link to The Times
Alex Manchè wins National Pride award
Fiona Galea Debono
From left: Frank Salt, Alex Manchè and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi during yesterday's award ceremony. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi.
Alex Manchè, chief consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at St Luke's Hospital, was yesterday showered with praise when he was awarded the 2006 Frank Salt Investments Award for National Pride.
Mr Manchè is altruistically pouring his prize - Lm1,000 - into a cardiac surgery research fund, which he launched yesterday. Still in an embryonic stage, he said companies were ready to come on board and support it. The award would serve as a catalyst for others to donate more funds, he said.
The cardiothoracic surgeon, whose trademark humility shone throughout the event, was considered to be a source of pride to Maltese citizens by the adjudicating panel, which was faced with no mean feat to select a winner from among the 29 potential candidates from all walks of life, panel chairman Maurice de Giorgio said.
But Mr Manchè stood out for his "daily work and humane, outstanding relationship with his patients", he continued.
Among his medical achievements, Mr Manchè has held top posts in both the UK and the US, but chose to return to Malta some time ago. He has 34 medical publications under his belt and has delivered 53 scientific presentations.
But apart from his "outstanding professional achievements", another - and perhaps more important - facet to Mr Manchè was his "genuine concern, compassion and generosity towards his patients," Mr de Giorgio said.
"What justifies this award even further is that these exemplary Christian qualities in Mr Manchè have always been accompanied by extreme humility and instinctive compulsion to put others before himself."
Although Mr Manchè claimed to be lost for words at the event, he found them to share his limelight with cardiac services director Albert Fenech, "the soul of the team", stressing that it was a 50-50 job.
Despite the fact that cardiac surgeons and cardiologists have always been reputed to be eternal rivals, he joked, the two of them had the "best relationship in the world".
Mr Manchè also shared his success with his mother, an important influence in his life, who always told him never to do tomorrow what he could do today.
"That has caused me lots of stress..." but also reduced the waiting list of cardiac surgery at the hospital's department of cardiac services. Today, a routine patient can undergo an operation within two weeks of being seen, as opposed to an average of nine months 11 years ago, and six months in other European countries at the moment. In urgent cases, cardiac surgery is held within days in Malta.
While maintaining that he could think of others equally deserving of the award and more, Mr Manchè expressed his satisfaction that FSI had thought of health, which was synonymous with happiness in his view.
The Frank Salt Investments Award was set up by Frank Salt in 2004 to coincide with his 60th birthday and to "put something back into Malta". Previous winners include the Gaia Foundation for the environment and MJ Publications Ltd for culture and the arts.
It is envisaged that the fourth edition of the award next year will be for the environment in a bid to encourage the public to take an active role in safeguarding the island's heritage.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who presented the award to Mr Manchè, pointed out that the Maltese sometimes failed to appreciate their "enormous assets".
He said he held the issue of national pride close to his heart, adding that despite being a small country with no resources, Malta was a "fantastic place to live in, with so much to be proud of".
The fact that the private sector was recognising its assets was very positive to the Prime Minister. Mr Manchè, he said, represented the medical profession, its dedication and excellent standards, where patients were individuals, and not merely numbers.
The award's adjudicating panel is composed of Philip Farrugia Randon, Philip Zammit Briffa and Martin Scicluna.
Health Minister Louis Deguara was also present for the event.