In Peru, Adventists Launch ‚Ä®Church’s
Fifth Medical School

First Medical School in Northwestern Region of South America (Posted October 17, 2012)

BY ANSEL OLIVER, Adventist News Network

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has inaugurated a medical school in Peru, the first Adventist school of medicine in the northwestern region of South America. Inaugural ceremonies were held September 20, 2012.

Church leaders said the School of Human Medicine at Peruvian Union University in Lima expands the church’s capacity for health-care ministry in Peru and surrounding Spanish-speaking countries, an area with great demand for Adventist physicians.

DEDICATION PRAYER: Medical students line the front of the auditorium while a prayer is offered by Erton Köhler, president of the Adventist Church’s South American Division. [PHOTOS: Rosmery Sanchez]
At the ceremony, church officials praised the vision of local leaders and Peruvian expatriates who have returned in recent years to help establish the school.

“A medical school has always been a necessity in Peru, and today that dream has become a reality because Peruvian Union University dreamed it,” Erton Köhler, president of the denomination’s South American Division, said at the morning ceremony.

The school’s founding dean, Dr. Carlos Alfonso Balarezo, is a Peruvian national who has served as chief of surgery at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Riverside, California, United States, and as an associate professor of surgery at nearby Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine. He also holds the title of Master of Peruvian Surgery, a distinction awarded by the Peruvian Surgical Society and held by only three people.

Balarezo said he left the United States five years ago to join the team that established the school. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to help mold these students,” Balarezo said in an interview. “Like Loma Linda [University], we want to place a lot of emphasis on preventative care. This will differentiate us from other medical schools here.”

The school’s curriculum is a seven-year postsecondary program. Classes actually started last month with 80 students. School officials say the program will continue with about 60 students each year.

SCHOOL OFFICIALS: School executives honor Dr. Carlos Alfonso Balarezo (left), the school’s founding dean. From right, Walter Davila, director of student services, Dr. Maximina Contreras, vice president, and Juan Choque Fernandez, university president.
Peru is underserved with physicians compared to the rest of the world. The country has nine doctors per 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. The global mean average is 14.

On campus, student Flor Cari said, “It’s wonderful to now have this program, which will prepare us to serve those who have needed us for so lo”

Peruvian Union University has about 8,100 students, making it the second-largest university by enrollment in the Adventist world church. Brazil Adventist University in São Paulo has slightly more than 10,000 students.

Church leaders said the new medical school has a strong Adventist base to pull from in Peru, a country with one of the highest proportions of Adventist Church members. More than 410,000 church members live in the nation, which has a population of roughly 30 million. Approximately 60 secondary Adventist schools enroll nearly 10,000 students.

Officials said the new school would also draw students from neighboring countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil.

Allan Handysides, Health Ministries Department director for the Adventist world church, said he expects the school to thrive because of the extensive planning by school officials over the previous five years.

“I think it’s going to be a great success because they were extremely focused on following to the exact detail the recommendations from the [Adventist world church’s] Education Department,” Handysides said.

INAUGURAL CEREMONY: Medical school students line the platform and shake hands with administrators during the September 20, 2012, inauguration of the School of Human Medicine at Peruvian Union University in Lima.
The new school is the Adventist world church’s fifth medical school. Today’s inauguration comes three months after the Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., School of Medicine opened at church-run Babcock University in Nigeria.

The Adventist Church also operates medical schools at Adventist universities in Montemorelos, Nuevo León, Mexico; Libertador San Martín, Entre Rios, Argentina; and its flagship school in Loma Linda, California, United States.

Adventist Education Department leaders say a sixth medical school is being developed in the Philippines.

Several world church officials complimented leaders in Peru for their collaboration across church institutions to help build the school over the past five years. Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, Adventist world church Education Department director, said church administrators and university officials coordinated the effort with Adventist health-care institutions and community hospitals to establish the new school’s training capacity.

“There is a tremendous team spirit in support of the medical school,” Beardsley-Hardy said. “It means a lot for the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Peru.”
                                                                                                               —with additional reporting by Angela Brown

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