On 11 September 1998, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada appointed a new health secretary - Dr. Alberto G. Romualdez, Jr. Maybe, he was coined as the new hero the DOH employees are waiting for to save them from disgrace during this time.
Sec. Romualdez is a graduate of Doctor of Medicine from the University of the Philippines and Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences from the Ateneo de Manila University. He is a fellow on Tumor Immunology at the University of Connecticut and Membrane Biophysics at the Harvard Medical School in the U.S.A.
Unlike his predecessors, Sec. Romualdez is not new in the DOH. He started as a Medical Adviser to the then Minister of Health from 1979-1982. He then became the director of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine from 1981-1984.
Dr. Romualdez was appointed as Assistant Secretary in 1988. However, he opted to work for the World Health Organization's (WHO) Western Pacific Region holding position as acting then regional adviser in Development of Human Resources of Health and director of Health Services, Development and Planning. From June 1996 until his appointment as Health Secretary, he was Medical Director of the HCA Philippines, Inc. and at the same time consultant of the WHO and the DOH.
On 14 September, his 58th birthday, Sec. Romualdez was introduced to the DOH employees during the regular Monday flag ceremony.
Among his priority concerns on his first few weeks were: (1) to improve efficiency in the use of resources away from graft issues, (2) to improve access to health services especially to those underserved for reasons of geography or economy, and (3) to review the strengths and weaknesses of the DOH's organizational structure within the framework of devolution as mandated by the Local Government Code.
He said: "When he appointed me, President Estrada's instruction was simple: make sure that the DOH serves the people, especially the poor... I know that all of you understand this to be the Department's true mission in the first place. I am therefore sure of your cooperation in accomplishing the President's instruction. In other words, if you just do your jobs, the rest will follow.