Dr Mae Dolendo is the lead Paediatric Oncologist at the South Philippines Medical Centre, Davao City at the programme we support in the Philippines.
Mae did her specialist training at National University Hospital in Singapore and completed an International Outreach Fellowship at St Jude Children's Research Hospital, USA. Through her passion and enthusiasm Doc Mae has increased survival from virtually nil when she arrived at Davao Medical Centre to 1-year survival rates of over 60% in 2012. She has won various awards and fellowships in recognition of her work. However, despite her hard work long-term survival rates have remained low because many children are diagnosed late as a result of lack of awareness about child cancer and approximately 70% of patients abandon treatment. Failure to complete the full course of treatment is a common problem in resource poor countries because families are unable to cope with the practical and financial pressures of long-term cancer treatment. This is particularly the case at Davao Medical Centre where more than 80% of patients live in remote locations with poor transport links to Davao City.
Doc Mae has developed a strategic plan to encourage earlier diagnosis and reduce abandonment of treatment by developing satellite centres in strategically located places Mindanao. These centres will be more readily accessible for families making it quicker and simpler to get a diagnosis and easier to receive follow-up treatment. World Child Cancer is providing funding for the project which began in late 2009. Doc Mae and her team will benefit from twinning partnerships with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National University Hospital which will provide vital mentoring in the implementation of the strategy.
Her dedication and professionalism can be summed up by Jonathan Bayogan, the father of a 10 year old patient with leukaemia in Davao:
Doc Mae gives hope – to desperate and hopeless parents and to less-privileged patients. She could have opted for the financially and professionally rewarding first world medical practice. But, Doc Mae chose to serve where much of the action is - in a public hospital. She defies insurmountable odds to advance the interests of paediatric patients. Through the sheer wise use of her head, heart and hands, she brought St. Jude’s and Singapore technology to Davao. Through her dedication, World Child Cancer came to Davao through a project. Through her determination, she led many others, in their collective and individual capacities, to support her work, altogether giving hope to less-privileged paediatric patients.