A Brief History of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery (UST)

By Luis Mayo Lao, MD | Internal Medicine UST Hospital (Former)


The year 1871 maybe aptly termed as the turning point in the history of medical education in the Philippines. In that year was founded the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. From a humble beginning, it has grown steadily today as one of the most progressive and modern medical schools in the Islands if not in the Far East. As the first medical school in the Philippines, it has withstood the test of time; it has turned graduates that any university could well be proud of. Abroad, the name of this Institution of learning is also well known, so much so, that it has always been mentioned in foreign literature. Men of science like Drs. Luis Guerrero, Singian, and Penas were but a few of its graduates whose lives and services to the people could very well attest to the quality of the school from whence they came.
The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery was formally established on May 28, 1871 after great difficulties on the part of the school authorities to obtain the permission. With the permission granted by the Civil Superior Government of the Islands, Rev. Fr. Rector Francisco Rivas was authorized to open the school.
This was epoch making indeed, for prior to this, in order to study Medicine one had to go to Mexico and this entailed grant expenses and hardships on the part of the students.
The school started with just a handful of students, 14 to be exact. The first dean of the medical school was Don Rafael Ginard. The course covered a period of six years which included a year of rotating internship. Some of the subjects taught were Descriptive Anatomy and Exercises on Dissection under the direction of professors, Don Rafael Ginard, Licentiate in Medicine and Dr. Mariano Marti. Don Quintin Raynert was in charge of the surgical clinic. The texts used were mostly translations from the French so that the latter’s influence on our pioneers was very strong.
In the year 1877, the first graduation of the Faculty of Medicine was held. There were eight who graduated as Licentiates. There were D. Jose Lacada, D. Enrique Seneca, D. Felipe Zamora, D. Hipolito Fernandez, D. Justo, D. Panis, D. Joaquin Batlle, D. Narciso de S. Agustin and D. Nicanor Padilla.
Since 1878, repeated attempts were made by Rev. Fr. Joaquin Foneca, O.P. as Rector of the University, to confer the title of Doctor on the graduates of the Faculty of Medicine, but unfortunately, were met with failure as this right was given only to the Central University of Madrid. In 1898, after the cessation of the Spanish sovereignty, the University was granted the right to confer the Title.
During the American regime, intensive renovations were made. The Very Rev. Fr. Raymundo Velasquez O.P. then Rector of the University was instrumental for these changes. New equipment for three laboratories namely, Bacteriology, normal Histology and Pathology and Physiology were installed. The Faculty and technical personnel were increased. An electrotherapeutic laboratory was also established.
Intensification of researches in chemo-therapy was made.
The first Regent of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, the Rev. Fr. Francisco del Rio O.P, introduced further changes to meet the ever present and increasing demand for good Catholic physicians. The succeeding regent Rev. Fr. Jose Cuesta O.P. continued the program of the school to conform to the latest and most modern advances in the medical science.
The following were the Deans of the Faculty of Medicine during the American occupation:
1. Dr. Jose Luis de Castro
2. Dr. Proceso Gabriel
3. Dr. Bonifacio Mencias
4. Dr. Luis Guerrero
In 1932, the Faculty of Medicine admitted women students in compliance with orders issued by the Congregation of the Holy See. The first batch of women graduates numbering 37 graduated in March, 1937. Among them were Drs. Belen Espino-Cabatit and Remedios Goquiolay-Arellano, both became faculty members of the University. Since then, the number of women graduates have increased considerably.
The Faculty of Medicine was housed in the Walled City up to 1927. In 1928, the first and second year classes were moved to Espana but clinical instruction were still given at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in the Walled City and later at St. Paul’s Hospital until September 21, 1944 when the Hospital was totally razed to the ground during the American Liberation campaign.
After Liberation, the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery underwent major changes towards modernization with the acquisition of a vast amount of equipment from the U.S. Army and abroad. The school and charity wards were still located in the old Medicine Building.
On January 6, 1946, the new Regent, Rev. Fr. Jesus Diaz O.P. was appointed. He made it a major point in his policy that everything for the enhancement of the progress of the school were to be further carried out. Assisting him at the time was the then Assistant Dean Hermogenes A. Santos, who was instrumental in the increased efficiency of the faculty and changes in the methods of teaching.
In April 1949, Dean Virgilio Ramos was appointed. A man of action but with a soft-spoken voice, he inaugurated more changes in the school. At this time, construction of the new Medicine building has started.
Under the terms of the most beloved and oldest (in point of service) Regent of the Faculty of Medicine, Rev. Fr. Jesus Diaz O.P. , who was reappointed on July 10, 1953 and together with Dean Ramos, further implementation of the school’s modernization program was made. Enrollment has risen to its highest 4,200 (the largest pre-war enrollment being 1400). The University Hospital was enlarged and the bed capacity of the charity ward was increased to accommodate the increasing number of medical students.
The Faculty of Medicine maintains well-equipped clinical and surgical pathological laboratories, electrocardiography, physical therapy, an obstetrical service, a nursery, an orthopedic clinic, a well-baby clinic, a medical library and modern air conditioned operating rooms. In October 1952, the new and imposing Medicine Building, considered one of the finest in the Far East, was inaugurated. The school also maintains a well-staffed Out-Patient Department headed by Dr. Francisco J. Roman which is housed
in a separate building. A new Assistant Regent, Fr. Martin Diez O.P. was appointed to help in the administration of the progressively growing school. Every year, new improvements were constantly being introduced in accordance with the University’s policy of continuous improvement within its means and resources.