The Eastern Visayas Health Research and Development Consortium (EVHRDC) hosted, in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Manila-School of Health Sciences (UPM-SHS) and the Visayas State University (VSU), the Balik Scientist engagement of Dr. June Bryan I. de la Peña, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist of the University of Texas.
Dr. de la Peña’s engagement was made possible through the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Pursuant to the state’s policy to support the participation of science and technology or innovation experts of Filipino descent in research and development initiatives in the country, the program encourages Filipino scientists, technologists, and experts to return to the country and share their expertise to promote scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development, including the development of the country’s human capital in science, technology, and innovation.
With the primary objective of conducting capacity-enhancement activities for EVHRDC member institutions, Dr. de la Peña hosted a lecture and a forum relating to his expertise in neuroscience. The two activities were available via Zoom and Facebook Live to all interested parties.
On 12 January 2022, the Lecture on the neuroscience of pain: role of the peripheral nervous system and the discovery of a novel analgesic was conducted. The lecture sought to explain chronic pain and the novel strategies and treatment options available—among which were the results of Dr. de la Peña’s study on chronic pain.
Moreover, a forum entitled, How I became a neuroscientist: challenges and opportunities for aspiring Filipino neuroscientists was also conducted on 13 January 2022. The meeting was conceived to inspire faculties, researchers, and students to pursue a career in neuroscience. In his lecture, Dr. de la Peña explained that proper education and training are crucial to becoming a successful neuroscientist. He shared his experiences working at the Uimyung Research Institute for Neuroscience in South Korea, where he published over 30 research papers. These publications then allowed him to land a career in the United States, where he is currently doing his post-doctoral fellowship.
During his short-term engagement, Dr. de la Peña also mentored the UPM-SHS in the updating of its Nursing Curriculum and the revision of its Research Agenda for the Midwifery program, where he recommended the establishment of a course focusing on the study of recent advancements or trends in the fields of midwifery, nursing, or medicine. The said course aims to enhance students’ understanding of the current state of knowledge in a specific area while providing a foundation for analytically reviewing articles and interpreting scientific data, among others.
The Balik Scientist also assisted the VSU in establishing its neuropharmacology research laboratory and updating its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Protocol. On the former, Dr. de la Peña recommended focusing on locally available natural products to treat or manage prevalent neurological and psychiatric disorders in the region. He explained that natural product research is presently gaining traction and that researchers are now trying to find alternatives to traditional pain medication. On the latter, he provided strategic recommendations and relevant documents for the standardization of the IACUC protocol of the VSU so that it could be at par with international standards.
In his Exit Report Presentation on 30 January 2022, Dr. de la Peña proposed to the EVHRDC the facilitation of more BSP engagements in the future to accelerate the attainment of its vision to become a transformative health research consortium in the region. He expressed that such engagements also serve as a venue for creating multi-institutional research proposals and collaborations. He added that his visit showed the capability of the consortium to maximize the benefits of the Balik Scientist Program.
Dr. de la Pena obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at the Western Leyte College in Ormoc City.