In line with the celebration of the Medicine week, let’s take a look back at these three remarkable Filipinas who emerged in the field of medicine.
These women did not only help cure the sick, they as well, have shown that with competence, perseverance and hard work, attaining one’s dream would be possible.
Honoria Acosta-Sison (1888 – 1970)
The first Filipina Doctor, Honoria Acosta-Sison practiced obstetrics and gynecology. Sison got a scholarship to study medicine in the US in 1904 which the majority of her peers and relatives went against it.
She took up her degree at Women’s Medical College, Pennsylvania in 1909. Sison worked as the first assistant in obstetrics at St. Paul’s Hospital, Manila. And in 1914, she became a faculty member at the University of the Philippines. By 1940, she became a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and eventually became the head of the department of obstetrics.
Aside from being the first-ever Physician, Sison also achieved the following:
- Internationally known for her Trophoblastic disease and pre-eclampsia in pregnancy research
- Published 103 scientific publications
- Established the normal pelvimetry of Filipino women and cephalometry of Filipino newborns
- Introduced low cesarean section in the country
- Presidential Medal for Medical Research Awardee in 1955
- Received a Gold Medal from the Women’s Medical College in 1959
- Most Outstanding Woman Physician from the Philippine Women’s Medical Association in 1959
- In 1978 the Philippines issued a commemorative stamp with her name and likeness.
Olivia Salamanca (1889 – 1913)
Also known as the Pioneer Woman Physician of the Philippines, Olivia Salamanca is the second Filipina who became a physician.
A native Caviteño, Salamanca went to the United States after being appointed as one of the 37 Filipino scholars by the Philippine Government in 1905. She studied in St. Paul, Minnesota to complete her secondary course and later to Women’s College in Philadelphia to obtain her medical degree. Salamanca was only 20 went she graduated and passed the civil service examination.
—(Source: The Philippine Diary Project)
Salamanca was also known for:
- One of the first Filipinos to the use of tuberculin in the treatment of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, her health had not improved.
- A child prodigy, she learned and played the piano without any guidance from a teacher.
- To honor her contributions as a pioneer Filipino physician, the Philippine Medical Women’s Association named the place at the corner of General Luna and T. Kalaw as “Plaza Olivia Salamanca.”
Fe Villanueva del Mundo (1911-2011)
The first Filipino pediatrician and established the first-ever pediatric hospital in the country, Fe del Mundo joined the International Red Cross and volunteered to care for children at the Unversity of Santo Tomas. Hence dubbed as The Angel of Santo Tomas.
Born in Manila, del Mundo decided to pursue medicine after her older sister passed away due to appendicitis at age 11. As she earned her medical degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1926, del Mundo also pursued pediatrics.
Declared Class Valedictorian in 1933, then-president Manuel Quezon granted her a full scholarship to further her studies in any medical field of her choice at any school in the United States. Del Mundo became the first and only woman to enroll in Harvard Medical School in 1936. After the school officials mistook her as a male student, they unwittingly accepted her application. It was until she arrived in Boston when they found out, yet the head of pediatrics chose not to pull her out because of her strong record.
—(Source: Amazing Women History)
Del Mundo’s Legacies includes:
- First woman pediatrician to be admitted to Harvard Medical School in 1936.
- Named as the first National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980.
- Founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, then Children Medical Center, and now Fe Del Mundo Medical Center.
- Credited with studies that lead to the invention of the first incubator and jaundice relieving device.
- Elizabeth Blackwell Awardee as a “Woman Doctor of World Renown”.
- Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for “Outstanding Public Service”.
- 15th International Congress of Pediatrics Awardee as the “Most Outstanding Pediatrician and Humanitarian” in 1977.
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