“NOT anyone can have a sex change surgery — male to female,” Dr. Eduardo Farcon explained as we sat on their living room for an interview.

“The candidate should be in cross-dressing since his childhood and should be under treatment for at least a year by a psychiatrist prior to surgery,” he continued.

“This is to ensure that the candidate will not have any doubts about his sex reassignment surgery.”

Dr. Farcon, now 84 years old, still hale and hearty, enjoying his retirement with his wife Erlina, in their four-bedroom, two-story home in the gated, affluent community somewhere in Paramus, reminiscing his experiences as a surgeon.

“I did the first successful gender reassignment surgery in 1978 at Bellevue Hospital Medical Center in New York City. My patient eventually became a successful and beautiful fashion model who was then featured in The New York Times.”

“One of the celebrities that I had also treated was actress Karen Gourney, who played the role of Stephanie Mangano along with John Travolta in the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ Ms. Gourney was also the legendary Tara Martin on ABC’s award-winning TV series ‘All My Children.’”

“Another one is Tupac Shakur.”

He was referring to the popular Harlem-born rapper who is one of the most legendary hip-hop and rap artists of all time.

“And so is Slim Thompson, the actor who starred with Humphrey Bogart and Betty Davis in the movie ‘Petrified Forest.’”

One of his favorite stories is that of a very young man whose family called him for a urological evaluation.

As life would have it, that young man now turned out to be the current governor of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In one unexpected event, he was, suddenly, put into both national and international spotlight, when then President Ronald Reagan underwent a urological examination of his urological tract at the Bethesda Naval Hospital on Aug 10, 1986.

Naturally, as president of the Free World, the late President Reagan’s medical condition was the focus of the entire world leaders’ attention.

“I really didn’t know why I was chosen to be interviewed by Dan Rather at that time,” said Dr. Farcon trying to downplay his role as consultant during the TV coverage of President Reagan’s urological evaluation.

He was referring to the American journalist and former news anchor of “CBS Evening News.”

“I think what happened was that Mr. Dan Rather was contacting the NYU Hospital and had asked the staff to recommend someone. And, lucky me, they recommended me,” he chuckled.

At that interview, Dr. Farcon explained in details what is known as a voiding dysfunction, a continuum of what is referred to as Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms.

“Bert Pelayo was a very good friend of mine for so many years. We both came here to the States almost at the same time. As president of a medical group in New York, I had contacts with him frequently for press releases. And at one of those times, he confided to me about his urologic problem and had then chosen me to be his personal doctor. And, thus began our beautiful friendship that spanned five decades,” he remembers with a tinge of sadness on his voice.

According to Dr. Farcon, as president of the APPA, he made the association an effective force for enhanced professional stature and solidarity.

“We had lobbied Congress through Sen. S. I. Hayakawa on behalf of foreign medical graduates. We had also made representation with Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) for the abolition of the visa qualifying exam for foreign medical graduates.”

“How did you meet your future wife?”

I asked him after a brief pause.

“Oh,” caught by surprise at the question,” I was a member of the Faculty of Surgery at the UST School of Medicine, and Erlina was one of my students,” he replied.

Theirs was a storybook romance, and their wedding was well-attended by movers and shakers of Philippine politics since the father of the bride, was a college of law dean and congressman of Batangas, who won over the Laurel dynasty in a hard-fought election contest.

One of their wedding sponsors was the late Vice President Gerardo Roxas, father of the 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas.

The former Erlina Lobrin was a longtime anesthesiologist with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

The Farcons have four children and four grandchildren, including Jaryd, 16, who appeared in Broadway’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and was a former champion of the Junior Dancing with the Stars; and Jhailyn, 10, who was a member of the U.S. national tour of “Billy Elliot, the Musical,” and had performed last year with Mariah Carey at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Concert.

Until his retirement, Dr. Farcon was a clinical professor in New York University’s Department of Surgery.

He held the distinction of having accepted to NYU’s Urology Residency Training Program without taking internship, and accelerating his training from four years to just three years — a first in the history of the department.

His resumé includes numerous awards: Leadership Award in Medicine, Physician of the Year, Distinguished International Physician from American College of International Physicians, and Outstanding Alumni Award in Academic Medicine.

At the end of the interview, I asked him what advice he would give to the young ones, and he said: “Be proud of who you are, and work faithfully to attain your goal.”

This reminds me of a similar advice by a Chinese philosopher: “To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.”

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