Ramon Magsaysay awardee tells PH medical community to never give up amid COVID-19 pandemic

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2022 09:34 PM

MANILA - 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Dr. Firdausi Qadri advised the Philippines medical practitioners to never give up when facing the challenges in their profession, including lack of support from their own government.

“Try, try again. If you fail, and try and try again,” she said during the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Lecture Series, which was streamed online on Thursday.

Since the pandemic, local Filipino scientists have expressed dismay over the little support they received from the government to fund their research, which could have benefitted their communities or the country.

Speaking based on her experience working in Bangladesh, Qadri said that the government may just have too much on its plate.

“What is happening is the government, the policy-makers have so many problems. So many things they have to worry about and they have to worry about how it is reflected on the press. You have to keep on trying because vaccine studies, supposedly COVID-19 vaccine studies have been difficult,” the Ramon Magsaysay awardee said.

When University of the Philippines-Manila Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Director Dr. Edsel Salvana asked how she asserted herself to get resources and cooperation with international partners, Qadri said she connected with like-minded scientists.

“I was lucky because I was with the (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh) which gives me the advantages," she said. "I had opportunities to meet colleagues abroad who had some interest in cholera in the lab, and we started working together. Those were the important things -- USA, Sweden that led to the support I got in the lab." 

“We started looking looking at real patients not only at animal models, what it does to the patient, what it does to the household context. And so this has resulted in so much good work and turned two things -- it has given people in the labs outside Bangladesh a lot of encouragement, research materials and skills which has given my team in Bangladesh the skills they could only have gotten if they are living abroad." 

Qadri was awarded for her intensive research related to communicable diseases, vaccines, immunology, vaccine development and clinical trials.

In 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed her as a member of the High-level Advisory Panel to “advise on the organizational and operational aspects of the proposed Technology Bank and Science, Technology Innovation Supporting Mechanism” for the least developed countries.

Qadri's work on cholera and typhoid fever research over the years in Bangladesh has been credited with saving millions of lives. She is currently working on COVID-19 research, including COVID genomics and monitoring of circulating variants in Bangladesh.

She earned praise from some personalities who attended the virtual lecture, including Dr. Tricia Robredo, the daughter of Vice President and Presidential aspirant Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo.

“I have outmost respect for scientists like Dr. Qadri, who immerse themselves in the field to develop solutions for communities to benefit from," she said. "This is a very timely reminder especially for young doctors like myself to go out of our bubble, beyond the goal of contributing to intellectual conversations and to really strive to align our work with what the society needs most today." 

Qadri attributed her success to her team and all those who helped her, and even admitted that despite the recognitions she received, she still has her share of frustrations.

“I have many frustrations. There is still a lot to do, I have not finished my job. I have to go to the cholera endgame and typhoid endgame. I don’t know how much we will succeed," she said. "But there is a problem for policy-makers to understand because they have a big ball of things they have to do, and you come here with a little thing that you have to do. And to them that problem may not be that big so you have to convince them with hard data, articulate. You also have to have funding to support their work because governments in our countries do not have funding.”