The piece began as an act of friendship, arranged by super lawyer Roman P. Mosqueda.
It was a conversation-interview supposed to draw a portrait of Dr. Mariedel Leviste, a portrait without physical features. Everyone knows this already: to describe her wouldn’t be telling anything new. At her swearing in as LA Commissioner of Community and Family Services, they were not concerned about how beautiful she is, as ever. Instead, they were listening to her words—ideas, dreams, outlook in life and work.
There is no place you can put her, where she gets less, be it in an operating room; on lecturing about this era of managed health care at a time when medicine is becoming more institutionalized and impersonal; in her rounds at hospitals, as she draws the full spectrum of human emotions evoked by medicine drama, or parrying with outmost courtesy even the most ungentle maneuver of the corporate in high meetings. She weathers bad storms as she continues to preside her way with dignity in her quiet endeavors. She doesn’t diminish this almost ferocious sense of public service. She is always in pursuit of the good cause, the right reason to serve the community. She is embodied in hard work and self-sacrifice and laden with astuteness and determination.
Dr. Leviste doesn’t like any form of publicity, very rarely has she granted personal interviews. We began to chat, but still behind the barriers of convention and diffidence. But over the phone, she opened up like a flower. It was the first time I had used this system of interview—I was worried and nervous at the thought that everything depended on this mechanical object. It worried her too, but we encouraged each other and after minutes, it was all very easy. Inside Mr. Mosqueda’s office, nobody was listening.
There was often a hint of the confessional in the sound of her voice as she spoke. I would imagine her cheeks reddened every time I touched on a topic, or question that was a little delicate, but she never refused to reply or seemed at all indignant.
Dr. Leviste rather than an interview, can we have this as a conversation, which I shall ask you certain questions. How did you evolve?
Every person grows up the way she is. There’s the education they receive, circumstances and influence ideas, feelings and taste. My family was that of politicians and doctors on each side. Here in the US where we’ve lived, there the diversity of ethnic cultures, we speak in appreciation of the America where we had flourished, without being unfaithful to the land where we were born…we always go back to our roots, especiallyon values…In all the years I’ve been away, having travelled halfway around the world, I’ve realized I’m the kind of person that finds it fairly easy to adapt to other peoples emotions, tradition and values…which is one means of existence if not a necessity in life.
May I digress? Aren’t you afraid of growing old and if you tell me you’re not, I wont believe you.
But you must believe me, growing older is interesting you wont be doing some things because you have learned and you know the outcome.
Doctor, have you ever regretted something you’ve done?
No, never; regret, just like fear is a waste of time. I stay involved with my decisions and take its consequences. When it is impossible, I’m always ready to come to terms with life and its surprises.
Doctor, a rather brutal question and you don’t have to answer…what if a doctor commits an error?
Doctors at one time in their careers have come across the thin line that separates decision to the metaphysical ..it is what they say, “that you cant improve on God.” Virtue or skill is not an altogether absence of fault, but altogether, as in speed and grace with which a fault is recognized…corrected.
Do you find yourself more at ease working with male or female colleagues?
For me it is absolutely the same. I look at them on the same eyes… as a person, in an absolute plane of equality.
What matters to you, as a person?
Qualities that are timeless…where along with brains, courage …and along with courage, dignity, dedication, wisdom and compassion.
You said success is an important thing. Were you provoking?
I never meant to be provoking. I say only what I think. I’ve never sought talent in order to get fame and material things…it is the talent and passion that comes with success. We are all born with a talent – which is the love, passion in doing your work gladly, not doing it because you want to be successful I’ve always been obsessed to be an OB-Gyne as a young girl, I hang around in Dr. Constantino Manahan’s, office as a quiet observers, to bring out life into this world nothing can be more grand! – long before I went to medical school, I dreamed of being a surgeon.
Doctor, is career more important than, say, family?
How can anyone say something as terrible as that…that sounds so horrible, just because career is inevitably bound up with money. In the end it is what you do for the others that counts. What you share without expecting anything in return. A woman does not have to choose one and give up another, being a doctor doesn’t make you a bad wife or a bad mother, I’m simply saying, whatever gift God has blessed you, is yours for the taking…but remember, taken with boundless gratitude by sharing it unselfishly.
What is a happy person, Dr. Leviste?
Happiness is a fleeting point of view, a blessing to be able to feel it because, those who can say it are few. If used in reference to, my profession, it is the humanity in medicine: that is the reason I’ve never stopped working, a doctor’s calling isardous and complex, that needs a kind heart and a clear head…the highest faculties of the mind, while constantly appealing to the highest emotion and feelings…think about what its like to be sick and vulnerable…the isolation…what we do as a doctor, most of the time is deeply gratifying… I can not imagine a more satisfying calling…I dream of a healthy citizenry.
Doctor, you have one of the most solvent marriage in the Fil-Am Medical Community. Any secret formula you might want to share?
A marriage survival kit requires most of all a balance life…genuine love, adaptability; flexibility kindness and, oh yes, imagination, the imagination to read, anticipate his or her needs.
Her professional list of major achievements are so enormous it defies enumeration, but would ameliorate into a continuing stride with a litany of awards: last July 2, she took her oath of office for a term of four years as Commissioner of Community and Family Services. Dr. Leviste was awarded by the Filipino Womens Network (FWN) as one the 100 Most influential Filipina Women in the World at its 10th Annual Filipino Leadership Summit Gala in San Francisco. President and CEO of National Healthcare ACO, Pacific Medical, Biodermik, Inc. and Telemedicine USA, Inc. FWN Program Magazine described Dr. Mariedel Leviste as: “award-winning physician and surgeon, artist, educator, author and speaker and considered and expert in evaluation and treatment of aging skin, with particular expertise in Ethnic Skin and Women of Color, award winning research scientist and anti aging expert. She trains physicians worldwide, having lectured in several countries.
Recipient of numerous awards in the Los Angeles Fil-Am Community, including the Los Angeles City Council Outstanding Physician Award and the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council Award, with her youth and senior empowerment program.
Through her Biodermilk, Inc. she has formulated her own skincare dermatology products for sale to fellow physicians and their patients trained at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center: New York Medical College (Dermatology) and the University of Paris, France (Cosmetic Surgery Fellowship)
Researches and publication included: non ablative rejuvenation, combination treatments for aging face, laser resurfacing, BTX fillers, screening of skin cancer, a comparative study of alpha hydroxyl and salicylic acid, among them.
Doctor Leviste is married to former Wall Street Super Lawyer Roman P. Mosqueda, has a son and daughter—a family all musically inclined.