When we speak of popular and famous personalities, the attention often always goes to politicians, entertainers, and other members of the art world. Not very often are they dedicated to men and women in the field of medicine, but sometimes, exceptions are made, such as in this article for Fe del Mundo, a Filipino pediatrician who revolutionized the field in her home country, the Philippines.
Fe del Mundo was a woman who lived for 99 years and dedicated eight decades of her life to the field of pediatrics, doing pioneering work in the country, including establishing the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines.
Who was Fe del Mundo?
Fe del Mundo became a legend by responding to the call to action she got growing up as a child in Manila in the Philippines. Although she was one of eight children born to her parents, four of her siblings died before the age of 15, with three of them dying at infancy.
She was born on the 27th of November, 1911 in Intramuros, Manila and was raised by her parents in the region. The tragedy of her background, especially the death of her fourth sibling, who died at the age of 11 and had expressed an interest in becoming a doctor for the poor inspired her to pursue a career in medicine.
She began the journey in 1926 when she enrolled in UP College of Medicine of the University of Philippines in Manila. She graduated with a degree in medicine in 1933, finishing at the top of her class.
For her post-undergraduate education, she traveled to the United States where she earned a Master’s degree in bacteriology at Boston University School of Medicine in 1940. She also worked at the Harvard Medical School Children’s Hospital during her time in the United States.
After her time in the US, which included time spent in various health institutions like Johns Hopkins Hospital and at the University of Chicago, she returned to the Philippines in 1941 and joined the International Red Cross, working as a volunteer doctor for child-internees.
She spent the early days of her medical career working for government hospitals, like the now Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, where she served as a director until 1948. After a couple of years working for the government, Fe del Mundo, who felt disillusioned by the limitations of bureaucracy, set out to establish her own pediatric hospital.
With a combination of efforts, including a loan from the government and the sale of her home, she constructed and established her own hospital. The hospital at the time of completion held 100 beds and was launched in 1957.
Accomplishments and Recognitions
The completion and subsequent launch of the hospital got Fe del Mundo the achievement of the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines but her legend went far beyond its creation. Through fighting various limitations, both financial and infrastructural, Fe del Mundo helped in the understanding and combating common diseases like dengue fever, polio, and measles.
She also authored over 100 articles, reports and reviews in journals and published a book, Textbook of Pediatrics, which has become a mainstay in Philippines medical schools to date. Her devotion to public health spanned through prevention methods, treatment, and cures, including the advocacy for family planning.
Some of her awards and recognitions include being awarded the National Scientist of the Philippines, winning the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, being conferred as the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart and a few more qothers.
Parents and Family
Fe del Mundo was born to a legal practitioner father, Bernardo del Mundo who was also known to be a politician who served in the Philippines parliament. While Fe del Mundo and her father got a chance to write their names in history, her mother, Paz del Mundo did not get the chance as she died fourteen years after Fe was born.
Fe del Mundo’s commitment to improving the lives of children in the Philippines is further made impressive because she never had any children of her own and she never married throughout her lifetime.
Apart from her parents, her family included her nieces and nephews who were born to her living siblings, one of which is Jade del Mundo, a doctor who once worked in the Department of Health as an undersecretary in the United States.
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Other Facts About Fe del Mundo
After eight decades of dedicating her life to medicine, Fe del Mundo died on the 6th of August, 2011 of cardiac arrest.
On the 27th of November, 2018, a Google Doodle was made in honor of her 107th birthday
She created the bamboo-based incubator.