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Top Diabetes Doc: Augusto Litonjua

In the medical world,when one hears the word diabetes, the name Augusto D. Litonjua could not be far behind. His name has become synonymous with diabetes not because he is diabetic, but he is considered as one of the best doctors in the field of diabetes care and treatment. Widely known in the medical community, Dr. Litonjua, an endocrinologist, has been a pioneer of various undertakings with regards to diabetes care, education and prevention.

The medical community holds him in great esteem for his numerous achievements and contributions. For many of us however, we may only have encountered him in one of his clinics.You may be one of his patients, or someone you know is his patient.What we do not know is that the “diabetes world” in this country owes a lot to this man.

Father of Philippine Endocrinology
He wouldn’t have earned the moniker “Father of Philippine Endocrinology” for nothing. The history of the practice of endocrinology in the country would not be complete without him. Dr. Litonjua has been a major force in shaping the practice of endocrinology in the Philippines.

During the time when endocrinology, the medical specialty that deals with disorders of the endocrine system including diabetes, was still virtually, unknown in the Philippines, he and another colleague thought of founding a medical society to further enhance the practice of endocrinology. He founded the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (PSEM) in 1961; and together with his ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) colleagues, has helped put up the ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies.

His contributions in the field of Philippine Endocrinology has earned him yet another prestigious award – the Outstanding Service Award for the Promotion of Endocrine Health of an Underserved Population – given by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in April 2007 in Seattle, Washington. In the speech he delivered upon accepting the award, Dr. Litonjua said,”While in the practice and teaching of endocrinology, I veered more into the diabetes field and saw the opportunity where my love for teaching could find fruition in.”

Indeed, his love for teaching paved way for numerous undertakings to further diabetes awareness and prevention through diabetes education. His stint as president of the Philippine Diabetes Association (PDA) for 1 1 years enabled the creation of PDA chapters all over the country,and subsequently, the creation of diabetes clinics. He also spearheaded the establishment of the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation Inc., more popularly known as the Diabetes Center, Philippines, where he is currently president.

Secrets to aging gracefully
“I try to keep watch on my weight, especially after having heart attack two years ago,” he says. He watches what he eats too. “I don’t eat steaks and I don’t have much dessert.” The regular cardiac rehab, pelota and healthy diet seem to be working their magic for Dr. Litonjua as he still looks fit and healthy compared with other people his age, despite battling heart attack and cancer some years ago. “I’m a cancer survivor. I was operated on for colon cancer about ten years ago.” He adds that if you have cancer, it does not necessarily mean a death sentence. “We have to fight it. We have to live as if we didn’t have it.”

He says he does follow what his physicians tell him to do. “I exercise and I keep my weight, kase magagalit din so akin ang aking mgo doktor eh (because my doctors will get mad at me, too),” he says smiling. He reveals that he has two cardiologists who take care of his heart health. It is interesting to note that a doctor of his caliber also sees a doctor. He says, “If you treat yourself, you tend to take for granted the little symptoms that you feel. But if you tell it to somebody else and that is their specialty, that will mean something serious if you don’t treat it immediately.

Advice to Diabetics
For someone who has been treating diabetes almost most of his lifetime, he surely has something to say to diabetic patients. “Diabetes is hard to treat,” says Dr. Litonjua. He says he understands that it is hard for some patients sometimes to comply with their treatment, to exercise, watch what they eat, and take care of themselves because there comes a time that it gets tiring to do so. But he stresses that diabetics or not, we really need to exercise and watch our diet. He says that sometimes patients have a negative reaction to doctors’ advice. According to him, patients sometimes become rebellious because they feel that things like watching one’s weight, exercising and diet are imposed on them.

He says that the same is true with regards to taking medicines. “Because it is imposed by another person then it becomes difficult for them,to take medicines all throughout their lives. I’m taking medicines also and it will be throughout my life. So I think that diabetics should accept the fact that they are diabetics and that this is a lifelong disease. But they can be as well as another person without diabetes if they take care of themselves.”

So take it from the expert – the doctor, teacher and father to all – who has devoted his life to spreading diabetes awareness and has contributed greatly to improving diabetes care and treatment in the Philippines. Dr.Augusto Litonjua has proven himself as a true icon, a champion of diabetes care and prevention, and a highly respected doctor who remains on top of his game.

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  1. Grachel Elorde-Castro Reply

    Hi! My son Matthew has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes since he was 1 year old. He’s now turning 4 years old on September. Where does he have his clinics. We would like to meet him and treat our child. Thanks!

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