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The Universidad de Chile's Medical School, is located in the capital city Santiago de Chile, Ave. Independencia 1027 and it is a public university with international quality. All the areas of knowledge are elaborated in their lecture halls and today the university is at the top of the Chilean university system with regard to teaching, research, creation and outreach.

The Universidad de Chile's Medical School: 180 years in good health

The formal teaching of medicine began in Chile in April 1833 with the creation of the first medical school. It started to operate in outbuildings belonging to the old Instituto Nacional. Years later, in 1842, the School of Medicine was formed ot of the original medical school and was one of the five schools that would give birth to the Universidad de Chile.

The so-called Portaliano State, which ruled between 1831 and 1841, merged all the institutions that had dealt with medical knowledge during the colonial period and after gaining independence: the San Felipe Universidad Real, which had established the only medicine Chair during that time; the Instituto Nacional, intellectual reference of the pro-independence national elite, which had succeeded in implementing scientific like anatomy; and San Juan de Dios, the nation's first hospital, where medicine had been practiced since the sixteenth century.

The government of José Joaquín Prieto, helped by the minister Tocornal, apart from giving a new guidance to those institutions, also brought two doctors from Europe to take on the leadership of the new School of Medicine. These were Guillermo Blest, British doctor and first director of the School, and Lorenzo Sazie, French doctor, founder of the School of Obstetrics in 1835 and the first practitioner that would hold the position of Dean at the Universidad de Chile's School of Medicine in the middle of the nineteenth century. The first School of Medicine was born in 1833 in a building belonging to the San Juan de Dios Hospital and located at the corner of Santa Rosa and Alameda Avenue. At the moment of the Universidad de Chile's foundation in 1842, the School of Medicine had been operating for almost a decade. Such a historical fact makes it a pioneer not only in medicine but also with respect to the scientific thinking of our nation.

The year 1889 was a year of modernization for the school. It was indeed under the Balmaceda government (president between 1886 and 1891) and José Joaquín Aguirre's deanship that a new building, of great architectural proportion and inspired by the Greco-Roman style, was erected in the place where the school is currently located. The new school then met the canons of technological industrialization recently established by the Chilean liberal governments of the late nineteenth century.

The integration of the San Vicente de Paul Hospital (the current Universidad de Chile's Clinical Hospital) and its implementation as a teaching and practice centre for the School of Medicine's students would mean a qualitative leap in the school's development. Indeed, a large number of the most important doctors in the history of that scientific field in Chile were trained at that time: Vicente Izquierdo, Federico Puga Borne, Manuel Barros Borgoño, Lucas Sierra, Adolfo Valderrama, Máximo Cienfuegos, Ventura Carballo, Roberto del Río and Carlos Sazie. This is a period in which the School consolidated itself as the Chilean State's official medical teaching institution.

The State School of Nursing was founded in June 1906. It was at the time the first of its kind in South America. The School of Nutrition and Dietetics was created in 1939.

In 1948, the School of Medicine suffered a setback in its institutional history. That year, a fire consumed the building where it was operating and destroyed a great number of important medical and biological research material. The reconstruction started during the government of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and under Alejandro Garretón and Hernán Alessandri's deanship, after securing the approval of special laws in order to obtain the required funds. It was under Juvenal Hernández' rectorship that the reconstruction project of a new school was approved. Juan Martínez was the architect in charge of the project. Two series of events took place that would determine the school's leadership throughout the entire twentieth century: the configuration of the school's clinical fields and the political and social changes occurring in the 1960s and 1970s. It is also during those years that the School of Medical Technology was founded (1960). Three years later, the Universidad de Chile's School of Occupational Therapy was created. The year 1968 was the beginning of a substantial university reform resulting from worldwide social movements aiming at greater participation in the institutional decision-making processes. These movements sought to democratize university administration and obtain training for more health care professionals in Chile, increasing teaching within hospitals and integrating regional institutions in the development of medicine, teaching and practice (Valparaíso, Temuco, Valdivia, etc.). In addition, old Chairs were transformed in departments, which meant a significant change with respect to the culture and academic management of the School.

Even though the School of Kinesitherapy (nowadays known as the School of Kinesiology) has its origins in 1956, it really became part of the School of Medicine in 1972, the same year that saw the foundation of the School of Speech Therapy.

Within the school, 1972 was also marked by the consolidation of a reform whose aim was to organize four administrative branches: Roberto del Río and José Joaquín Aguirre hospitals for Santiago Norte; Del Salvador and Calvo Mackenna hospitals for Santiago Oriente; San Juan de Dios and Félix Bulnes hospitals for Santiago Occidente; Barros Luco, San Borja Arriarán and Gonzáles Cortés hospitals for Santiago Centro-Sur. Finally, the Universidad de Chile's School of Medicine had a branch in Valparaíso, responsible for managing the clinical fields of the following hospitals: Deformes, Van Büren and Gustavo Fricke.

After the military coup of 1973, the previous administrative structure was dismantled and replaced by a new national institutional scheme for higher education, adjusted to a social and economic neoliberal model. The school was later reunified in 1981 and currently maintains five clinical fields (North - Universidad de Chile's Clinical Hospital; South, Centre, East and West with their respective public hospitals and community health centres belonging to a particular network) as a basis for clinical teaching aimed at students from the first to the seventh year in the program. Two Chilean Presidents were. Educated in the Faculty of medicine, Dr Salvador Allende and Dra Michelle Bachelet


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E-mail : lgil@med.uchile.cl
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