The Seventh-day Adventist Church today inaugurated a medical school in Peru, the first Adventist school of medicine in the Northwestern region of South America.
Church leaders said the School of Human Medicine at Peruvian Union University in Lima expands the church’s capacity for healthcare ministry in Peru and surrounding Spanish-speaking countries, an area with great demand for Adventist physicians.
At today’s inauguration 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 Kohler, president of the denomination’s South American Division, said at the ceremony this morning.
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, post-secondary program. Classes actually started last month with 80 students. School officials say the program will continue with about 60 students each year.
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 this morning, 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 long.”
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 slighly 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. There are more than 410,000 church members in the nation, which has a population of roughly 30 million. Approximately 60 secondary Adventist schools enroll a total of roughly 10,000 students.
Officials said the new school would also draw students from neighboring countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil.
Dr. Allan Handysides, Health Ministries 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.
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; Liberator San Martín, Entre Rios, Argentina; and its flagship school in Loma Linda, California, United States.
Adventist Education leaders say a sixth medical school is being developed in the Philippines.
Several world church officials have 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 director, said church administrators and university officials coordinated the effort with Adventist healthcare 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.”
—additional reporting by Angela Brown