Deborah Ignacia D. Ona, MD, MBA

Position:  Associate Professor, Division of Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital
Current President, Philippine Society of Hypertension

Affiliation:  University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital
St. Luke’s Medical Center, Quezon City and Global City

What is your role at your work?

I wear many hats- clinician, teacher, researcher, administrator, mentor, mother and wife.

How did you get interested in your career path?

I was the first recipient of the Dr. Aida Baltazar Hypertension Fellowship grant in our institution which gave me the opportunity to do my fellowship under Dr. Haralambos Gavras and Dr. Irene Gavras at the Hypertension and Atherosclerosis Section of the Boston University College of Medicine.   When I came home from training, I saw that there are many things that need to be addressed – the increasing prevalence of hypertension, poor control rates and gaps in research in the Philippines – it was then that my interest in hypertension advocacy and research started.

What are you most proud of in your career or otherwise?

  • Being able to lead an organization with the intent to make a difference and inspire young people to do the same.
  • Being able to juggle career and family and still be relevant
  • Seeing former students and residents continuing the work – whether advocacy work or research
  • Securing grants to fund worthwhile research projects that will have impact on policy –
    • Public Private partnership with the Department of Health and private practitioners from Region 4 known as the “One Cavite Project” – a community based program for risk factor screening and management of these risk factors to achieve reduction in morbidity and mortality
    • Philippine Hypertension Guidelines

What important career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Looking for funding/grants for research in a country where there are limited funds
I was able to overcome the funding part with the help of my mentors

What advice would you give your younger self?

  • You cannot do everything alone- you need to collaborate
  • Be bold and brave and have fun

Highlight your most significant research contributions and publications (3-5) – if relevant to you.

We were able to publish 2 guidelines for the Philippines in a span of a year -which is a result of hard work and collaboration: Philippine Guidelines for the management of Hypertension in the Philippines as well as the guidelines for the management of Dyslipidemia.

Several papers on pharmacogenetics on common antihypertensive drugs that are being prescribed to Filipinos.

Have you had any significant career mentors? If yes, please provide further details.
I have a lot of role models and mentors:

  • Dr. Aida Baltazar and Dr. Agnes Mejia for giving me the opportunity to train abroad and pursue research in hypertension- both are women pioneers in hypertension.
  • Dr. Medy Saniel who taught me that you can balance both career and family while doing things that couls make a difference
  • Dr. Rody Sy,  Dr. Eduardo Punzalan and Dr. Marissa Alejandria for collaborating with me and giving me the opportunity to do research in hypertension.
  • Dr. Raffy Castillo who opened up a lot of collaborative work in Asia and the world.
  • Dr. Cecile Jimeno who never tires of my persistent questions and gives me advice all the time.

How can we support the next generation of women scientists?

  • Have an inclusive environment regardless of gender
  • Mentoring program of women in research
  • Highlighting women in research to inspire other women researchers