For a long time, psychiatry has had the stigma of mystery or intrigue associated with the type of cases that are usually treated in its offices. Medical speciality. In past centuries, the mere fact of exercising it seemed like a craziness, to say those who could not conceive the idea that the evils related to thought and mind They were linked to an aspect other than religion and mysticism.
Peru was no exception, since decades ago psychiatrists, also known as ‘alienists‘, they dealt with the prejudices that fell on them and the little progress that there was in their field.
The truth is that today the psychiatry Not only is it a part of medicine that deals with the mind, but it is an important branch that helps to care for, treat and prevent mental health problems, and that also synergizes with various specialties to improve the quality of life of patients. patients.
Likewise, in our country there are people linked to this career who are medical references, as is the case of Hermilio Valdizanwho is considered the father of Peruvian psychiatry. In honor of his birthday, each November 20 is celebrated in Peru as “Peruvian Psychiatry Day”which seeks to honor their impeccable work and revalue the professionals who work in this field of health.
A native of Huánuco, Hermilio Valdizán Medrano was a doctor, writer and professor who was born in 1885. At just eight years old, he lost his father and his family emigrated to Lima, enduring the ravages of poverty and lack of opportunities. He studied at “Lima School” in charge of Pedro Labarthe and years later he taught at the same campus. From a very young age he worked to support his family’s finances and pay for part of his studies.
At the age of 17, he entered the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of San Marcos (UNMSM), where he graduated with the thesis “Crime in Peru.” His interest in the mental area It possibly arose from the great sensitivity that Valdizán had towards others, but also his capacity for analysis. Despite this, the psychiatry in Peru It had not yet been established as a common practice.
His talent and ability earned him a scholarship in Europe awarded by the Peruvian State. There he remained from 1911 to 1914 studying at the Italian School of Mental Diseases and the Nervous System, in Italy, but also in France and Switzerland, where he carried out internships and specialized in psychiatry. In 1915, shortly after the start of the First World War, Valdizán returned to Peru and completed his thesis “Mental alienation among primitive Peruvians”, with which he graduated as a Doctor of Medicine.
Subsequently, he created the first outpatient clinic for nervous and mental diseases at the Dos de Mayo Hospital and founded the chair of Nervous and Mental Diseases at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos. Later he also founded the Psychopedagogical Seminar together with Dr. Honorio Delgado. This was intended to guide teachers and promote the “Mental Hygiene” movement.
He was director of the then Colonia Víctor Larco Herrera Asylumwhere he applied much of his knowledge to change the way in which the alienated were cared for, leaving aside methods such as straitjackets or the stocks, to use knowledge linked to science, but also to provide more humane treatment, seeking understand these conditions.
Valdizán also dedicated himself to journalistic work, working as chronicler in the newspapers El Tiempo and La Prensa. As a writer, he had extensive research in the field of medicine, especially in history and of course, in mental illness, being an important scientific and humanist popularizer.
He spent his short life dedicated to studying and faithful to his work. Knowing that time was running out, he investigated to complete his works and leave a legacy of new grounds for scientific inquiry. The doctor died on the night of December 25, 1929, at only 44 years old, working until that last day.
Valdizán was mainly characterized by the empathy and tender character he enjoyed, which allowed him to look beyond, paying attention to the suffering of those who were tormented by their own demons. He never agreed with the dehumanized treatment that the ‘alienated’ received from the nuns in charge of his ‘care’, who attributed these conditions to religious issues.
For him it was necessary to understand each of the patients and help them calm your psychic pain. According to the story of friends close to the doctor, he had great kindness and he was someone dedicated, who loved without exception and of broad generosity. A legacy that continues to resonate with current generations and that is remembered today with the celebration of this date in his honor.
‘Madness’ has always existed, in pre-Columbian times it was conceived as a matter of a magical or religious nature that was treated in the same way, closely linked to the worldview. As time went by and the viceroyalty entered, this type of illness was taken into account, and the ‘insane’ were perceived as people with weakness in the brain, eating problems or even possessed.
However, they were treated, specifically in the hospitals of Saint Anne and Saint Andrew, who had dedicated spaces for this type of evil despite their lack of understanding. Later the first ‘alienists’ would appear, such as the aforementioned Hermilio Valdizán, but also the Dr. Casimiro Ulloawho was director of the first Asylum or Hospice for the Insane, called Mercy Hospital. Here the figure of Manuel A. Muñiz.
With the passage of time, the Asilo Colonia de La Magdalena, today the Víctor Larco Herrera Hospital, was founded. Its importance lies in the training of the first psychiatrists in Peru. Later the Hospital Obrero de Lima would be added, which had a psychiatry service, providing more options to those who wanted to dedicate themselves to this work. Some had the privilege of being taught by Professor Honorio Delgado in person.
Over the years, psychiatry has evolved and today works comprehensively with other specialties, being an indispensable medical branch that undoubtedly had humble beginnings and a long road to take its place in medical sciences.
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