Google paid tribute to the “Mother of Philippine Pediatrics”, Dr. Fe del Mundo, during her 107th birth anniversary last Tuesday by honoring her with a Google Doodle on their homepage.
Members of the Filipino-American community said it was an opportunity for the youth to see their “endless possibilities.”
The late Filipina doctor who is also known as “The Angel of Santo Tomas” devoted her life to child healthcare and revolutionized pediatric medicine in the process. She was the first woman admitted to the Harvard Medical School, but it’s her pioneering work in pediatrics in the Philippines for which she’s best known.
Born in Manila in 1911, del Mundo had seven siblings in which three did not survive infancy and another one died of appendicitis at the age of 11. The death of this sister who didn’t realize her own dream of becoming a doctor inspired del Mundo to study medicine.
Del Mundo began her medical education in 1936 after Harvard Medical School unwittingly enrolled her into what was then still an all-male student body, nine years before Harvard Medical School began accepting female students. She remained at Harvard until 1938, completing three pediatric courses before leaving for a residency at the University of Chicago and a research fellowship at the Harvard Medical School Children’s Hospital.
After earning a master’s degree in bacteriology in 1940, del Mundo returned to the Philippines at the start of World War II, opening a home to care for some of the children of those incarcerated during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After the war, del Mundo opened her own hospital, eventually expanding it cover preventive medicine and to include research facilities.
“I’m glad that I have been very much involved in the care of children, and that I have been relevant to them,” del Mundo said in 2007. “They are the most outstanding feature in my life.”
In addition to treating patients, del Mundo did pioneering work on infectious diseases in Philippine communities and authored the Textbook of Pediatrics, as well as hundreds of articles and medical reports on diseases such as dengue, polio, and measles. She continued to make daily rounds well into her late 90s even when she was in a wheelchair. She died of a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 99.