MANILA — With better pay and institutional support on the table, working on and pursuing research studies abroad have become an option for Filipino scientists.
To address the so-called “brain drain,” the Philippines has been offering incentives for Filipino scientists to return and perhaps consider staying in the country. This is meant to promote knowledge-sharing and to help strengthen the country’s academe, public, and private institutions.
The Department of Science and Technology’s “Balik Scientist” program was only institutionalized as a law in 2018 but it was established as early as 1975.
Since 2007, the program has paved the way for the return of more than 200 Balik Scientists. While many stay for only a few months, there are some who decided to permanently live in the Philippines.
Here are some of them who are in the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19:
Dr. Joseph Adrian Buensalido
A graduate of the De La Salle University Health Sciences Institute, Buensalido pursued clinical research on the “mechanisms of action of antibacterials, antibiotic resistance, hepatitis, HIV, and infections of the spine, among others” after his fellowship at the Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center in Michigan, United States.
He is currently an infectious diseases and internal medicine consultant at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Makati America Center, Manila Doctors Hospital. He also conducted research studies with the University of the Philippines, Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
Dr. Doralyn Dalisay
Dalisay returned to the Philippines in 2015 to establish a research program on natural products drug discovery at the Center for Chemical Biology and Biotechnology (C2B2) in University of San Agustin. She holds two US patents on the use of a marine natural product for fungal infections and cancer.
Since then she has been hailed as 2019 Outstanding Professional of the Year awardee in the field of Pharmacy given by the Philippine Regulatory Commission. She is currently assisting in assessing the capacities of the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC)’s facilities and technicians for compliance and accreditation by the Department of Health. The WVMC is one of the 30 laboratories licensed in the Philippines to run COVID-19 tests.
Dr. Reynaldo Garcia
After returning to the Philippines in 2010, Garcia became a professor at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, UP Diliman, and was appointed UP System Director of the Technology Transfer and Business Development Office. Garcia, who is an expert on biomedical research, now heads the multi-awarded Disease Molecular Biology and Epigenetics Laboratory and assists the DOH through the national databasing of laboratories with polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Dr. Harvy Joy Liwanag
Liwanag is a “medium-term” Balik Scientist and is currently being hosted by the DOH Health Human Resource Development Bureau (HHRDB). He finished his PhD in Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and now does projections for DOH on the health workforce requirements. He is also the coordinator of the Training Center for Health Research Ethics and Good Clinical Practice at the UP National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Jonel Saludes
Saludes studied at the University of California Davis and University of Colorado Boulder on magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, chromatography, and chemical biology. He is now a professor of chemistry and Associate Vice President for Research at the University of San Agustin. He is also assisting in assessing the capacities of the Western Visayas Medical Center.
Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña
Salvaña is among the doctors who are part of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that advises the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IAFT) on the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this, he was known as a HIV/AIDS advocate and received awards for his efforts raising awareness about the illness. He is a director at UP Manila, an associate professor at the UP-PGH, and Adjunct Faculty for Global Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Raymond Francis Sarmiento
Sarmiento leads the Data Warehouse Team of FASSSTER, a project of the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD). Short for Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler, FASSSTER has been used by the Philippine government to make COVID-19 projections. Sarmiento is also the director of the National Telehealth Center of the UP-NIH.
“As the fight to put a stop to the spread of this deadly virus continues, it is expected that more and more medical practitioners, scientists, and researchers will render service in different capacities and share their expertise to protect the lives of the Filipinos,” DOST said in its statement.