Early Life and Education
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Fe del Mundo was born on November 27th, 2011 in Manila, Philippines. As the sixth child of eight children, she witnessed three of her siblings’ death in her childhood. When she was 11, one of her older sisters died of appendicitis, which motivated her to pursue a medical career to help the less fortunate.
She enrolled in the University of the Philippines at age 15 and began her medical studies. She graduated in 1933 with a medical degree and with the highest honors. 7 years later, she received a master’s degree in bacteriology from the Boston University School of Medicine. Although there are sources claiming that she was Harvard Medical School’s first female student, the university has stated it to be inaccurate. However, there is proof that she did complete a two-year research fellowship at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in 1941.
Returning to the Philippines
In 1941, Fe del Mundo returned to her home country to start caring for patients during World War 2. She joined the International Red Cross and cared for children at the University of Santo Tomas interment cap for foreign nationals. Within the camp, she became known as “The Angel of Santo Tomas”. However, the space was shut down by Japanese authorities in 1943. Del Mundo moved on to be head of a children’s hospital that was later turned into a full-care medical center to be known as North General Hospital; she remained as the director until 1948. She also served as the director of the Departmet of Pediatrics at Far Eastern University and led in many breakthroughs in research surrounding children care; many of her findings became commonly practiced methods worldwide. This includes the BRAT diet, which cures diarrhea. She is also credited in research that led to the invention of the incubator and a jaundice relieving device.
The Children’s Medical Center
In 1957, Fe del Mundo inaguruated the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines: this was a result of her frustration with the bureaucratic constraints of working for a government hospital. In 1966, the hospital expanded with the addition of Institute of Maternal and Child Health, the first of its kind in Asia.
Having sold her home to fund her hospital, del Mundo lived on the second floor of the hospital until her death. She constantly made her daily rounds around the hospital, even in later years when she was wheelchair-bound. She passed away at age 99 on August 6th, 2011 in Quezon City, Philippines.
Fe del Mundo’s incredible accomplishments are still remembered, years after her death. Her hospital, renamed the Fe Del Mundo Medical Center, is still open and treats thousands of patients, making medical care more accesible to low income families and children.
Sources: ThoughtCo, Hobart and William Smith Colleges