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Marking 114 years of the Philippine Medical Association

/ 05:10 AM September 15, 2017

Sept. 15 marks the Philippine Medical Association’s (PMA) 114th anniversary. As an organization, it carried on its mission and vision successfully without fanfare since it is not a political entity. However, because of its rich legacy that benefited the country and its people, it is a mark of civility to appreciate the history of its origin and continued service to the nation.

When Adm. George Dewey of the US Navy annihilated the Spanish fleet moored in Manila Bay under Adm. Patricio Montojo, the Philippines became the battle group of the Spanish-American War. After its conclusion, the Americans led by Gen. Arthur MacArthur, engaged and defeated the resisting Philippine forces under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and set up a military government in Manila. As soon as peace was restored, the US Congress recalled MacArthur and replaced him with Gov. William H. Taft who set up a civilian government. Being a humanitarian, Taft viewed with dismay the country ravished by war and a people living in poverty, illness and malnutrition in an environment of poor hygiene and sanitation.

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He convinced the US Congress to subsidize the health bill needed to address the aforementioned health problems. One condition, however, was imposed. Taft was to form a medical society through which health funds were to be channeled. The governor lost no time in assembling American doctors, doctors in the Colegio Medico Farmaceutico de Filipinas and local medical practitioners, and founded the Manila Medical Society in 1902. However, the US Congress insisted on endorsing medical aid funds through a national medical association impelling Taft to summon physicians practicing in Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan and other provinces and founded the Philippine Island Medical Association on Sept. 15, 1903.

Substantial funds of the PMA enabled the association to organize doctors into a national force
addressing problems of hygiene and sanitation, malnutrition, tuberculosis, typhoid and other infectious maladies. Physician-politicians in Congress gained power and influence enabling the PMA to succeed in obtaining funds to generate projects with enormous benefit to the healthcare of the country including establishing the Philippine Medical School which was the forerunner of the UP College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital.

The PMA maintains a membership of 80,000 out of a total Filipino medical force of 150,000 most of whom are practicing in the United States. The association continues to serve the country and its people with integrity and competence of global quality.

SANTIAGO A. DEL ROSARIO, MD, former president, Philippine Medical Association

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