University of Philippines Manila

Dr. Carmencita Padilla conferred the Order of National Scientist for pioneering and exemplary work in clinical genetics and newborn screening

Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, pediatrician and chancellor of UP Manila, was conferred the Order of National Scientist by Pres. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for her pioneering work as a world-renowned clinical geneticist, for her contributions to newborn screening in the Philippines, and for the establishment of the Philippine Genome Center (PCG).

The ceremony held on August 31, 2023 at the Malacañan Palace was witnessed by her family, co-workers, and colleagues in the health and academic community.

Dr. Padilla is recognized for her significant contributions to the field of clinical genetics in the Philippines. Her notable studies were conducted on the prevalence and cost-benefits analysis of a national program for newborn screening to prevent mental retardation and death from certain congenital disorders detectable at birth.

This research provided the basis for the enactment of Republic Act No. 9288 or the Newborn Screening Act of 2004. To date, newborn screening is being implemented in 7,400+ health facilities in the Philippines and has saved babies from mental retardation and death.

To complement the Newborn Screening Act of 2004, Dr. Padilla lobbied for another law, the Republic Act No. 10747 or the Rare Disease Act of 2016. She assisted the Department of Health (DOH) in preparing the Integrated Road Map for Rare Diseases for 2022-2026.

In the field of genomics, her most recent contribution was the setting up of the PGC as a multidisciplinary institution that combines basic and applied research for the development of health diagnostics, therapeutics, DNA forensics, preventive products, and the improvement of crop varieties in the country. As the PGC Executive Director from 2011 to 2016, Dr. Padilla led the critical growth phases of the institution with the PGC playing a major role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Padilla led the establishment of various medical and laboratory facilities such as Genetic Laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Cytogenetics Laboratory originally at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in 1991 and was moved to the NIH in 1997, Newborn Screening Center (1997), Molecular Genetics Laboratory (2001), Biochemistry Laboratory (2001), MicroArray Laboratory (2010), and Hemoglobinopathy Laboratory (2014). These laboratories cater to patients of the PGH and of other hospitals in the country.

She obtained her B.S. Pre-medicine, cum laude, at the University of the Philippines Diliman (1976); Doctor of Medicine at the UP Manila (1981); Fellowship in Clinical Genetics at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Sydney, Australia (1990); and MA in Health Policy Studies at the UP Manila College of Public Health (2005).

The Order of National Scientist Award (Orden ng Gawad ng Pambansang Alagad ng Agham) is the highest national recognition given to a man or woman of science in the Philippines administered by the National Academy of Science and Technology and conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation of the Academy. Executive Order No. 236 dated September 19, 2003, otherwise known as the Honors Code of the Philippines, emphasizes the exceptional prestige of the Order by placing it fourth in the order of precedence and equal in rank with the Order of National Artist.

At present, there are only 10 living National Scientists, Dr. Padilla among them. She is the 43rd, the 10th from UP Manila, and the 3rd UP Manila chancellor to be conferred as National Scientist. She is the first National Scientist with expertise in the field of medical genetics and the only living female National Scientist in the health sciences.

(Cynthia M. Villamor with reports from the NAST website)

fb twitter