For her “unassuming and steadfast commitment” to fighting the scourge of child abuse, Filipino pediatrician Bernadette Madrid has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, also known as Asia’s counterpart of the Nobel Prize.
Born to a family of professionals in the central Philippine province of Iloilo, Madrid studied medicine and pediatrics at the University of the Philippines in Manila and did a post-residency fellowship in ambulatory pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Upon her return to the Philippines, she tried to establish a Child Abuse Program at the country’s premier public hospital — the Philippine General Hospital in Manila — but the program was short-lived for lack of support.
Madrid returned to her province and started a private practice. She seemed headed for a quiet provincial career until she was called back to Manila in 1996 to head an emergency unit for abused children at the PGH.
In 1997, Madrid assumed as head of the PGH Child Protection Unit, the first such facility in the country. For 25 years, her life’s work gained the reputation of being “the best medical system for abused children in Southeast Asia.”
A one-stop health facility, it provides a coordinated program of medical, legal, social, and mental health services for abused children and their families.
As of 2021, PGH’s Child Protection Unit has served 27,639 children and has linked a national network of child protection units with the establishment of the Child Protection Network Foundation, Inc., a partnership of civil society, academe, and government in 2002.
As CPN executive director, Madrid designed programs and engaged with family courts, schools, hospitals, local government units, community organizations, and policymakers in advancing the cause of child protection.
In partnership with government agencies and the private sector, she was able to establish the Network of Women and Child Protection Units that consist of 123 WCPUs in 61 provinces and ten cities.
The network, which has a total staff of 237 physicians, 199 social workers, and 85 police officers, has already served 119,965 children and adolescents and 30,912 women.
Madrid oversees and coordinates the network’s five areas of work: medical and psychosocial care, child safety and legal protection, a national program for training in child protection, a national network of WCPUs, and research for a national database on child abuse.
It is multidisciplinary work that calls for Madrid to be all at once a doctor, educator, researcher, social leader, organizer, and advocate.
“I feel that I was prepared to do this work. I was given the talent to do this and it has developed as I worked. That’s why I’m happy. It has become, for me, work that is God’s work,” she said.
Madrid has been an international fellow in Primary Care Pediatrics at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York from 1989-1990.
She had her Residency in Pediatrics at the UP-PGH in Manila from 1985-1987 and her internship in the same institution from 1984-1985. She studied her doctorate in medicine at the University of the Philippines from 1979-1983.
She has been named Outstanding Pediatrician by Philippine Pediatric Society in 2021 and the “Most Influential Filipina Woman in the World Award: Founder and Pioneer Category” by the Filipina Women’s Network in 2019.
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