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Google Doodle honors Fe Del Mundo, pioneering Filipina pediatrician

She was inspired to study medicine after the death of an older sister, who herself had wanted to be a doctor.

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Google Doodle honors Fe Del Mundo, who established the Philippines' first pediatric hospital.

Google

Fe Del Mundo was the first woman admitted to the Harvard Medical School, but it's her pioneering work in pediatrics in the Philippines for which she's best known.

Del Mundo, who was born 107 years ago Tuesday, founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines in 1957. To honor her eight decades of active medical practice, Google dedicated its Doodle on Tuesday to Del Mundo.

Born in Manila in 1911, Del Mundo had seven siblings, but three of them didn't survive infancy, and an older sister died of appendicitis at the age of 11. The death of this sister, who didn't realize her own dream of becoming a doctor, inspired Del Mundo to study medicine and ultimately devote her life to child health care.

Del Mundo began her medical education in 1936 after Harvard Medical School unwittingly enrolled her into what was then still an all-male student body, nine years before Harvard Medical School began accepting female students. She remained at Harvard until 1938, completing three pediatric courses before leaving for a residency at the University of Chicago and a research fellowship at the Harvard Medical School Children's Hospital.

After earning a master's degree in bacteriology in 1940, Del Mundo returned to the Philippines shortly before the Japanese invasion of the country during World War II. She established a makeshift clinic for child internees at a camp created for foreign nationals -- an effort that led to her being dubbed "The Angel of Santo Tomas."

"I'm glad that I have been very much involved in the care of children, and that I have been relevant to them," Del Mundo said in 2007. "They are the most outstanding feature in my life."

Del Mundo sold her home and much of her personal property to establish her own pediatric hospital after she became frustrated by the bureaucratic constraints of working in a government hospital. After selling her home, Del Mundo chose to live on the second floor of her Children's Medical Center, a 100-bed hospital inaugurated in Quezon City in 1957.

In addition to treating patients, Del Mundo did pioneering work on infectious diseases in Philippine communities and authored the Textbook of Pediatrics, as well as hundreds of articles and medical reports on diseases such as dengue, polio and measles.

Del Mundo continued to make daily rounds well into her late 90s, when she was using a wheelchair. She died of a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 99.

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