‘Balik Scientists’ join frontlines in fight against Covid-19

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Heeding the call to help the country fight Covid-19, Filipino scientists formerly based abroad have joined other frontliners in the fight against Covid-19 and are now working in different hospitals in the country.

The gallant medical practitioners are now offering their expertise under the “Balik Scientist” program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in collaboration with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña is a member of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that advises the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IAFT). Dr. Salvaña is a multi-awarded and internationally recognized scientist, physician, and HIV/AIDS advocate. He is a director at the University of the Philippines Manila, an associate professor at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), and Adjunct Faculty for Global Health at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Dr. Joseph Adrian L. Buensalido, an expert in infectious diseases, is a graduate of the De La Salle University-Health Sciences Campus. After his fellowship from the Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center in Michigan in the US, Dr. Buensalido conducted clinical research on the mechanisms of action of antibacterials, antibiotic resistance, hepatitis, HIV, and infections of the spine, among others. He is currently an infectious diseases and internal medicine consultant at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Makati America Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, and had conducted his research studies at the UP-PGH.

Dr. Jonel P. Saludes, a professor of chemistry and associate vice president for research at the University of San Agustin, is now 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. Dr. Saludes is trained on various fields like magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, chromatography, and chemical biology, to name a few, from the University of California Davis and University of Colorado Boulder.

Dr. Doralyn S. Dalisay, a 2019 Outstanding Professional of the Year awardee in the field of pharmacy given by the Professional Regulation Commission, is also 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. Dr. Dalisay returned to the Philippines as a DOST Balik Scientist in June 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. Incidentally, she holds two US patents on the use of a marine natural product for fungal infections and cancer.

Dr. Raymond Francis R. Sarmiento leads the data warehouse team of FASSSTER, a project of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) to fight Covid-19. FASSSTER stands for Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler which has been used for creating predictive models and visualizing possible scenarios of outbreaks of dengue, typhoid fever, and measles, at specified time periods.

Currently, Dr. Sarmiento works as the director of the National Telehealth Center of the UP National Institutes of Health (UPNIH). He is a Balik Scientist of the DOST who specializes in clinical and public health informatics and health data science, among others.

Dr. Reynaldo L. Garcia, an expert in biomedical research, consulting and biotechnology enterprise, now leads the national databasing of laboratories with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to assist DOH in testing. Dr. Garcia returned to the Philippines in 2010 as a Balik Scientist and was appointed as a full professor at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of the Philippines Diliman, and concurrently as UP System Director of the Technology Transfer and Business Development Office. He currently heads the multi-awarded Disease Molecular Biology and Epigenetics Laboratory.

Dr. Harvy Joy C. Liwanag – performs projections for DOH on the health workforce requirements for the Philippines to address Covid adequately. Dr. Liwanag is the coordinator of the Training Center for Health Research Ethics and Good Clinical Practice at the University of the Philippines Manila-National Institutes of Health. Dr. Liwanag returned as a medium-term Balik Scientist after completing his PhD in Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and is currently being hosted by the DOH- Health Human Resource Development Bureau (HHRDB). 

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