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LEOPANDO, Prof Zorayda 'Dada': Past chair WWPWFM


If you hear someone call out the name ‘Dada’, you will automatically think of Professor Zorayda E Leopando. At one point in her life, Dada was called the tiger lady of family medicine in Asia Pacific. Can you imagine how they refer to her in the Philippines?

Dada is known as an action person who makes things happen. When she was president of the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) from 1994-1996, she wanted “a sense of direction” not only for her tenure but on long term basis for the PAFP. She led the first five-year strategic plan of the PAFP and planning is now in its fourth cycle. When WONCA Asia Pacific region made the Manila Declaration, in 1993, she launched the PAFP community-based environmental protection project. This project is still in place.

When the Philippine National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) was enacted into law in 1995, she headed several workshops with various stakeholders on a variety of pertinent subjects. First, was the workshop on competencies of gatekeepers, in 1996. After this, she continued to advocate for universal health care, with inpatient and outpatient benefits given simultaneously; as well as patient registration and gate-keeping. She helped create an infrastructure for a strong family medicine, by championing quality assurance among PAFP members, developing referral mechanisms with the various specialties, and promoting financing of the out-patient component of the NHIP towards its full implementation.

Currently, she heads the PAFP Task Force Committee on universal health care, primary care benefits with gatekeeping and family registration. She encouraged the PAFP research committee to engage in Primary Care Assessment Tool (PCAT) research, which has been operational in the Philippines and Asia Pacific, since 2009. With Universal Health Care as the centerpiece program of the government, family registration, gatekeeping and primary care benefits are all the more strengthened. It took 16 years for this to happen and the PAFP continuous to work for recognizing family physicians as the entry point of care.

WONCA involvement

Dada was made a WONCA Fellow in 2007 - one of 28, of whom only three are women.
Dada held the position of WONCA Asia Pacific Regional Vice President (now called Regional President) from 1995 to 2001. When she completed her term, achievements included:

  • there were three regional conferences held including family medicine education workshops and four conferences scheduled through 2006;
  • a regional structure with a set of officers, functioning committees on quality assurance, research, education, classification;
  • the ground work for the launch of the Asia Pacific Family Medicine Journal had been done with editors-in-chief, an editorial board and peer reviewers in place. The journal is now in its tenth year as the official scientific publication of WONCA Asia Pacific, is with Biomed Central and is Pubmed-listed.
  • twinning was started and Asia Pacific has mechanisms developed for member organizations to assist new ones in family medicine enhancement.
  • the nomination process for the Wes Fabb Oration, honoring Professor Wesley Fabb, WONCA CEO was approved.

She was Overall Chair of the WONCA Asia Pacific Regional Conference, which the PAFP hosted in Cebu, in February 2011. She was also the overall Chair for the Golden Anniversary Celebration of the PAFP held at the same conference.

Dada is currently one of the co-editors-in-chief of Asia Pacific Family Medicine Journal, a position she has held since 2001. She is also the Chair-Elect of the WONCA Working Party on Women in Family Medicine, after having been a member of the working party’s core executive, since 2004.

Why has Dada lasted for almost 20 years working for WONCA? It is the self- fulfillment, the friends she has met and kept though these years, and the opportunity to make a difference.

Philippines achievements

She was Founding President, Philippine Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (PSTFM), now Foundation for Family Medicine Educators. She held the chairmanship of faculty development because she believed that family physicians should be taught how to teach and that they should see other perspectives. The academic link between PSTFM and the Royal College of General Practitioners enabled 13 family medicine trainers from various parts of the Philippines to observe general practice and GP training, specialty examination and medical audit.

Inspired by her Fellowship in Academic practice from the Ohio State University, she formulated a graduate degree in family medicine which was approved as Master of Science in Clinical Medicine – Family and Community Medicine track during her chairmanship of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine (1998-2004). The program has graduated seven Filipinos, seven Indonesians, seven Vietnamese and one Saudi Arabian. A Fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine was also introduced during her chairmanship. This program now has graduates who in turn have organized their respective training curricula in various settings.

Commitment to share

Dada has written 83 journal articles and monographs. She has also made 200 presentations in various international and national conferences, not to mention the local conventions.

Dada with her nieces Jenny (left) and Patti (right) Sapina who conceptualized the world family doctors' day button (seen below)


She has received various international awards for all her contributions to Family Medicine. She has been made Honorary Fellow several other colleges of general practitioners namely, Sri Lanka (2010), Australia (2008), UK (2001). She was the fourth Wes Fabb Orator from WONCA Asia Pacific Region (2008) and the first Song Jung Yoon orator from the Korean Academy of Family Medicine (2011).

In the Philippines, she has received many awards including that of Lifetime Achiever of the PAFP during the Golden Anniversary Celebration and the Plaque of Distinction award from the Foundation of Family Medicine Educators (both in 2011); and from the University of the Philippines, Centennial Professorial Chair (2008), Educator of the Year (2006).


We have noted already that Dada continues her involvement in WONCA.

In the PAFP, she heads the Committee on Textbook, a pioneering project which will find fruition very soon. She is also one of the prime movers and chair of the Subcommittee on Innovative Practice-Based Training Program for Specialists in Family Medicine.

In the Philippine Medical Association, she has been chair of the Commission on Professional Specialization for more than nine years and member of the Board of Judges for the Dr Jose Rizal Award, eight years counting. Dada is currently on sabbatical leave from the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine where she is Professor of Family and Community Medicine. With her classmates from elementary school, she is busy preparing for their golden jubilee. The preparation enables her to visit her hometown more frequently. She hopes to have more time to finish the cross-stitch project she has started from way back. She also enjoys travelling with her extended family, especially her nieces and grand niece, making sure every trip is educational and fun. Last but not least, she enjoys being a senior citizen and the perks that go with it.