may have crossed his mind albeit fleetingly. And while his family may have jokingly nudged him, his response was always, “Only if we get a legal status as permanent residents or work visas.” No going around hiding as TNTs for John and Michelle.

Fate and faith intervened.

A recent Thanksgiving celebration with wife Michelle.

During his visit he took and passed the NCLEX exams and he was promptly recruited and sponsored as a licensed Registered Nurse by St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany.  He was granted a working visa and a green card.  All of this happened within six months prior to the expiration of their tourist visas.

While working as a nurse, He missed doing his private practice, and given the shortage of medical providers, had to pursue higher education. He obtained a master’s degree in Adult Nurse Practitioner from Russell Sage College, passed the board certification in Adult/Geriatric Health, and finished his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He graduated with honors at the top of his class. “A DNP is the highest level of education and terminal degree in nursing parallel to medicine where clinical skills, knowledge and experiences were part of the process,” he explained. He enjoys the autonomy of having an independent practice able to use his expertise on evidence-based geriatric medicine.

Sacred relationship

He currently works as a primary care provider in a rehabilitation and long-term care facility in Albany. In June 2020, he opened a private practice — called Potenciano Medical — dismayed by how some facilities have put profit over patients. Many of his patients are referrals from colleagues, friends and family and members of Filipino community.

“My philosophy is that the practice of medicine and health care delivery is a vocation, a mission and a calling,” said

Dr. John when interviewed by The FilAm. “My relationship with my patients both in my private practice and in the facility transcends responsibility and commitment. I look at it as a sacred relationship where I treat my patients with dignity and genuine concern for their total well-being.”

He and Michelle belong to the Secular Franciscan Order, a community of deeply religious Catholics who are followers of St. Francis of Assisi who is known to care for the poor and the sick.

He further noted how the practice of healthcare has become so “business-oriented” with insurance companies dictating how patients should be seen by doctors.

“Focus has shifted to quantity of patients seen per day, 10-minute rule per patient, reimbursements, and copays. It became very impersonal,” he shared.

He treats mostly geriatric patients with a variety of illnesses from flu to COVID or those who may be cognitively impaired or have dementia. A family member of a patient has remarked that Dr. John “practices with his heart and head together.”

He explained his role in the management of COVID patients in his facility. “I communicate COVID-19 recommendations from local health authorities and implement pandemic protocols such as resident cohorting and isolation plans, swabbing algorithms, and infection control practices.”

At one point at the height of the pandemic in 2020, he acted as the lead Primary Care Provider in his facility, making all the decisions, treating all the residents and providing care to residents whose conditions were deteriorating. It’s the kind of care that involved “advance care planning, discussing goals of care, and ensuring a dignified death.”

He sees to it that patients as well as his frontline colleagues get the medical care they deserve.

© The FilAm 2021

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