The Second Philippine Commission passed Act 1415 on December 1, 1905 establishing the Philippine Medical School, the forerunner of our College of Medicine. At that time, the country was besieged by major health problems, including cholera and smallpox and the Commission saw the need for more physicians to attend to the increasing health needs of Filipinos. The school opened on June 10, 1907 with only a handful of students and with very limited equipment loaned from various government institutions. It occupied the old structure of the School for the Deaf and Blind on Malecon Drive (now Bonifacio Drive) while its own building along Herran Street (now Pedro Gil Street) was being constructed. Dr. Paul Freer was the first dean of the medical school. The school transferred to Herran (now Pedro Gil St.) in 1910.
On September 1, 1910, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) opened and began serving the public. The hospital was established not only to treat patients but also to provide clinical instruction for students of the college. The faculty of the medical school served as consultants of the PGH, and the PGH Director was concurrent Dean of the medical school.
On December 8, 1910, after five years of independent existence, the school was renamed the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and Surgery, thus having the distinction of antedating its mother university by three years. The name was shortened to the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) in 1923.
The medical curriculum followed the pattern of standard American curricula consisting of a 5-year course with the addition of units in tropical medicine. In 1913, an optional sixth year termed “hospital year” was given to those planning to join the government medical service. Internship was made a prerequisite for graduation in 1923, occupying all of the fifth year and replacing clinical clerkship and the optional “hospital year”.
The first members of the faculty were Americans but Filipinos later occupied more faculty positions. Included in the initial faculty roster were Filipino graduates of the University of Sto. Tomas, who formed the elite among local practitioners or who had studied in the United States or Europe. In 1916, Dr. Fernando Calderon became the first Filipino dean and the first Filipino director of the PGH. Eventually most of the faculty positions were occupied by Filipino professors.
The Second World War was a most significant stage in the history of the College of Medicine. The College was the only unit of the University of the Philippines (UP) that remained open and functional during the war despite bombings and sniper fire. There was also no disruption of services in the PGH. Dr. Antonio G. Sison was the College Dean at the time (1937-1951) and many refer to his deanship as “the Renaissance Period of Medicine in the Philippines” because of his efforts to improve medical education. The UP Medical Alumni Society (UPMAS) was founded in 1945, with Dr. Juan Salcedo Jr. as its first president. The Society has since supported the College in its many endeavors though generous donations and contributions of its members.
After the war, the College realized a fertile period for academic research and medical specialization. Dr. Agerico B.M. Sison (1951-1960) assumed the deanship in 1951 and was largely responsible for the academic and physical rehabilitation of the post war College of Medicine and PGH. In 1969, the medical curriculum was shortened from five to four years. and the M.D. degree was awarded after clerkship. Internship became a postgraduate year but remained a prerequisite for taking the medical board examinations to obtain licensure.
The seventies saw the faculty and alumni of the College of Medicine involved in significant roles in almost every aspect of the medical profession in the Philippines, with many holding top positions in the government. In 1977, UP Manila became the Health Sciences Center, an autonomous unit of the UP System, with Dean Florentino Herrera, Jr. (1967-1979) of the College of Medicine as the first Chancellor. The Center brought together under one umbrella, the College of Medicine and all other medical and health institutions of the University, including the PGH.
In the late 70`s, the curriculum underwent several reappraisals and subsequent revisions. A seven-year program that integrated the premedical course with medicine proper was the end result of these curricular changes. This program, called the Integrated Liberal Arts and Medicine (INTARMED) Program, provided exposure to humanities and synchronization of the basic and clinical disciplines. High school graduates could directly enter the College of Medicine under this program which consisted of 2 years of preparatory medicine courses, 4 years of medicine proper and 1 year of internship. Graduation was held after internship.. It was during the time of Dean Gloria T. Aragon (1979-1983), first woman dean of the UPCM and concurrent PGH Director, that this curriculum was approved by the UP Board of Regents.
Dean Alberto Romualdez (1984-1987), who became Secretary of Health in 1997-2001, was responsible for reinvigorating the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. He spearheaded the establishment of the School for Health Sciences (SHS) in Palo, Leyte and instituted the Regionalization Program of the UPCM. These programs allowed deserving students from the community to pursue medicine and return to serve as health practitioners in their home towns.
During the term of Dean Marita V.T. Reyes (1988-1991) the UPCM proved to be the bastion of academic freedom. Rallying for social responsibility and accountability, Dr. Reyes also further enhanced the Regionalization Program of the UPCM. The 1990s witnessed great changes in the UPCM.
Dean Alfredo T. Ramirez (1991-1994) initiated the Dean’s International Circle (DIC) and the Resource Development Office (RDO) to stimulate fund raising activities for the College of Medicine. The annual Grand Scientific Symposium (GSS), which showcases the expertise of the faculty members and alumni in the form of lectures and demonstrations in a postgraduate course, was also started and has become a major yearly fundraising event of the college.
Renovations in the College continued under Dean Amelia R. Fernandez (1994-1997). These included the construction of the Multidisciplinary Laboratory (MDL) in the second floor of the Paz. Mendoza Hall. The Bioethics Committee was established and tasked to incorporate bioethical issues in the medical curriculum.
Dean Ramon L. Arcadio (1997-2003) introduced curricular changes to make medical education more learner-centered and community-oriented. New academic departments and units were established such as the Departments of Neurosciences and Emergency Medical Services, and the Medical Informatics and Community-oriented Medical Education Units. The UPCM submitted itself for accreditation by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) in 2003. In 2011, the UPCM was awarded the highest accreditation level of Level IV. Dean Arcadio initiated the planning and preparations for the organ system integrated (OSI) curriculum. The dual MD-PhD program was also conceptualized and approved by the UP BOR in his term.
Implementation of the OSI curriculum began in Academic Year 2004-2005 with Learning Unit III (the third year of the 7 year INTARMED program) during the term of Dean Cecilia V. Tomas (2003-2006). A student mentoring program was also initiated with the start of the OSI curriculum implementation to provide a mutually beneficial venue for faculty and student interaction, guidance and nurturing. In 2002, the Regionalization Program (RP) was strengthened with the BOR approval of contract signing by RP students of their intention to serve in the country. This was implemented in 2005. To augment faculty training, an Integrated Faculty Development Program (IFDP) was developed and approved by the College Council on April 4, 2006, and implemented in 2007. The ACTA MEDICA PHILIPPINA was re-launched as a peer-reviewed journal in 2006 and was chosen by the PCHRD/DOST as the country’s National Health Science Journal in March 16, 2009.
As the UPCM reached her first 100 years, her dedication to excellence and leadership in medical education, research and service to the underserved remained steadfast, firm and uncompromising. On the Centennial year, Task Force Pagsasabuhay was formed by Dean Cecilia V. Tomas as an oversight and advocacy group that would help UPCM ensure that the mission-vision to “serve the underserved” is carried out by the UPCM graduates. Part of Task Force Pagsasabuhay’s recommendations included a return service contract for all UPCM graduates with the proper logistical support including a placement office that will ensure proper placement, a safe working environment and adequate financial support.
Dean Alberto B. Roxas (2006-2012) took over the reins as Dean in June 2006. In recognition of the need to determine longterm and short term goals for the college, the 6th Management Action Plan (MAP VI) included for the first time a 25 year master plan, STAR (Self sufficiency, Talent, Technology and Tolerance, Academic Excellence, and Responsiveness) Vision 2032 to serve as a guide for the long term strategic directions of the college. During his term, the Return Service Committee formulated the implementing rules for the return service obligation (RSO) which was approved by the College Council by an overwhelming majority on March 11, 2008. It was subsequently approved by the University Council on June 25, 2008 and the Board of Regents’ 1234th Meeting on July 31, 2008 and reaffirmed in its 1236th Meeting on September 29, 2008. Additional provisions were approved by the BOR in its meeting on July 2013. All students admitted to the UPCM starting in Academic Year 2009-2010 signed a return service obligation agreement that would require them to serve in the country within five years after their graduation.
The UPCM has yet to realize its long term goals towards self sufficiency with the hope of providing financial and research assistance to its constituents. As long as its vision is clear, and with a concerted effort from all sectors, the UPCM is certain that it will be able to attain its goals and remain THE Center of Excellence in Medical Education. The administration of the current Dean, Dr. Agnes D. Mejia (2012 - ) shall ensure that the College will remain the Center of Excellence with the twin operational thrusts of her administration – enhancement of internal organizational efficiency and the pursuit of financial stability programs.