PEDIATRIC Oncology, the specialized field of medicine focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer, has come a long way in the Philippines, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Amy G. Dy.
Dr. Dy made history by becoming the founding chairman of the Philippine Board of Pediatric Oncology (PBPO) in 1999 and helped organize the Philippine Society of Pediatric Oncology (PSPO) the following year as a founding trustee, after completing a prestigious fellowship at The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (RAHC) in Sydney, Australia.
Currently, she is the chairman emeritus of PBPO and head of the Pediatric Oncology at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City.
Recently, she was also nominated to the National Integrated Cancer Control Council, which is composed of the secretaries of the Departments of Health, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, and Labor and Employement, as well as the head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Food and Drug Administration.
She served as the chairman of PBPO for the next 20 years, as well as president of PSPO for a couple of years, playing a pivotal role in not only giving birth to this new medical specialty in the Philippines but also ensuring its sustained growth as an integral part of Philippine medicine.
Her vision, dedication, and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children with cancer have helped shape the landscape of pediatric oncology in the Philippines, making her a true trailblazer in the field.
Dr. Dy’s journey towards becoming a leading figure in pediatric oncology in the Philippines began with her passion for medicine and her deep compassion for children. She had her medical degree and basic training in pediatrics and pediatric oncology at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
It was at the RAHC in Sydney, Australia, where she honed her skills and gained invaluable experience in managing childhood cancer. Armed with her newfound knowledge and expertise, she returned to the Philippines with a mission to make a difference in the lives of young patients with cancer and their families.
As its founding chairman, she played a pivotal role in setting high standards for the PBPO certifying board examinations. To date, more than 60 pediatric oncologists have been certified and are now serving the children in various parts of the Philippines. This led to better access to care and improved treatment outcomes.
The organizations set up by Dr. Dy and her colleagues have significantly contributed to improving the quality of pediatric cancer care, developing guidelines for diagnosis and treatment, and promoting research and education in the field.
They have become beacons of excellence, providing a platform for national and international collaboration among pediatric oncologists, and fostering the growth of the field through continuous professional development.
Dr. Dy also has a pivotal role in advancing knowledge in the field by diligently sharing her expertise as a faculty member at the UP College of Medicine, Far Eastern University (FEU) College of Medicine, and St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine.
Her mentorship extended to training pediatric resident physicians and fellows in prestigious institutions, such as the UP-PGH and St. Luke’s Medical Center, where she currently serves as head of Pediatric Oncology.
Recognizing the healthcare needs of children in the country, Dr. Dy actively campaigned for and recruited young pediatricians to pursue careers in pediatric oncology. She inspired students from the UP College of Medicine, FEU College of Medicine, and the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine to develop an interest in pediatric oncology and consider it as a career path.
Dr. Dy delivered lectures on pediatric oncology in numerous pediatric conventions and seminars to raise awareness among doctors and enhance their ability to diagnose cancer in children at an early stage. She also attended international conferences in pediatric oncology, building a network of colleagues from countries like Australia.
Dr. Dy’s impact in pediatric oncology includes her advocacy for raising awareness about childhood cancer, promoting early detection, and ensuring access to quality care for all children with cancer, regardless of their socio-economic background. Her efforts have led to the establishment of specialized pediatric oncology units in major hospitals across the country.
During the pandemic, Dr. Dy served as chairman of the Department of Pediatrics of National Children’s Hospital. Faced with gargantuan challenges, she valiantly led the department in rendering uninterrupted good patient services to indigent patients from all over the country, introducing innovative training programs for pediatric residents and fellows, implementing various advocacies, and in conducting relevant researches geared towards improving child health.
Dr. Dy conceptualized the hospital emergency command structure. Implementation of strict safety measures and mobilization of her network to provide safety equipment resulted in no deaths from COVID-19 from among her staff in the department.
Dr. Dy has been a passionate advocate for improving the care of children with cancer in the Philippines. While progress has been made in recent years, there is still much to be done to ensure that children have access to the best possible care.
One of the biggest challenges in the Philippines is the difficulty in accessing health services, especially in remote areas. Dr. Dy has been actively supporting the continuation of telemedicine services, both for charity and private patients, as a means to improve access to care.
In addition, Dr. Dy has been instrumental in promoting early detection of cancer in children through her advocacies, such as her active participation in the “Retinoblastoma Program”. This program includes training local health workers to recognize cancer of the eye early, which can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment.
Dr. Dy plans to continue supporting this program and other initiatives aimed at early detection of all cancers in children by giving talks in townhall meetings and inspiring colleagues to continue learning and bringing new treatment modalities to the country.
Another area where Dr. Dy has been focusing her efforts is in the development and propagation of palliative and hospice care for children with cancer. Almost half of the children with cancer in the Philippines die. The specialized care for such children and their families is still lacking in this country.
Thus, she has been supporting the training program in pediatric palliative care and pushing for its progressive implementation at the National Children’s Hospital, where she previously served as chair of the Department of Pediatrics. It is where many children with cancer go for treatment.
This is an important area of care that is often overlooked, but can greatly improve the quality of life for children and their families during difficult times.
To improve the nutritional status of the children with cancer, Dr. Dy has a collaborative project, Nutrition Care for Children with Cancer, with Dr. Elena Ladas of the International Initiative for Pediatrics and Nutrition, funded by the Columbia University in the USA. Good nutrition leads to better tolerance of treatments, better quality of life, and therefore better outcomes.
In addition to her groundbreaking work in healthcare, Dr. Dy has also made significant contributions to the community. As the founding executive director of the Cancer Treatment and Support Foundation Inc., a role she has held since 2002, she has led efforts to elevate the quality of care for patients with cancer and raise public awareness about the disease, positively impacting the lives of over 4,000 patients.
Furthermore, Dr. Dy serves as the president of the Cesario and Pura Goleta Scholarship Foundation, a fitting tribute to her parents who deeply valued education. Under her leadership, the foundation has provided financial support to six to eight high school scholars annually at Bula National High School in Camarines Sur since June 2004, making a meaningful impact on the education and future prospects of these deserving students.
In 1989, the field of Pediatric Oncology did not yet exist in the Philippines. Dr. Amelia Fernandez, the then chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UP-PGH, collaborated with Dr. Ernesto O. Domingo, the then chancellor of UP Manila, to send Dr. Dy to Australia under the AIDAB thru Colombo Plan scholarship.
The objective was for Dr. Amy Dy to become the first properly trained Pediatric Oncologist in the Philippines. Following her completion of the fellowship at the RAHC, now The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Dr. Dy played a key role in training new batches of pediatric oncologists at the UP-PGH.
After completing her fellowship training in Pediatric Oncology at the RAHC in Sydney, Dr. Dy actively maintained connections with the staff of the pediatric oncology unit. She made an effort to meet with Australian pediatric oncologists at various international conferences to share updates on their work, contributing to the expansion of her network and the exchange of knowledge and experiences between Australia and the Philippines.
Dr. Dy played a pivotal role in facilitating knowledge exchange and showcasing advances in pediatric cancer care by inviting three well known pediatric oncologists from Sydney – Dr. Michael Stevens, Dr. Stewart Kellie, and Dr. Luciano Dalla Pozza (the current head of the Oncology Unit at The Children’s Hospital Westmead) – to deliver lectures to pediatricians in the Philippines. The specialists presented their expertise in three major conventions, interacting and exchanging experiences with their Filipino counterparts.
Dr. Dy has been an advocate for capacity-building in the Philippines, and this commitment was reflected in her sending a doctor for training in neuro-oncology at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. As there are no pediatric neuro-oncologists in the Philippines, this training is a significant contribution to the field.
Dr. Dy has been an important point of contact for The Children’s Hospital doctors and staff seeking to validate information about doctors from the Philippines interested in training in Australia or currently in training.
Dr. Dy’s active involvement in the interview process conducted by Dr. Stewart Kellie, as part of a translational research paper related to pediatric oncologists in the Philippines, demonstrated her dedication to advancing research and knowledge exchange.
Her commitment to the bilateral relationship between Australia and the Philippines extended to her family, as she and her husband sent their daughter to study two master’s programs at the Australian National University.
Her daughter’s subsequent completion of two PhDs in European universities and involvement in research projects that benefit humanity is a testament to Dr. Dy’s dedication to education and global cooperation.
Dr. Dy’s advocacy for Australian universities extends to regularly recommending them to students in the Philippines, helping to strengthen academic ties between the two countries.
She has been able to maintain strong connections with her colleagues and friends from her time training in Australia, a testament to her enduring commitment to fostering people-to-people links.
Today, the field of Pediatric Oncology is officially recognized by all relevant organizations in the Philippines, including the Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Pediatric Society, and the Philippine government through the Department of Health and PhilHealth.
Other medical societies such as the Philippine Society of Pediatric Surgery, Philippine Radiation Oncology Society, and the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society are also active partners. These collaborations have significantly contributed to timely diagnosis and appropriate treatments for many children with cancer.
As a result, the Philippines is now internationally recognized as a valuable partner for collaborative projects and international clinical trials involving pediatric oncology. These endeavors will lead to an increasing number of children with cancer being cured.
This milestone achievement should be a source of pride not only for the Philippines but also for Australia, as their support and collaboration have played a significant role in the development and recognition of Pediatric Oncology in the Philippines.
Improving pediatric cancer care
Dr. Dy’s dedication to improving pediatric cancer care in the Philippines reflects her aspirations for the future. She recognizes the ongoing need to ensure that children have access to the highest quality care possible, and she plans to continue doing her share in several areas.
A significant area of Dr. Dy’s focus is palliative and hospice care for children with cancer. In January 2021, as chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, National Children’s Hospital, she helped initiate the first training program in pediatric palliative care in the Philippines. She continues to support this program with the leadership of the Philippine Pediatric Society and meeting with trainors from Australia and Canada.
Since February 2021 until today, the Nutrition Care for Children with Cancer project continues with Dr. Dy and Dr. Ladas, together with other members of the project, meeting regularly online.
She expects this project to continue to expand.
Dr. Dy continues to significantly contribute to the community as the executive director of the Cancer Treatment and Support Foundation Inc. (CTSFI). The projects she started in 2002 continue, aimed at improving the quality of life of patients and raising public awareness about cancer.
With the recent accreditation of CTSFI by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification, she expects to more than double the 4,000 patients that have been positively impacted by the foundation so far.
As a passionate advocate for the early detection of childhood cancer, Dr. Dy was heavily involved in the Retinoblastoma Program that included training of local health workers to recognize early signs of eye cancer. Dr. Dy hopes to do similar projects for other childhood cancers.
She has delivered talks to medical colleagues in formal and informal settings and to laypersons, appeared on television programs that discuss childhood cancer, and actively promoted awareness on social and print media. Åll these she plans to continue.
Furthermore, Dr. Dy continues as president of the Cesario and Pura Goleta Scholarship Foundation supporting six to eight high school scholars annually at the Bula National High School in Camarines Sur. She hopes they will become healthy productive citizens in the future.
Dr. Dy remains active as a clinician being part of a group practice, Pedia Hema Onco Team Philippines. She continues to serve as a mentor to her younger colleagues.
In conclusion, Dr. Amy Dy’s pioneering work in helping establish the medical specialty of pediatric oncology in the Philippines and her unwavering commitment to advancing the care of children with cancer in the Philippines have made her a true trailblazer in the field.
Her vision, dedication, and leadership have helped create a solid foundation for pediatric oncology in the country, providing hope and healing to countless children with cancer and their families.
Dr. Dy’s remarkable achievements serve as an inspiration to healthcare professionals and the community alike, and her legacy will continue to impact the field of pediatric oncology in the Philippines for generations to come.