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DR. FILOMENA SANTIAGO-SAN JUAN : A Mover and a Forerunner.


Dr. Filomena Santiago-San Juan, µΣɸ Batch 1978

Having grown up in Pagadian where there were no specialists and with limited access to education and technology, Dr. Filomena S. San Juan had a firm grasp of what she wanted – to uplift the condition of Zamboanga del Sur. Inspired by her father’s advocacy of serving the people of Pagadian, she pursued a medical course.

She took BS Biology at the Mindanao State University in 1974 and graduated as a full scholar and cum laude. After completing her degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of the Philippines in 1978, she took up her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology and became Chief Resident from 1983 to 1984. She was immediately accepted as a Clinical Assistant Professor in 1984.   

In 1986, she became an Exchange Scientist at Kobe University, Japan and was accepted as a Ronpaku PhD Dissertation Scholar making her the first obstetrician gynaecologist in the country who holds a Ph.D. in the Medical Sciences. She is the only physician in the Philippines who made internationally published immunohistochemical studies on paraffin embedded tissues of Trophoblastic Diseases which opened doors to future studies in this field.

Under the guidance of her professor, Matsuto Mochizuki, Dr. San Juan underwent training on the diagnosis and management of gynecologic malignancy, particularly choriocarcinoma, and studied the use of ultrasound and tumor markers in the diagnosis of gynecologic tumors. With the knowledge and skills she gained, she pioneered the use of ultrasonography in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is the founding chief of the UP PGH Section of Ultrasound having formulated the fellowship training in ultrasound and having negotiated the procurement of necessary equipment of the section, the first being a 2.5M Photokina ultrasound machine. She also pioneered the use of immunohistochemistry in Trophoblastic Disease and the use of EMACO in high risk Trophoblastic Tumors. She is also one of the pioneers of the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced cervical cancer. Because of her significant contributions to OB GYN early on, she was awarded the First AOFOG Young Gynecologist Award in 1990 and FIGO Young Scientist Award in 1991.

Her blazing career in Obstetrics and Gynecology was temporarily put on hold when she fulfilled her father’s wish to be of service to Pagadian. Rather than seeing this as a pause in her academic career, she saw it as an opportunity to grow. Dr. San Juan brought with her 3 ultrasound machines and trained obstetrician gynaecologists in Zamboanga del Sur to improve healthcare delivery in their locality. She established an extension regional hospital in the Municipality of San Miguel now known as Margosatubig Regional Hospital San Miguel.

Recognizing the needs of her people, Dr. San Juan offered long term solutions to the condition of Zamboanga del Sur. She established the San Juan RURAL HELP (Health, Environment, Livelihood Program) Foundation and used her knowledge, skills and personal resources to uplift her community. She organized, financed and implemented Medical Outreach Missions, serving the remotest 300 barangays of Mindanao serving more than 100, 000 patients. She also organized 15 Medical Eye Examination Outreach Missions in 15 remote 5th class municipalities in Zamboanga del Sur. She even had her own radio program Tambagi Ako Doktora,” to tackle Women’s Health in Pagadian.  Medical supplies and medicines were made accessible through her project “Tambal sa Barangay Program.” She received the award “Most Outstanding NGO” from then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1998.

During her 3-year term in Congress, she was recognized as the Most Consistent Outstanding Congresswoman from 2001 to 2003. This is in recognition of her socio-civic works and other environmental programs which included the rehabilitation of the Oriental Mindoro rivers, the Ibajay, Tangalan, Jal-0 and Talon rivers in Aklan, reforestation of 400 hectares of denuded private agricultural and forestal lands of Zamboanga del Sur, and rehabilitation of the Bayog Dam to irrigate the ricelands of Bayog and Diplahan.

Through her Congressional lobby, she was able to build 400 elementary and high school classrooms in the remotest barangays, build 100 Presidential bridges and funded the concreting of the National Highway of Pagadian to Zamboanga City to allow farm to market access for farmers, provided light houses and sea ports for fisherman and small boats to land in coastal barangays, provided 15 SMART telephone towers to connect Zamboanga to the rest of the Peninsula.

She has co-authored 56 House Bills, 20 of which were put into law, among which are: The University of the Philippines Charter 2002, National Women’s Day, Health Worker’s Day Act, Anti-Abuse of Women in Intimate Relationships Act, Magna Carta for Older Persons, Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, The Tobacco Regulation Act, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2002, Eid’ul Fitr Holiday Law, Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, National Service Training Act of 2001, The Overseas Absentee Voting Act, Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act, The Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2002, General Practice of Architecture.

After being a congresswoman, Dr. San Juan returned to her first love – Obstetrics and Gyencology. She contributed to the continuing skills and knowledge of OB GYN by organizing 3 International OB GYN Ultrasound conventions with speakers from our country and our department. She remains an active consultant of 3 teaching institutions – Philippine General Hospital, Makati Medical Center and Manila Doctor’s Hospital. Her mastery of Ultrasosonography, Gynecologic Oncology and Trophoblastic Diseases offers unparalleled views and approach in managing patients. She was awarded the POGS Ramon Lopez Award for Community Service in 2009, UP College of Medicine Gloria T. Aragon Award for Most Outstanding Faculty Research in 2011, and the POGS Honoria Acosta-Sison Award of Merit for Research in 2015. She was recognized as one of the Top 100 Women in Health Science of the Century by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Institute of Health Genetics, National Institute of Health and University of the Philippines Manila and was featured in a book “A Century of Women in the Health Sciences (1900-2000 AD).”

As we celebrate her 65th birthday, we get a glimpse of how Dr. Filomena Santiago-San Juan has been the epitome of a five star physician. Amidst being at the peak of her career, Dr. San Juan never stops, she continuously aims for the best for her fellowmen.  Once again, she is keen on pioneering several innovations that could change the field of obstetrics and gynecology – the use of High Intensity Focus Ultrasound and the use of Gene Therapy.

Zamboanga del Sur would always be grateful for her. And those who knew her in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology would always be inspired by what she has achieved.

Dr. Filomena Santiago-San Juan – a woman like no other.

 

 

Written by: Gladdy Maura G. Facun, µΣɸ Batch 2011