Who Was Fe del Mundo? Facts and Quotes About the Pediatrician And First Woman Admitted to Harvard Medical School

Fe del mundo
The latest Google Doodle honors the 109th birthday of Dr. Fe del Mundo, a Filipino pediatrician who was Harvard Medical School's first female student. Google Doodle

The latest Google Doodle, released on Tuesday, pays homage to Dr. Fe del Mundo, a Filipino pediatrician who was the first female student to be accepted into Harvard Medical School.

Known as "The Angel of Santo Tomas," del Mundo specialized in children's medicine and founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, in addition to being named as the country's first national scientist in 1980.

The intrepid doctor has also been credited with making the breakthrough that led to the invention of the first incubator and jaundice-relieving device, according to Philippine newspaper The Philippine Star.

Born in Manila on November 27, 1911, del Mundo was part of a family of eight children.

Tragically, three of her siblings died in infancy and del Mundo also lost her elder sister, who was 11 at the time, to appendicitis.

It was the death of her older sibling, who had hoped to pursue a career in medicine herself, that inspired del Mundo to dedicate her life to child healthcare.

Speaking about her career paving the way in pediatric medicine, del Mundo once said: "I'm glad that I have been very much involved in the care of children, and that I have been relevant to them.

"They are the most outstanding feature in my life," she said of the many children she helped.

Del Mundo's career in medicine began after she attended the University of the Philippines' medical school, graduating as valedictorian in 1933, according to the Star.

In 1936, she became the first woman to be accepted into Harvard Medical School, receiving a scholarship to attend the prestigious school.

In 1941, the doctor returned home to Manila where she organized a hospice during World War II. The next year she persuaded the Japanese to allow her to start a children's home where she and others could oversee the care of dozens of children.

She later went on to launch the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines in 1964, selling her own house to finance the Quezon City Children's Medical Center which is now known as the Fe del Mundo Medical Center.

Dedicated to the care of children until her last days, del Mundo lived on the second floor of the then-Children's Medical Center and continued to make rounds in the hospital until she was 99-years-old, visiting children in her wheelchair when she could no longer walk, according to the Star.

She died in 2011 at the age of 99 after suffering cardiac arrest, passing away just a few months before her 100th birthday.

"She is a big loss to the Philippines," Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, the former director of the Department of Health's (DOH) National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told the Star at the time.

"We consider her as the Mother of Philippine Pediatrics and a very great scientist," Oliveros said. "In fact, if I'm not mistaken, she is the one who invented the incubator for Philippine setting," she noted.

The pediatrician's nephew and former DOH Undersecretary Dr. Jade del Mundo remembered her as a "caring and loving auntie."

"She was a very caring and loving auntie," he told the newspaper. "When we were confined in hospital for dengue, she personally attended to us."

In the Google Doodle honoring her life on what would be her 107th birthday, del Mundo is portrayed as doing the work she dedicated her life to: Taking care of a young child, with stethoscope in hand.

This story was updated with additional background.