As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UERM College of Medicine, we look back to the pillars and leaders of the institution who paved the way for recognized endeavors like community medicine and the present community-based health program.
We pay tribute to one of the pillars, Dr. Alejandra Paz Garcia, who was born on December 9, 1910 in Pililla, a town of Rizal Province, and the youngest in a family of eight children. She grew up in a well-disciplined family of a banker father who wanted the best education for his daughter. She took up medicine at the University of the Philippines. She excelled in her studies and extracurricular activities like co-founding one of the early medicine sororities at UP.
She married the late Col. Ceferino Garcia, raised five children, one of them a distinguished obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Josefina Garcia-Sidiq, a member of the UERM Medicine Class ’65.
She traveled with her husband on his different military assignments, finally moving to Manila where she finished her Social Work degree at the Centro Escolar University.
Dr. Aljandra Garcia holds the distinction of being one of the first professors of the UERM Medical Center during the deanship of the late Dr. Juan Salcedo. She taught anatomy and later was sent by the China Medical Board to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and to John Hopkins University as a Fullbright Scholar in Preventive Medicine. She went back to UERM to become Dean of Women and head of the Department of Preventive Medicine where she envisioned the practice of preventive medicine. Students were then assigned to individual families in the squatter areas around the Medical Center. Families were “adopted”; family case studies were accomplished and the relationship of health, disease, sickness, prevention, poverty, and the environment were emphasized. It was an early introduction and immersion of the medical students to the fact that health is a basic human right than can be promoted or denied by socio-political, economic, religious, and environ-mental factors.
The students and colleagues remember her for her beauty, her good grooming and her penchant for sweet Sampaguita and Jasmine flowers on her hair.
She wanted students to wear their uniforms with pride. She was strict but failing students was not her “cup of tea.” She exuded a kind of friendliness that endeared her to people. She was a good conversa-tionalist and was admired for her way of getting her ideas across.
She died at the early of sixty but will be fondly remembered as the “Mother of Community Medicine” who believed that the practice of the noble profession be extended to the community of the poor, the sick, the needy, and the down-trodden. This is shared by her granddaughter, Dr. Yasmin Sidiq, engaged in family practice, at Georgetown, USA, who with her mother, Dr. Josefina Garcia Sidiq, will set up a Dr. Alejandra Paz Garcia scholarship for deserving medical students and support the establishment of an Integrated Community Health Learning Center and Staffhouse at Bagong Nayon II, Antipolo City.
May their tribe increase! Edith M. Regalado, M.D., Medicine Class ’65