The Educational Legacy of the UPR School of Tropical Medicine: Curricula, Faculty, Students (1926-1949)

Silvia Esther Rabionet


This essay discusses the educational evolution of the University of Puerto Rico-School of Tropical Medicine (UPR-STM) under the auspices of Columbia University. It takes a closer look to what was taught, who taught it and who were the students benefitting from the educational, learning and advanced research activities. It highlights some characteristics of the educational environment that aimed to harvest a well-trained group of scientists, academicians, and practitioners. It examines the characteristics of the faculty and graduates and their role in the teaching and dissemination of knowledge in tropical medicine and closely related fields. The curricula was characterized for its flexibility to accommodate the students’ clinical and research interests. With the advent of the 1940s the School started offering public health professionals degrees in addition to the former research-based training. This brought tensions associated to professionalization, the diversification of purposes, the expansion without sufficient resources, and the opening to different levels of students. Maintaining a cadre of well-trained prestigious faculty was always a struggle. Strategies such as visiting professors and joint and ad-honorem appointments were used. Agreements with universities around the world, philanthropic institutions, professional associations, and with different branches of the local and federal government supplemented the resources of the School. In return, the School offered an environment committed to educational standards, networking and a wealth of data for study and discovery.


Tropical medicine; Public health training; Medical education in Puerto Rico; History of education; History of medical education

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Published by the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
Founded in 1982