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Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism

If a person is experiencing symptoms of heart disease or stroke, he immediately seeks the medical advice of a cardiologist or a neurologist. When a patient is diagnosed with a disease involving the thyroid or pituitary glands, which physician can best address his condition? An endocrinologist, of course!

A few decades ago, majority of the public didn’t know what an endocrinologist was. Only a handful were aware of the amazing work of an endocrinologist who specializes in the study of excessive and deficient hormone secretion. Fortunately, through the zealous efforts of the past down to the present officers and members of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (PSEM), endocrinologists are getting their fair share of recognition.

Fast Growing
Headed by Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua and Mr. Meneleo Hernandez, PSEM was founded in 1961. The society eventually became a member of the International Society of Endocrinology, and a pioneer member of the ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies (AFES) two years after its inception.

Dr. Rosa Allyn Sy, current president of PSEM, proudly said that the society is now made up of more than 95 percent endocrinologists. “Among the members of the initial group, only a few endocrinologists, others were scientists and physicians who wanted to know more about endocrinology,” she explained.

Starting with about 12 members, the society started to grow in number in 1963 when the founding members established the Philippine Specialty Board in Endocrinology and Metabolism which certifies doctors who want to specialize in endocrinology. Every few years, a number of diplomates are certified, which makes up PSEM’s present population of 167 members. Last year alone, the society welcomed 33 newly-certified diplomates who serve different provinces.

Before becoming a certified diplomate, a member must finish the two-year Fellowship Training Program held in one of the four training institutions—The Makati Medical Center, the Philippine General Hospital, The University of Santo Tomas Hospital, and St. Luke’s Medical Center or in recognized institutions abroad.

These hospitals must have enough staff of endocrinologists and adequate facilities, including extensive laboratories, needed for training.

Education and research as top concerns
Armed with a growing number of members, PSEM is more than capable of carrying out its goals. According to Dr. Sy, the society is focusing on six prioritized strategies: education, network of alliances, patient advocacy, research, resources, policies, and guidelines for standard of endocrine care. But at the moment, the society zeroes in on education of its members and the public and research.

“The initial concern of PSEM is to increase knowledge in endocrinology among its members and bond the group of endocrinologists,” Dr. Sy said. However, as the society gradually became stronger, the members started educating the public. “As a society we are strong because we have different committees that answer the different needs of its members, but now we are getting on the grassroots so we are doing a lot of lay fora on diseases like diabetes, which is under the realm of endocrinology,” she added. The lay fora on different endocrine diseases held in various parts of the country officially started last year.

During a specific awareness week, PSEM holds corresponding fora and activities which aim to educate the public on the nature, prevention and treatment of an endocrine disease. The latest addition, implemented only this year, is the Goiter Awareness Week celebrated every third week of January.

Another major concern for the society is research. In 2001, the society granted the first PSEM¬Servier Research Grant and the PSEM Research Grant. Each year since then, PSEM, with the help of a pharmaceutical company as sponsor, gives three research grants for deserving young scientists. A group of researchers and practicing endocrinologists evaluate the proposals to see which ones deserve research grants. Promising researches are then presented during the PSEM annual convention. Authors of the best researchers are given one year to finish the study. Polished researches are eventually submitted for publication in international and local journals.

Dr. Sy believes that it is only through research that they (members) learn more, and through learning more, they can improve service to the public.

Unfortunately, the Philippines is still in its infancy stage when it comes to research, mainly because of lack of pertinent data. Despite this obstacle, Dr. Sy stressed the need to have more research output. “The studies we read from abroad are something applicable in general but it doesn’t mean they are applicable in the country,” she added. Local studies done by local physicians are sure to be more applicable for Filipinos.

Worthwhile activities and projects
The 45-year-old society conducts regular activities that benefit both the members and the public.

Held every February, the PSEM Annual Convention showcases updates and latest researches concerning endocrine diseases. The event is also a venue for introducing projects. Last convention, the society launched “Insulin for Life”, a tie-up program with Eli Lilly. Through this program, a poor but deserving diabetic will be given a lifetime supply of insulin. According to Dr. Sy, who is also the chair of the Adopt-A-Child with diabetes project of the Philippine Diabetes Association, she considers Insulin for Life the most noteworthy accomplishment she achieved during her reign as president.

To enrich the continuing quest for learning of its members, Dr. Sy said they have held Inter-Hospital Endocrine Grand Rounds quarterly since 1994. Whenever a member encounters a good and unique medical case, he can share it with his fellow members for discussion. That way, members who are in the province can also learn from the case. “It’s like studying again,” Dr. Sy said in reference to the grand rounds. “Endocrinology is an unending process of learning because there is something new every time since we are dealing with hormones. Hormone is a very dynamic part of the organ.”

Another learning activity is the Weekend Endocrinology Courses which started when the members went to Pampanga in 2000. Two to three times a year, the members go to different provinces to discuss specific endocrine diseases, different topics every year. Last year, the group went to Dumaguete to talk about thyroid diseases. Dr. Sy said they prioritize areas in the provinces whose doctors don’t have access to the recent developments in medicine.

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