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The First Graduates of the Faculty of Medicine and their Impact on Medicine in the Philippines

By Prof. Gil S. Gonzalez, M.D. (UST FMS Class 1979)

There were 329 students of the University of Santo Tomas College of Medicine from 1877 to 1901 who were granted the degree of Licentiate in Medicine. On the political front, this period was characterized by an emerging movement for secularization and nationalism, exemplified by the birth of the Propaganda Movement (a reform movement among Filipinos in Spain), the founding of La Liga Filipina (by Jose Rizal to allow direct involvement of the people in the quest for reforms), and the establishment of the Katipunan (by Andres Bonifacio who believed that reforms can only be obtained by a revolution). This era also witnessed the execution of Jose Rizal by the Spaniards and of the Bonifacio brothers in the hands of Filipinos. The Philippines was proclaimed independent from Spain by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

The Spanish-American War ended Spain’s colonization of the islands. After a brief respite, the Filipinos again found themselves in a two-year armed conflict, this time against the Americans. The end of the Filipino-American War marked the beginning of the American colonial period. Natural catastrophes were also part of the landscape. The two earthquakes in July 1880 caused destruction from Manila to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Another tremor with an intensity of 7.9 in August 1897 shook Batanes and Northern Luzon. There were also outbreaks of cholera and beriberi epidemics during the period.

From the roster of the first graduates of the only medical school in the Philippines, at the time, emerged many physicians who influenced the practice of health care delivery and the discipline of medical education in the country. Among them were:

Dr. Jose Rizal

  • The most famous alumnus of the University
  • Attended UST for Preparatory to 4th Year Medicine, 1877-82; finished Medicine in Madrid
  • Considered as one of the early champions of Public Health
  • Inspired by the fundamentals of public health espoused by Virchow and Pasteur
  • Initiated the improvement of sanitation facilities during his 3-month exile in Dapitan

Dr. Ariston Bautista (Med 1885)

  • A philanthropist and clinician
  • Greatly contributed to medical literature through his doctoral thesis entitled Consideraciones acerca de los abscesos del higado en los climas calidos, University of Madrid.

Dr. Jacob Fajardo

  • Served as a Major in the Military Corps of General Aguinaldo
  • Became an officer of the Municipal Health Service
  • Authored as a member of the National Assembly, the “Fajardo Act” (1912), which appropriated 5-10% of provincial and municipal income to “Health Funds”
  • Created, as Director of Health, the division of Maternity and Child Hygiene
  • Started the Monthly Bulletin of the Bureau of Health
  • Improved sanitation in local industry workplaces
  • Became President of the Philippine Medical Association (at that time it was a subsidiary of the American Medical Association)

Dr. Proceso Gabriel

  • Dedicated himself to the service of the people of Tondo, Manila, fighting the great epidemics of cholera, smallpox, beriberi, and typhoid
  • Opened the first private bacteriological and clinical laboratory in Manila; patronized by doctors from both Manila and many neighboring provinces
  • Published the following textbooks: Manula de Hygiene y Sanitacion, Higiene Practica and Metodos Clinicos de Laboratorio, during his 20 years with the Bureau of Health
  • Became Assistant Dean at the UST Faculty of Medicine & Surgery

Dr. Salvador Vivencio del Rosario (1886)

  • Contributed to the revolutionary paper La Independencia besides his medical practice
  • The first Filipino to hurdle to examination for Medical Inspector giving equality in rank and pay with the Americans in the Health Service
  • Mastered the English language as one of the first higher ranking Filipino members of the Health Service
  • Co-authored studies in cholera as an epidemiologist

Dr. Juan Miciano (Med 1889)

  • Highly influenced by the French school; became one of the best clinicians
  • Traveled abroad to keep abreast of modern scientific progress
  • Performed in 1900 the first laparotomy in the Philippines (on a woman with uterine fibroid) together with Drs. Valdez, Singian, and del Val

Dr. Fernando R. Calderon (Med 1891)

  • Leading Filipino Obstetrician during the American colonial period
  • Auxiliary Director of the Philippine General Hospital (1914)
  • First Director of the Philippine General Hospital (1916-36)
  • Dean of UP College of Medicine (1916-36)
  • Acting President of the University of the Philippines (Jan-Aug 1934)

Dr. Vicente S. de Jesus (Med 1893)

  • Specialized in public health
  • Took part in the organization of the Health Service during the American Occupation
  • Became the first Filipino to serve the position of Director of Health

Dr. Eliodoro Mercado (Med 1893)

  • Started parenteral administration of chaulmoogra oil as a treatment of leprosy; his work was considered an outstanding contribution to experimental therapeutics
  • Authored Leprosy in the Philippines and its Treatment, published by the University of Santo Tomas Press in 1915

Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera (1894)

  • Founder and President of the Colegio Medico-Farmaceutico
  • Authored “Las Plantas Medicinales de Filipinas”

Dr. Gregorio Singian (Med 1896)

  • Introduced together with Dr. Basilio Valdez, the improvement in the operating rooms of the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery such as separate operating rooms for clean and septic cases, sterilization room for instrument and bandages, observation galleries for students isolated by thick glass panes from operating theaters with microphones for the surgeon to describe the work
  • Established a central medical records section for the Hospital
  • Implemented sanitary improvements in the Dietary Service kitchen
  • Donated P200,000 worth of Radium to the Hospital for cancer treatment

Dr. Sixto de los Angeles (Med 1898)

  • Authored as a member of the National Assembly a law reorganizing and reforming the health service
  • Became Chair of Legal Medicine at the UP College of Medicine
  • Established a Legal Medicine Museum
  • Identified the remains of Andres Bonifacio
  • Reconstructed the remains of Gen. Gregorio del Pilar
  • Authored “Antropologica Criminal,” a 1600 -page illustrated textbook used as reference in medical and law colleges

Dr. Eduardo Diaz-Perez (1900)

  • First Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics (1908)

Dr. Manuel S. Guerrero (1902) and Dr. Joaquin L. Quintos (1902)

  • Together they contributed to the knowledge on the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of beriberi among infants.

In summary, many of the first graduates of the UST Faculty of Medicine & Surgery became pioneers and leaders in the developing health care delivery system in the late 1800s and well into the 1900s. A good number of the early Thomasian physicians likewise became administrators or faculty members of their Alma Mater and of other medical schools that were soon established in the country.