Filipino female scientists with remarkable contributions to medicine and education
When an imbalance in the system deprived women of the right to knowledge the right to knowledge and rendered them mere household figures, their skills and passion were obscured by male dominance and patriarchy as they tried to enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or any seemingly gender-biased field. Based on research studies, man and woman could pitch the same pitch but the former would hog the credits, funding, and application 70 percent of the time. As this system went on, a lot of skilled women shied away at the first from entering an already male-dominated field, resulting to non-diversity in the workforce.
But sexism is just in tow for the general larger scale of prejudice surrounding STEM, where the public face has been predominantly white and male—race plays a big part in this equation. There aren’t a lot of women scientists as lauded as Marie Curie, the pioneering researcher in radioactivity. Women of color like Mary Jackson did not exactly go down in global history, unless you google her name and find out she’s the first woman engineer of NASA. Our very own Fe Del Mundo’s title as the first Asian woman to enter Harvard Medical School was claimed to be anecdotal by her male counterparts.
Among the 42 National Scientists of the Philippines, the highest award accorded to our scientists, only 11 are women, including Del Mundo. But their contributions have helped shape both the local and international medical industry as well as the social sciences, and have shifted perceptions on what it means to be a female powerhouse.
We recognize some of these women National Scientists and the truths they were able to prove about the earth, for the earth.
Fe Del Mundo, M.D., M.A. (1911-2011)
Del Mundo was known for introducing pediatric breakthroughs such as her establishment of the first pediatric hospital, Fe Del Mundo Medical Center in the Philippines after selling her home and personal effects for its construction, voluntary public health services in rural communities in the time of war, her contribution to the invention of the incubator, her globally recognized BRAT (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet method for curing diarrhea, treatment of jaundice, and research studies on common infectious diseases in the country such as dengue fever. She was also the first woman to be hailed as the National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980 and was granted the Honor of Lakandula in 2010 with a “Bayani” ranking.
Encarnacion Alzona, Ph.D. (1895-2001)
A revolutionary scientist who went beyond the four walls of the classroom to lobby for equality, Encarnacion Alzona was a woman of many firsts. She was known to be the first Filipino woman to obtain a doctorate degree when she graduated from Columbia University in New York. In 1919, she spearheaded a movement for Filipino women’s suffrage rights and to participate in national affairs, persuading President Manuel Quezon to sign these rights into law in 1935. She also became an educator at her alma mater, the University of the Philippines, where she taught history. She also authored different history books such as A History of Education in the Philippines and El Legado de España a Filipina.
‘Among the 42 National Scientists of the Philippines, the highest award accorded to our scientists, only 11 are women.’
Luz Oliveros-Belardo, Ph.D. (1906-1999)
A pioneer in the pharmaceutical chemistry, Luz Oliveros-Belardo dedicated almost 50 years on producing natural products derived from essential oils and chemicals from native flora. Her research on the chemical properties of Philippine plants resulted to the creation of 33 new essential oils and applications on herbal medications, food production, and scent. She was able to garner 32 awards in the pharmacy and phytochemical research fields, both here and abroad.
Clare R. Baltazar, Ph.D.
A globally known researcher of systematic entomology, Clare Baltazar laid the groundwork for the discovery of different insect species in the Philippines, such as eight and one subgenus of Philippine-endemic Hymenoptera (wasp), which was used for insect control application and their biological management for future studies when she wrote the first authoritative textbook on Philippine insects.
Mercedes Concepcion, Ph.D.
Mercedes Concepcion’s dynamic research on huge numbers encompassing mortality, employment, population, women fertility, labor force, socioeconomic development, urbanization—all of which earned her the moniker “Mother of Asian Demography.” Her establishment of the UP Population Institute paved the way for the enactment of the Population Act of 1971, a nationwide family planning program that addressed population and birth control issues in the country. She received the United Nations Population Award for serving as an instrument in population control and being a member of different developmental organizations in 17 countries.
Perla Santos-Ocampo, M.D. (1931-2012)
Compassionate by nature, Perla Santos-Ocampo was known for her exceptional work in helping alleviate malnutrition and diarrheal diseases in the country, which included the implementation of oral re-hydration and nutritional administration that the Department of Health applied to facilitate public health safety and clinical management. Her local contributions were later commended worldwide when she was included in the Expert Advisory Panel on Maternal and Child Health of the World Health Organization in 1980.