The Philippine General Hospital was first established in 1910 as a teaching hospital designed to serve underprivileged Filipinos. In 1914, the Secretary of Interior Dean C. Worchester formally linked PGH with the UP College of Medicine. In tune with increasing medical knowledge, the Department of Medicine has branched off into several subspecialties designed to better serve the increasingly complex needs of the people. And one of the emerging needs then was a section dedicated to the specialized care and welfare of neuropsychiatric patients.
The Establishment of a Partnership
The Section of Neuropsychiatry was established under the Department of Medicine in order to provide service in this growing subspecialty. Dr. Romeo Apostol, upon his return from his Neurology training in the United States in 1954 headed the Section of Neuropsychiatry. The Section was envisioned to train and update medical students in the burgeoning field of Neuropsychiatry.
A Rich Heritage from Neurosurgery
Origins of the Neurosciences in the Philippines date back to as early as the 1920’s when Dr. Jose Abuel, a general surgeon, performed craniotomies on head-injured patients as life-saving measures. In 1939, Dr. Friedman, a refugee from Vienna, came to the Philippines to teach neurology. Dr Mariano Limson took over a year later. He was the first Filipino to teach neuroanatomy, neurology, and psychiatry. He taught up to 1956, assisted by Dr. Leopoldo Pardo, Sr., the first trained psychiatrist in the Philippines. During that same period, Dr. Andres T. Zavalla who went to Baltimore for formal training in neurosurgery returned to the Philippines to share his skills in pneumoventriculography and neurosurgery. His work served as an inspiration for Dr. Victor A. Reyes who began his career in neurosurgery in the post-war period. After his training at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts under Dr. Gilbert Horrax, the protégé of Harvey Cushing, Dr. Reyes made his way back to the Philippine General Hospital in the early 1950s to become the “Brain Man” in his homeland and the first chief of the newly formed Section of Neurosurgery. By 1959, Dr. Faustino Domingo graduated as the first locally trained neurosurgeon.
Neurology Becomes a Section
In 1960, the administration recognized the special needs of Neurologic and Psychiatric patients. Ward 21 was assigned as the Neuropsychiatry ward with 30 beds allotted to primarily neurologic and psychiatric patients.
In 1961, Dr. Teresita Elizan, a graduate of the UP College of Medicine returned after finishing her Neurology Training in the United States, to assume the position of Section Head after the death of Dr. Apostol. She was succeeded after a year by Dr. Marina Mendoza, also an alumnus of the UP College of Medicine. The thrust of the Section then was to strengthen the undergraduate course and update the students and residents on the advances in the fields of Neurology and Psychiatry.
By 1964, it became evident that the needs of psychiatric patients differed from that of neurological patients. Psychiatry became an independent Department with Neurology remaining as a Section in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Martesio Perez became the first Chief of Section of the Section of Neurology.
Finally, efforts towards departmentalization bore fruit, and the blessings of the mother unit, the Department of Medicine was given. The Department of Neurosciences was created via a resolution of the Board of Regents of the University on the 30th day of September, 1999.
The creation of the Department of Neurosciences was a dream realized because it united different but related subspecialties to provide optimal care to neurologic patients. The Department of Neurosciences included the Section of Neurology, Section of Pediatric Neurology and Section of Neurosurgery. It also integrated and took under its wing the undergraduate and graduate neurosciences.
Today a fully integrated Neuroscience curriculum is already being implemented involving the different Neuroscience disciplines in accordance with the problem-based learning that is being advocated by the UP College of Medicine. This curriculum has already been picked up by the Dean’s office to serve as a model in its thrust for the integration of other medical courses.
Dr. Martesio Perez retired in 2000 and he was succeeded by Dr. Aida M. Salonga. She continued with great fervor the beginnings of Dr. Perez and united the staff of all the sections into coming up with a proposal and application for a foreign grant to establish the Philippine Neuroscience Center.
The Burning Lamp
The Section of Neurology began with a noble purpose and the daunting task of bringing excellent neurological care for the underprivileged. It exists today not only as an integral part of a hospital dedicated to service, but an integral part of an institution with a vision to attain excellence and relevance in the field of Neurosciences; with graduates capable of being leaders and innovators in their own community.
Realization of Plans
The year 2000 saw the inauguration of the new Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (beside the Central ICU). It is a 4-bed unit equipped with pulse oximeters, cardiac monitors and ventilators for each bed. Ideally designed for 10-bed capacity, the department had to make do with 4 beds while the administration is sourcing out funding for the additional personnel needed to staff the Neuroscience ICU.
In 2001, the Department inaugurated the Center for Memory and Cognition Clinic housed within the Neurophysiology Lab. This was made possible through a generous grant from Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. The clinic is currently operating with 3 consultant staff, 2 psychologists and a senior neurology resident as the dementia rotator.
In 2003, the Diosdado Macapagal Stroke Center was likewise inaugurated. This was a multidisciplinary stroke center created in the fulfillment of the mission of the Department of Neurosciences thru the generous grant of the Lualhati Foundation of the office of the First Gentleman, Hon. Atty. Jose Miguel T. Arroyo. In the same year, a Comprehensive Epilepsy and Sleep Disorders Unit was created with the help of the Blue Sky Trading Inc.
The Section of Neurosurgery was completely integrated into the Department of Neurosciences in 2003. All the consultants, residents and nursing complement staff were organizationally transferred from the Department of Surgery to the Department of Neurosciences.
Since its departmentalization, new specialists have joined the consultant staff – Dr. Epifania Collantes (neurointensivist), Dr. Conrad Nievera (adult epileptologist), Dr. Peter Rivera (neurointerventionist), Dr. Benilda Sanchez (pediatric epileptologist) and Dr. Cristina San Jose (stroke specialist).
Drs. Aida Salonga, Willy Lopez and Philip Ramiro succeeded Dr. Perez and continued with fervor the work that he started. Recently, Dr. Carlos Chua was appointed as Chair of the Department of Neurosciences. Ten years from its birth, the department continues to produce graduates who are successful in their practice, involved in socio-civic activities in their communities and have held key positions in various institutions, as well as local and national organizations.