This past week, we saw a swarm of Filipinos raiding the Facebook page of Harvard University, occupying the comments section and acting like they actually attended the Ivy League school. We pretended to have attended classes, hung out on campus grounds, and even responded to actual Harvard students in some of the school’s Facebook posts:
But do you know who actually went to Harvard University and probably did all of those things we imagined we did?
Fe del Mundo. Yup, that Fe del Mundo.
And not only did she attend Harvard Medical School in Boston to undertake a two-year research fellowship, but she was also both the first Asian AND the first female to do so.
Born in Intramuros, Manila in 1911, Fe del Mundo graduated at the top of her medical class in UP Manila in 1933 and would etch a legacy as a pioneer in the field of pediatrics. She entered Harvard Medical School’s pediatric program as the first and only Philippine woman, only 2 years after Harvard started accepting female students.
Del Mundo made history in more ways here in the Philippines than abroad, too. From 1945 to 1948, she served as the founder and first director of the North General Hospital, thereby being the first woman to head a government hospital. She was also the founder and the inaugural president of both the Philippine Medical Women’s Association from 1949 to 1954, and the Philippine Pediatric Society, where she served three terms as president from 1951 to 1953.
We can go on all day about her accolades. In 1957, she founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, the Children’s Medical Center (yes, the one along Agham Road and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City).
Del Mundo was also the first Asian elected president of the Medical Women’s International Association from 1962 to 1966, as well as the first woman to be elected president of the Philippine Medical Association in its 65-year history, serving from 1969 to 1970.
Lastly, she founded and served as the first president of the Maternal and Child Health Association of the Philippines from 1972 to 1977.
For her revolutionary work in pediatrics and infectious diseases as well as her humanitarian vocation which spanned eight decades, she was bestowed the prestigious Elizabeth Blackwell Award, presented to internationally acclaimed women doctors, in Geneva, New York in 1966; was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1977; and of course, she was conferred the rank and title of National Scientists of the Philippines, making her the first woman to receive the honor, in 1980.
She passed away in August 2011, years before Facebook was a thing, and before we poked fun at Harvard’s online page as a nation. However, if she did manage to catch up to our trolling and posted her Harvard memories herself, we bet we’d back off our keyboards quicker than we can say, “sana all.”