The Department of Science and Technology with the Philippine Council of Health Research and Development (DOST - PCHRD), in partnership with the University of the Philippines – Manila (UPM) MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine program, welcomed the 12th Batch of MD-PhD scholars into the fold last 11 September, 2021 through a virtual get together. DOST – PCHRD Executive Director, Dr. Jaime Montoya, the Dean of the UPM College of Medicine (UPCM), Dr. Charlotte Chiong, and the Chairperson of the Vaccine Experts Panel, Dr. Nina Gloriani were present to send their greetings and offer inspirational messages not only to the new batch but also the ones still in the running to become doctor-researchers.
With the theme Hiraya Tungo sa Bagong Umaga, the two-hour event was filled with warm stories and words of encouragement from the ates and kuyas of the program for their bunsos.
Hiraya—which is an ancient Filipino word for the fruit of one’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations—does not only apply to the hope these doctor-researchers bring to the future of healthcare in the country but to the scholars, as well, as the program opens a vast array of opportunities for them career-wise and even life-wise.Research Professor Jose Nevado, Jr. and the graduates of the program shared the avenues available to MD-PhD graduates. Other than the obvious medical and research tracks that the program promises, Dr. Nevado shares that MD-PhD graduates can also be catalysts of change as educators, administrators, politicians, entrepreneurs, or even a combination of some or all of these possibilities. However, he warns them that though they might be tempted to take on a lot once they realize what they are capable of once they finish the program, they should practice prudence. “Just be enough in order to still be capable of producing significant impact [to] society. Do not forget that at the end of the day, you should be a servant for humanity.”
Long and Tedious Journey
The MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine is an eight-year double doctorate degree program offered by UPMC and supported by DOST – PCHRD, and is the first and only one of its kind in the country. DOST currently monitors 94 scholars, 21 of which have already finished the program and are working in different sectors of society—a significantly small number compared to the country’s need for physician-scientists, especially now that the country is racing against the spread and further mutation of COVID-19.
Dr. Nevado shared that the Philippines is one of the countries with lowest number of experts in contrast with the population, which is why their work as physician-scientists need to be of greater impact. Many of the batches shared similar aches and pain points as they wrestled the program and the tools and tip they have kept in their own survival kits to cope with moments of self-doubt, frustration, and fatigue.
Knowing their ‘why’s and taking care of one’s self are two of the most resonant pieces of advice among the mentors and the scholars present during the summit. Also, despite the already rigorous nature of the program, the MD-PhD scholars remind their younger siblings to “never settle for less” and “find better ways to serve the Filipino people.”
Everyone who testified during the summit also assured their younger siblings in the scholarship that though they have a long and tedious road ahead, their journey will be a noble and fulfilling one, and that they will not be on the journey alone.
Welcome to the Family
“You have a community to guide and help you through this journey.” Dr. Montoya said, and this sentiment echoed throughout the summit.
Though the program is undeniably tough, the MD-PhD ates and kuyas chose to focus on the highs of their stay as MD-PhD students.
Many of the MD-PhD ates and kuyas fondly impart that other than the chances given to them by the program and their DOST scholarship to travel and enjoy, make significant contributions to the scientific community and society, and foster collaborations abroad, they were also able to find and form lasting friendships with their fellow MD-PhD scholars. Their batchmates, many of them shared, are their best support system during their eight-year MD-PhD journey. “Celebrate with your batchmates. Celebrate your batchmates.” Batch 11 advises Batch 12. “They will be your family in this long journey. The very people who know exactly what you’ve gone through.”
Mentors were also instrumental in providing direction and guidance to the scholars as they navigate the program. Dr. John Carlo Malabad and Dr. Sheriah Laine De Paz-Silva, graduates of the MD-PhD program, guaranteed that chances are, the mentors they gain during their tenure in the program, like Dr. Chiong, Dr. Gloriani, and Dr. Montoya, will continue to help and guide them even when they have finished the program.
“There will always be people who will be willing to help you.” Dr. Joy Vanessa Perez from Batch 2 told her younger siblings. “So don’t be afraid to ask.” Doors will be opened for opportunities also to collaborate with scientists whose studies they have once cited for their dissertations, Dr. Malabad said.
Better Brighter Future Despite the Challenges
Virtual platforms seem limiting but also gave way to opportunities, as Christian Luke Badua and Karol Ann Baldo from Batch 10 (wittily called the Sampuguitas) observed during their presentation on local research dissemination. Online means provided wider reach for researchers as they did away with the limits set by budget constraints for travel and accommodations for international fora and conference, albeit less organic.
The MD-PhD Summit clearly would have been merrier had all the batches and the mentors congregated face to face, but the meeting never lacked warmth, and good intentions translated beyond the screen through the efforts put together by the different batches to welcome their youngest.
Dr. Sharon Yvette Angelina Villanueva of the College of Public Health in UPM thanked the different batches for their “interesting contributions” to the program during her closing remarks. She also wished that the Summit helped and inspired everyone present, not just the younger batch, to never give up and look forward to hiraya: a brighter and better tomorrow.
The Philippine Council of Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST – PCHRD), in partnership with St. Luke’s Medical Center – College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM – WHQM),officially welcomed four new scholars into its MS in Molecular Medicine Program through a virtual Memorandum of Agreement signing event last 1 September, 2021.
The two-year program trains current medical practitioners and allied health professionals in applying microbiology in the clinical setting. MS in Molecular Medicine students are expected to learn about the latest biotechnologies, such as cell-based therapies, gene therapies, targeted therapies, biomarker technology, molecular diagnostics, pharmacogenomics, and personalized medicine, and with the DOST – PCHRD scholarship, the four scholars can also expect financial support for their academic and research endeavors, such as monthly stipends, attendance to international conventions, and publications to international journals.
The event was brief but meaningful for everyone involved.
SLMCCM – WHQM and DOST – PCHRD are beginning to see the fruits of their partnership, which began in 2018, as the first graduates of the program entered a time where their skills are truly sought after. “Without the seeds we have sown years ago, our country would be helpless against the enemy we are currently facing,” Dr. Jaime Montoya, Executive Director of DOST – PCHRD, said in his message.
Dr. Susan Pelea Nagtalon, the Dean of College of Medicine at St. Luke’s, however, acknowledges that there are only a few students in the program, but she promises that they are all focused and dedicated to finish the program. Quoting Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, Dr. Mark Pierre Dimamay, Director of the MS Molecular Medicine Program of SLMCCM – WHQM, echoed Dr. Pelea Nagtalon’s sentiment, but he assured the scholars that taking the road less travelled will not only make a difference in their lives but also the lives of others.
After the signing, Dr. Dimamay also encouraged the scholars to take the pandemic as a challenge and an opportunity to work on numerous projects and programs that will ultimately benefit the country.
The new MS in Molecular Medicine scholars are Raphael Joshua De Guzman, Celeste Aleena Fariñas, Patrick Ian Jacinto, and Liza Matuloy.
The Southeast Asia-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Research and Innovation (JFS) in cooperation with EURAXESS ASEAN is looking for researchers from Southeast Asia and Europe that are interested in presenting their laboratory at the Meet My Lab x JFS event on 8-9 September 2021.
What is this?
A virtual platform to give visibility and global exposure to your research team and the opportunity to identify research partners for collaborative projects funded under the JFS call.
Who should apply?
Researchers from a Southeast Asian or European country
Researchers working in a laboratory that is perfect for the realization of research projects
Researchers looking for partners from Southeast Asia and/or Europe to implement international research cooperation
How to apply?
Your video should be no longer than 03:00 minutes and should show all significant things that make your laboratory special (e.g. special equipment, facility etc.). You can use your smartphone or any other equipment to make your video.
Deadline for application: 31 August 2021 at 23:59 CEST
The 12th Batch of the MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine scholars signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the University of the Philippines – Manila College of Medicine (UP - Manila CM) and the Department of Science and Technology with the Philippine Council of Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) last 31 August, 2021. The MOA not only guarantees free tuition fees and other research and school related fees for the double doctorate scholars but also provides them assistance beyond the eight (8) year program, such as the Career Incentive Program and backing as they submit research to international peer-reviewed journals.
The MD-PhD Molecular Medicine program jointly offered by UP – Manila CM and DOST-PCHRD is the only one of its kind in the Philippines which combines clinical medicine and research disciplines. It was first offered in 2010 and has been nurturing hundreds of doctor-scientists ever since.
“Recognizing the vital role of research in patient care and finding clinical cures for diseases have always been a formidable combination. Neither field is more dominant, but one reinforces the other,” UP – Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla says of the program.
As of 2021, DOST-PCHRD has been monitoring 94 scholars, 21 of whom have already graduated, some even ahead of the program’s eight-year residency. Some of the graduates of the MD-PhD program already worked in labs and hospitals that directly deal with the COVID-19 virus as translational researchers or as part of COVID-19 testing and response teams.
All the dignitaries in the signing expressed their gratitude to the scholars for fearlessly pursuing the program, but equally stressed the need for more doctor-scientists in the country.
The Dean of UP – Manila CM, Dr. Charlotte Chiong shared that the Philippines used to donate vaccines to China in the early 20th century but now has to be at the mercy of vaccine manufacturers and be at the receiving end of vaccine producers. Still, she adds that to augment the country’s creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines, UP – Manila CM, with the help of DOST-PCHRD, is pursuing translational research programs that will prepare the University to respond and contribute to the country’s aspirations to revive its vaccine manufacturing and resiliency efforts.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Dr. Coraline Therese Dimacali, Associate Dean for Academic Development of the UP – Manila CM, acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has given MD-PhD students the privilege to practice their craft early and that they were able to contribute to the betterment of the country no matter how small. “But remember, to whom much is given, much is expected, and with great power comes great responsibility,” she reminds the bunsos of the double doctorate program.
Dean Chiong adds that the scholars are also expected to sally forth with a sense of patriotism. “Physician-scientists with nationalist fervor spell relevance to what our country direly needs to be able to accomplish what UP CM’s Lady Med embodies, and that is ‘Triumph over Death,’” Dean Chiong stated.
In keeping with the superhero reference, Dr. Montoya dubbed not only the new batch of future doctor-scientists but their ates and kuyas in the field ‘Mikrobyo Warriors’: an allusion to the nature of microbes as workers that remain unseen but are essential in sustaining every living being on the planet. But the Council communicated its willingness to take on the challenge to be more aggressive in making researchers and their work more visible so that they could inspire more people to become microbiologists and boost the country’s capabilities in responding to the country’s healthcare needs.
Pride and Joy
DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña was also present during the event.
It has been a long time since the Secretary de la Peña attended a MOA signing for the MD-PhD program. “The last one I attended was in 2014,” he confessed, and so attending the event was a happy moment for him. The Secretary was candid in welcoming the new batch. “I wish you all the best of luck as you pursue this daunting yet rewarding path in biomedical research IN THE NEXT EIGHT YEARS,” the Secretary stressed and chuckled. “Be ready to spend and be happy while you are in the MD-PhD program,” he said. However, before leaving the meeting, he did express his admiration for all the scholars who took on the challenge and that he boasts of the program whenever he could. “I am very proud of this program wherever I go, whether it is in the region, in ASEAN, the Asia Pacific, or in the international community. Let us create a name for the MD-PhD program of the Philippines, of the University of the Philippines – Manila, with the aid and support from the Department of Science and Technology.”
This year, the MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine program welcomed seven (7) aspiring doctor-scientists, namely: Mark Joseph Remucal from UP – Baguio; Renne Margarette Alcazar, Junelle Rey Bacong, Robbi Miguel Falcon, and Justin Guda from UP – Diliman; Charlene Divine Catral from UP – Manila; and Nhel John Capistrano from UP – Los Baños.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) commends the performance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its attached agencies for attaining its targets and major outputs despite the limitations brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Of the 19 DOST agencies, DBM lauded the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) for achieving all its performance indicators committed for 2020 with an accomplishment rate of 100% to 377%, and for attaining an almost 100% budget utilization rate.
“The government appreciates the efforts of DOST in delivering its commitments in terms of the performance indicators, particularly for being an active agency in curbing the effects of the virus through its scientific intervention in medicine as well as its promotion of a better-designed, well-prepared programs and projects for the agency,” said DBM Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda in a DBM summary report sent to DOST.
In 2020, the Council supported 36 research and development (R&D) projects implemented in response to COVID-19 and maintained its support to 138 ongoing research projects under its nine R&D priority areas, of which 22 have completed implementation in the said year. The Council also welcomed a total of 332 R&D research proposals, where 46 new projects were approved for funding and implementation.
In terms of capacity building, PCHRD has supported 53 MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine scholars in 2020, welcomed 12 new Balik Scientists, and approved 22 projects in addition to the 37 ongoing projects being supported under its Regional Research Fund Program. More so, the Council also provided important inputs to 17 legislations, filed 76 intellectual property applications, and co-organized 40 health-related webinars, among many of its information, communication, and technology transfer services.
“Our ultimate goal as the country’s lead coordinating body for health research has always been the same for the last three decades: to make life better for the Filipinos through health research-based solutions and innovations. We thank the DBM for recognizing our efforts to address the needs of our country’s health system amid major crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. We share this recognition with our Filipino researchers, partners, and stakeholders who strive to create research-based solutions to our pressing health needs,” said PCHRD Executive Director Jaime C. Montoya.
The DBM report also highlighted that DOST supported a total of 1,267 projects in 2020, out of its target of 954 projects, and all agencies surpassed their targets including PCHRD with 207 projects implemented under the Grants-In-Aid (GIA) program. DBM also reports that all DOST agencies posted “very impressive” obligation rates under their operations.
“I believe that we have accomplished much more than what the financial and physical performance indicators present. We have put in place pioneering and strategic programs that respond to national problems particularly the COVID-19 pandemic. Our interventions have long and enduring positive impacts on the economic development, poverty reduction, and social transformation as affirmed by our various clients and stakeholders,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña.
The physical performance is measured in terms of the outcome and output performance indicators committed in the Performance Informed Budget for FY 2020, while the financial performance is measured in terms of budget utilization rate both in obligation and disbursement and income performance.