Author: Rachel Fernandes
Fe Del Mundo dedicated her life to improving healthcare for disadvantaged communities. Her story is one of resilience, creativity, and determination to make a difference in the world.
Del Mundo was born in Manila in 1911 into a large and loving family. Tragedy struck early when three of her siblings died in infancy, and her older sister passed away from appendicitis at just 11 years old. This loss, coupled with her sister's desire to become a doctor for the poor, inspired Del Mundo to pursue a career in medicine.
After studying in the United States, Del Mundo returned to the Philippines during the Japanese occupation and joined the International Red Cross. She volunteered for children at the University of Santo Tomas internment camp, where she established a makeshift hospice. Her dedication to the children earned her the nickname "Angel of Santo Tomas."
However, the Japanese eventually shut down the hospice, prompting then-Manila Mayor Leon Guinto to ask Del Mundo to set up a government hospital. She became the director until 1948 when she left due to the red tape involved in working for the government. She then started her own private hospital, which focused on children's needs, known as The Children's Medical Centre in Quezon City, the Philippines' first paediatric hospital.
Del Mundo did not let inadequate resources stop her from bringing medical care to rural communities. Due to the absence of electricity in many rural areas, life-saving technology was often out of reach. Del Mundo designed a bamboo incubator, composed of two bamboo laundry baskets, one inside the other. Hot water bottles regulated the body temperature of babies, while a cloth-suspended scale weighed them. As needed, she also attached oxygen for the babies.
Del Mundo's innovative work saw her receive numerous awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1977. A woman of many firsts, in 1980 she became the Philippines' first female National Scientist for her distinguished work in Paediatrics.
Del Mundo sold her home to finance the medical centre, choosing to reside on the second floor of the hospital itself. Even in her later years, when she was wheelchair-bound, Del Mundo continued to make her daily rounds. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 99 in Quezon City, Philippines.
Del Mundo's accomplishments are still remembered years after her death. The hospital she founded is still open and now bears her name, the Fe Del Mundo Medical Centre. Her story serves as an inspiration to countless individuals, especially women in medicine, who continue to follow in her footsteps of innovation, service, and dedication to improving healthcare for all.