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‘Perla Dizon Santos-Ocampo leaves behind a legacy of dedication and service to her patients, her profession, her University, and her country.’
Professor Emeritus and National Scientist Perla Dizon Santos-Ocampo passed away on June 29 after more than half a century of service to Filipino children as doctor, scientist, and teacher. Dr. Santos-Ocampo, Perla to colleagues or PSO to many of her admiring disciples, spent most of her career at the University of the Philippines rising from the ranks of the faculty to become Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and, later, Chancellor of UP Manila.
As pediatrician, she took care of children, from birth to adulthood, of the rich who came to her private hospital clinics as well as of the poor who crowded public hospitals like the Philippine General Hospital. She was a leader in child health and development nationally and internationally.
Professor Santos-Ocampo, the scientist, also participated in numerous research projects in the area of child nutrition and the development of innovative interventions for common problems of childhood. Her most lasting contribution was when, as President of the Philippine Pediatric Society, she organized the broad-based intensive research and development effort that eventually convinced clinical pediatricians to use oral rehydration as the primary mode for the treatment of dehydration in child diarrhea patients. Today the treatment standard, oral rehydration is credited with reducing diarrhea deaths by more than 80 percent.
Dr. Santos-Ocampo, the medical educator, transmitted her love of learning and respect for human life to legions of students at the University where she herself learned the art and practice of medicine as a member of the UP Medicine Class of 1954. At graduate level, she was a main driving force in the formation of pediatric specialists through the residency-training programs at the Philippine General Hospital and the private hospitals with which she was affiliated.
Perla Dizon Santos-Ocampo, the pediatrician, is survived by her husband, anesthesiologist Carlomagno Santos-Ocampo and their three children who all followed in their medical footsteps. She leaves behind a legacy of dedication and service to her patients, her profession, her University, and her country.
Two recent events support the notion that the American political system – mirrored by the one imposed on the Philippines – may have some saving graces. The first occurred in the Philippine Senate last month when 20 Filipino Senators voted to remove the sitting Chief Justice through the constitutional process of impeachment. This action demonstrated that under our adopted system of government, wrongdoers can be called to account irrespective of their lofty positions – in this case, an individual who ranks fifth in the line of succession to the highest post of the land.
In the country where thirteen British colonies decided to declare their independence and adopted a republican system of liberal democracy, the United States Supreme Court last week upheld legislation (known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare) designed to ensure that all Americans have adequate health care insurance throughout their entire life cycles. Restricting the power of private insurance companies to maximize profits by limiting health insurance benefits, the law has the potential to rationalize a health system that is among the most unjustly inequitable in the developed world through regulatory containment of costs, the provision of government supported alternatives to health care financing, and prohibition of cherry-picking of beneficiaries through “pre-existing condition” clauses.
While the US Supreme Court’s decision may be seen as bi-partisan – the deciding vote being cast by the Bush-appointed Chief Justice – it may not necessarily mean that America will convert from a self-centered society that values individual gain as a high virtue to a socially-just society that values care for others as a collective obligation. The closeness of the judicial decision and the deep division among Americans on this issue indicates that conservatives will continue to try to erode universal health care in coming political battles beginning with the November presidential elections in which the Republican candidate has vowed to repeal Obamacare.
As the Wall Street Journal put it in an article published over the weekend: “Employers, insurers, hospitals, drug makers and others are angling for an advantage as the government writes the regulations and sets the policies that will bring the law to life. Hospital owners want the government to reduce the $155 billion in health-care payment cuts they agreed to during negotiations over the law. Makers of medical devices hope to roll back a 2.3% tax on their sales contained in the measure. Insurance companies want more leeway to charge older people higher rates than younger ones. Drug makers are aiming at a provision that could squeeze how much Medicare pays for medicine.”
While the American health care system continues to struggle with the containment of greed among health care providers, the Philippines health services have to contend with the same issue in an environment of much more severely restricted resources. Nevertheless, the changes that are about to take place in our “big brother’s” backyard should be a source of encouragement to health advocates who are promoting a Philippine version of Universal Health Care.
When Congress opens at the end of this month, legislators will have a chance to show whether Filipino society can be caring enough to sacrifice the short term concerns of a dominant few for the long-term benefit of the many who have suffered inadequate health care services for too long. In particular, two controversial pieces of legislation are waiting to be enacted – the Reproductive Health Bill and the Sin Tax Law, both aiming to improve life chances of Filipino men, women, and children who happen to be poor.