Ideas should be given a chance to be proven in the context of science and research – UP Manila Chancellor

Thank you, PCHRD, for supporting an idea in 1996.”

University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) Chancellor Carmencita Padilla highlighted the importance of believing in research ideas by citing her work on newborn screening in 1996, during her keynote message for the 40th anniversary of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) last March 17, 2022.

In 1996, my mentor, Dr. Carmelita Domingo, and I initiated the newborn screening project in 24 hospitals,” she recalled. “This entails getting a few drops of blood from the heel of a newborn to run tests to diagnose certain conditions that can be treated immediately to save the baby from mental retardation and death.”

Needing to cover 18 private and six government hospitals for an adequate sample size, Dr. Padilla shared how they worked to secure funding for the project from the DOST-PCHRD and UPM. She shared how the support from both institutions paved the way for the research project which became the basis for the National Comprehensive Newborn Screening Program, which is now supported by Republic Act 9288 or the Newborn Screening Act of 2004.

She explained how the project started as Dr. Domingo’s vision. “For 17 years, (she) was trying to get funding. She learned about newborn screening in the US when she was doing her pediatric residency program. That was in the 60s. She wanted the country to join the world in getting it adopted as a national policy.”

Relative to this, she addressed funding agencies to emphasize how important it is to believe in ideas, whether big or small. “Big things come from small ideas. And no matter how small an idea is, they should be given a chance to be proven in the context of science and research.”

If PCHRD did not give me that half a million (of funding support), and just depended on the private sector for the numbers needed for a national recommendation, then maybe, we still do not have a national newborn screening program.”

Compared to when it started, the program was able to significantly expand its coverage, which now screens for 29 conditions and is implemented by more than 7000 facilities in the country.  (Newborn Screening Program | Department of Health website) Dr. Padilla proudly reported that through the years, “the program has saved thousands of newborns from mental retardation and death.”

In completing research projects, she reminded researchers to keep the greater good in mind and to bring their research output to the people. She also emphasized how the future for health research is a shared responsibility: “With government funding and the academe for a nurturing environment, and the researchers for the continuous supply of new solutions for the old and new issues of the country.”

My fellow researchers, I have enjoyed my research journey. Do enjoy your journey,” she concluded.

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