Keeping the Flame Alive

From left to right: Ms. Tylette Moreno (PSHS NAA), DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Pena, 2018 Gawad Lagablab Awardees: Dr. Jose Christopher Mendoza, Dr. Leonila dela Fuente-Dans, Dr. Malaya Pimentel-Santos, Dr Heidi Sampang-Abiad, Mr. Cesar Octavius V. Parlade, Ms. Lyra R. Verzosa, Ms. Lilia Habacon (PSHS System Executive Director), Mr. Jan-Michael Espino (PSHS NAA) (Photo credit: Christian King Saavedra)


Dr. Malaya Santos

Dr. Malaya Pimentel-Santos is a long-time community health advocate, having worked with several non-government health organizations. She is a fellow of the Philippine Dermatological Society and a professor of microbiology at the St. Luke’s College of Medicine.

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(Acceptance speech of Dr. Malaya Santos during the 9th PSHSNAA Gawad Lagablab Awards delivered on August 29, 2018)

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Philippine Science High School System Executive Director Ms. Lilia Habacon, Philippine Science High School National Alumni AssociationChairman Mr. Jan-Michael Espino, fellow PSHS alumni, friends and guests, a pleasant evening to all.

It is a bit surreal to be here today. Last night I was stressing out over – of all things – what to wear. Thank you, Heidi Sampang- Abiad and Gina Santiago-Eubanas for soothing my nerves and for helping me remember that tonight is not about me, but about the work that we have accomplished collectively.

I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude to the Philippine Science High School National Alumni Association for granting me this distinction. I am honored and also humbled to be among alumni peers, mentors and role models whom I greatly admire and respect. Needless to say, I did not make the journey here alone, and I share this recognition with all those who have guided and supported me in my journey.

With the exception of my graduate studies in the United States, I am proud to be a product of the public education system of the Philippines, from elementary school to University of the Philippines (UP) Collegeof Medicine and Philippine General Hospital, and even now that I am back in school in the Master’s of Distance Education program of the UP Open University. Yes, I have embraced lifelong learning and I count myself fortunate to have been inspired by great educators at some of the very best institutions.I will always be grateful for my Pisay* education because it opened the doors forall the other opportunities that appeared, often serendipitously, along the way.

Much of my work has been at the convergence of medical education, public health, and research. Family influence and Igorot heritage (I am proudly Ibaloi and Kankana-ey) have played a big part in guiding my journey.

I thank Drs. Francesca Gajete and Ernesto Villalon, Ms. Christine Fajardo and the Leprosy Task Force and LEARNS team, for introducing me, a self-professed technophobe, to the vast potentials of digital health. Thank you also for teaching me the value of partnership, collaboration, communication, innovation, aand stakeholder engagement in ensuring that neglected diseases such as leprosy remain part of our broader health agenda.

I thank Deans Susan Pelea Nagtalon and Brigido Carandang,and the Adminstrators of the St. Luke’s College of Medicine, for placing their trust in me and for giving me the freedom to use my subject – microbiology and parasitology – as a platform to highlight the preventive, promotive aspects of health and the influence of inequity and the social determinants on health outcomes.

Guided by the vision of health access for all – as declared in Alma Ata four decades ago – I have traveled to many areas of the country where geography, poverty, discrimination and exploitation remain as major barriers to health access and progress. I continue to be strengthened and inspired not only by hardship and misery, but also by stories of resilience, dedication and hope. Good health is considered a prerequisite for productivity, prosperity and social stability. Efforts to improve health must go hand in hand with programs to alleviate poverty and socioeconomic inequity.

I have taken the road less travelled, marched to the beat of a different drum, and the journey was not always easy. I am eternally grateful for the support of the people around me: Tatay Gilbert and everyone in my big family, who all pitched in when times were difficult and resources were scarce. I thank Mike, my partner in life and my children Kyla and Joey who all engage with me in philosophical discussions and willingly serve as a springboard to bounce around my many wild ideas. And I thank my Pisay batchmates and friends: Mylene Ledda-Macalood, Joanne de Ramos, Ann Natividad-Visda and EJ Baranda for this nomination. Finally, I dedicate this to the memory of our dear batchmate, Sherman Tenorio.

I am here now because of the work that I do and love, and that helps bring meaning to my life. And I am here because of the people I love, who have indulged and supported me and my million dreams about dragons and building a better world, and most of all, world peace. I humbly share this honor with all of you. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.

*Pisay – Philippine Science High School

The Philippine Science High School National Alumni Association (PSHS NAA) has been celebrating the Gawad Lagablab Awards since 1991. Excellence in academic performance, exceptional achievement in their chosen field of endeavour, and exemplary service to our community and our nation are the main criteria for the selection. The 2018 PSHS NAA Gawad Lagablab Awardees are: Heidi Sampang-Abiad, MD, MSGH (Social Upliftment), Leonila dela Fuente-Dans, MD, MSc (Medicine), Jose Christopher Mendoza, PhD (Scientific Research), Cesar Octavius V. Parlade (Government Service), Lyra R. Verzosa (Social Upliftment), Malaya Pimentel-Santos, MD, MPH (Medicine).

Oct 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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