University of Philippines Manila

Palace confers the Order of National Scientist on Dr. Carmencita Padilla

BICUTAN, TAGUIG CITY – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. conferred the Order of National Scientist on Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, cited for her pioneering work as a world-renowned clinical geneticist, on newborn screening in the Philippines, and for the establishment of the Philippine Genome Center (PCG).

The ceremony was held on August 31, 2023, at the Malacañang Palace.

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, Philippines, 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 ten living National Scientists (NS).

Photo credits to Presidential Communications Office

Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla is recognized for her significant contribution 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 (RA 9288), Dr. Padilla has lobbied for another law, the Republic Act No. 10747 or the Rare Disease Act of 2016. She has 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 is the setting up of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC). It was established as a multidisciplinary institution that will combine 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 Executive Director of PGC, from 2011 to 2016, Dr. Padilla led the critical growth phases of the institution where it has played 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 Institute of Health (NIH); Cytogenetics Laboratory originally at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in 1991 and was moved to NIH in 1997; Newborn Screening center (1997); Molecular Genetics Laboratory (2001); Biochemistry Laboratory (2001); MicroArray Laboratory (2010); and the Hemoglobinopathy Laboratory (2014). These laboratories cater to patients of the PGH and from other hospitals in the country. 

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

Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla is the current Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Manila and a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) since 2008 as an Academician under the Health Sciences Division. 

The recommendation of Dr. Padilla to be conferred the Order of National Scientist was voted by the Academy during its meeting in May 2022. As an internationally recognized leader in the field of genetics, her achievements have brought honor and recognition not only to the Philippine scientific community but to the whole nation as well.

Overall, Dr. Padilla is the 43rd National Scientist, 10th from UP Manila, and 3rd UP Manila chancellor who became 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.

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