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Biographical Database

 

 

 

 

Dr. Florentino B. Herrera Jr.

 

 

Descriptive Summary

 

Title

Dr. Florentino B. Herrera, Jr. Fonds, 1979-1983

Extent

Compose of 17 pieces of non-textual records

 

Repository

Memorabilia, UP Manila Archives and Records Depository

 

 

Abstract

 

Dr. Florentino B. Herrera, Jr. is a Professor Emeritus of Medicine '83. He was a member, Board of Regents, University of the Philippines (1979-1983), first Chancellor, University of the Philippines Manila (1983), Founding Chancellor, Health Sciences Center, University of the Philippines, (1979-1983) and became the Dean, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines, (1967-1979).

 

Biography

By Dr. Alberto G. Romualdez, Jr.

 

Dr. Florentino B. Herrera, Jr. was a compleat physician who spent his entire professional life of 42 years in academic medicine. He was a highly qualified internist, he was a man of science, and above all he was a great teacher who participated in the building of institutions which to this day are significant contributors to the health and welfare of the Filipino. Each stage of Dr. Herrera’s remarkable career can be viewed as a model to be followed for a lifetime by any graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

Soon after his graduation in 1941, Dr. Herrera became an adjunct resident in the Philippine General Hospital. He served the hospital during the darkest days of the Japanese Occupation providing medical care for individual patients from all walks of life including some who resisted the Occupation. His dedication and courage during this period of conflict were rewarded with the Bronze Medal of Valor from the Philippine government and the Medal of Freedom from the government of the United States of America. Medical graduates of any era would do well to emulate Dr. Herrera’s conduct as a clinician and patriot during his wartime tenure as resident and assistant instructor in the PGH.

In 1946, Dr. Herrera was sent to the United States for postdoctoral studies in clinical pharmacology first as an Eli Lilly fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine from 1946 to 1947, then as Hoffman La Roche Fellow at the Cornell University. During this period, while research in cardiovascular and pulmonary clinical pharmacology was Dr. Herrera’s major activity, he found time to prepare for and pass the requirements that led to a grant of a Diplomate by the American Board of Internal Medicine.   Medical graduates aspiring for higher skills and qualifications can use Dr. Herrera’s postgraduate performance as an example of how to prepare oneself for future academic challenges.

Dr. Herrera’s research contributions were not limited to the biomedical work that he did as a fellow in the United States. In all of his assignments, as teacher and academic administrator, Dr. Herrera devised innovative approaches which qualifies him to be considered as a world pioneer in medical education research and, certainly for this country, one of the earliest of physicians to engage in finance and budget research. Moreover, in addition to his personal scientific activities, Dr. Herrera motivated young medical scientists and provided them with the environment that supported their otherwise unrewarding inclinations in science. Future medical researchers can learn about relevant creativity and significant innovation from the example of Dr. Herrera, the medical scientist.

One of Dr. Herrera’s favorite quotations was from Seneca, the Roman philosopher, who said: “The best way to learn is to teach”. He believed in this to the extent that he always attributed his own achievements to his students and other fellow workers. Whether it was teaching physical diagnosis in the wards, lecturing on some aspect of clinical pharmacology, or simply exchanging views with new faculty members, Dr. Herrera placed the student at the center of the learning process.

Finally, Dr. Herrera’s role in the building of institutions that have endured in the service of the Filipino people is unparalleled in the history of the College. The one thread that unites these endeavors is service to communities and people. It is to be noted that most of these were accomplished during the most tumultous days of martial law and authoritarian rule that comprised most of the period of Dr. Herrera’s leadership of the College as Dean from 1967 to 1979 and as Chancellor from 1979 to 1983. Of the many institutions that Dr. Herrera had a role in creating, three were particularly close to his heart: the Postgraduate School of Medicine, the Institute (now School) of Health Sciences in Tacloban, and the Health Sciences Center (now U.P. Manila) itself. The stories behind each of these illustrate the dedication, and devotion of Dr. Herrera to academic excellence and relevance to society – twin ideals that sometimes seemed impossible to reconcile.

The Postgraduate School was originally established by a group of clinical faculty to provide continuing medical education to colleagues outside Manila. From 1951 to 1954, while Dr. Herrera served as its secretary, the School successfully carried out activities that were well appreciated. However, for a variety of reasons, the activities declined and the institution was more or less dormant during the late 50s and throughout the 60s. On the suggestion of a clinical department chair, Dr. Herrera revived the School through a Circuit Course program that was initially funded by a shoestring budget in 1971. With Dr. Herrera’s support, the program not only grew as a continuing medical education resource but also established a network of regional practitioners whose commitment to academic excellence made them natural leaders whose talents were later tapped for other activities of the College and later the Center.

Mindful of the many shortcomings of the College of Medicine in the area of relevance to community health, Dr. Herrera, through his creation of an “Extraordinary Curriculum Committee”, encouraged members of the faculty, young and old, to think about creative new ways of improving the College’s direct contributions to health development in the country. The ideas generated by this Committee formed the backbone for the development of a program that connected the various health professions together in the form of the so-called ladder curriculum. Again with the barest of funding support, but with maximum inspiration, the Institute of Health Sciences was established in Tacloban in 1976 under Dr. Herrera’s daring leadership. The program has produced numerous community-oriented health workers some of whom have played leadership roles at provincial, regional, national and even international levels.

The Health Sciences Center was a dream of many groups within the University health professional schools. In the mid-60s, high ranking members of the University had reason to hope that this dream would be realized by the building of a new Philippine Medical Center in Quezon City. Unfortunately, the hope did not become reality then. Nevertheless, because of continuing encouragement and support of other senior officials of the University, the hope persisted in the heart of Dr. Herrera. In 1979, the dream came true and in February of that year, Dr. Herrera became the first Chancellor of the U.P. Health Sciences Center at the old sites in Manila. He remained as Chancellor when the Center was renamed U.P. Manila.

Dr. Florentino B. Herrera, Jr. was a true son of the U.P. College of Medicine. He participated in over forty years of its development. He inspired large numbers of young graduates to follow in his footsteps. The broadness of his vision of medicine allowed him to see the nexus between his chosen profession and not only those of other health professions but also those in other sectors. Before it became a cliché, holistic was a term that could be applied to Dr. Herrera’s view of service to his people and their institutions.

Finally, often overlooked among Dr. Herrera's qualities was his kindness and instinctive humanity. On the way to his many professional, academic and professional achievements, Dr. Herrera was often perceived as rough and tough. Beneath that hard exterior, however, was a heart that gave Dr. Herrera the empathy that let him understand the sufferings and problems of those he dealt with--a sick patient short on funds, a student struggling with his medical subjects, a fellow teacher/researcher trying to balance the need to earn a living and staying in the academe, or entire communities in need of health services.