Wednesday, August 21, 2013

*340. Dr. Coconut: CONRADO S. DAYRIT M.D

DOCTOR OF RESPECTED GUIDANCE. A cardiologist, pharmacologist and educator, Dr. Conrado Singian Dayrit from San Fernando, was later known to champion the health benefits of coconut, leading people to give him that monicker. His son, Manuel, became a Health Secretary during GMA's term. Ca. 1957.

 As a child, I was afflicted with all sorts of ailments of the serious kind—asthma, pneumonia, respiratory infection, and the worst of all—rheumatic heart disease. I remember missing school for weeks every year, due to my condition, and I still recall the worried looks on my parents’ faces as they shuttled me from one doctor to another. I was always on the edge every time we made those trips to Manila in the 60s because I detested being pricked by needles by nurses, and being poked by stern-faced doctors alone, in their cold examination rooms.

 One doctor stood out, however, for his warm and welcoming presence. He had an office at the new Polymedic Clinic back in the late 60s (now Dr. Victor Potenciano Polymedic Hospital), and I vividly recall our first visit there—because we had to take an elevator—my first ride ever. When I met him, he spoke to me in a calm, unhurried voice and he took his time with me, explaining the tests he would do, assuring me that the electrocardiogram session was not going to be painful at all. Most of all, he would confer with my parents in Kapampangan after, and their conversations would include a lot of family talk in between.

 I would hear later from my mother that Dr. Conrado Singian Dayrit was our Del Rosario “kamag-anak”, so that put me at ease even more. I was also told he was an accomplished doctor, one of the most capable in the country. Sure enough, over the years, I would hear more of Dr. Dayrit and his medical legacy which included being a pharmacologist, heart specialist, medical professor and naturopath.

 He was born on 31May 1919 in Manila, to parents Conrado Sr., (formerly with the Bureau of Public Instruction) and Eufronia Singian. A true-blue Atenean all throughout his elementary, high school and college days, he enrolled at the University of the Philippines and earned his medical degree in 1943. That same year, he passed the board as a topnotcher and was immediately employed as assistant professor at U.P. College of Medicine.

 In 1946, he was named International Fellow in Pharmacology by the Kellogg Foundation and stayed in the U.S. for 2 years. He took his postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan Medical School and the Cornell University Medical College.

 When he got back to the Philippines, Dr. Dayrit resumed his teaching at U.P. In 1955, he was named Officer-in-Charge of the U.P. Department of Physiology. Due to his work at the Philippine General Hospital as a physician to outpatients with cardiovascular problems, he was inspired to found the Philippine Heart Association and served as a member of its Executive Committee from 1952-1958. He has also been a member of the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology, the Cancer Society, the Manila Medical Society.

 An tireless researcher, Dr. Dayrit has authored many scientific articles on such areas of interest as cardiology, pharmacology and medical education. He made a study on the “bangungot” phenomenon, as well as various papers on heart disease, its medical and surgical treatment as well as the pharmaco-dynamics of various drugs.

His research papers --over 70 of them--have earned for him many awards, including 1st and 2nd prizes for the 1954 and 1955 Manila Medical Society Research Award for Basic Science and Clinical Researches and Best Papers Read at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Philippine Medical Association. He was cited as “The Most Outstanding Young Man In Science” by the Sunday Times Magazine in 1955. In 1977, he was honored with a Gregorio Y. Zara Award in Applied Science by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science.

He held many important positions that included the presidency of the Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies and of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology. He was named an emeritus professor of pharmacology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. He would also be a recipient of the Republic Cultural Heritage Award.

 Dr. Dayrit married the former Milagros A. Millar of Lucena, Quezon. They settled in San Juan and raised 5 children: Manuel, Conrado III, Antonio Fabian, Eduardo and Rafael. Eldest son, Manuel, also a doctor, became our country’s Secretary of Health from 2001-2005, under the term of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 Later in life, Dr. Dayrit championed the medicinal values of coconut and its by-product, virgin coconut oil especially on its efficacy on HIV, which started a national craze for naturopathy. Quite unexpectedly, our paths would cross again when he was invited to grace the launch of a new coconut based-cooking oil, the advertising of which I handled.

The venerable doctor, now over 80 years old, still commanded respect and awe for his profound knowledge on cardiovascular health. I shyly re-introduced myself to him in Kapampangan and namedropped my parents’ names and my Del Rosario surname, briefly recounting how I became his patient. He broke out in his trademark grin and answered back in crisp Kapampanga, “A wa, kakilala ke I Ma mu, ampo reng Del Rosario, kamag-anak mila..komusta naka?”. That acknowledgement certainly made my day.

 Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit passed away on 5 October 2007, at the very same hospital where he had his clinic for many years.

No comments: