Dr. José Renán Esquivel, a world authority on social medicine whose professional career spanned more than five decades, passed away on 2 November in his native Panama, at the age of 85.
From 1962 to 1989, Dr. Esquivel served as General Director of the Children’s Hospital. His work as head of this facility revealed his deep convictions, his call to service, and visionary plans that he successfully implemented over the course of two decades. He was responsible for a series of innovations in children’s care, most importantly, the inclusion of mothers and fathers in the care and treatment of hospitalized children. By providing lodging for parents, Children’s Hospital enabled them to closely observe the medical care provided to their children. This practice became a model for other hospitals and healthcare centers in Latin America and elsewhere.
“Health teams must learn to distinguish what it means to work with shared responsibility: with people and for people. The difference between the two positions means eliminating paternalism and talking about social participation with equal rights,” Dr. Esquivel once said.
From 1968 to 1973, Dr. Esquivel served as Minister of Health, promoting public health policies that advanced equitable care for all Panamanians under the slogan: Equal health for all.
Dr. Esquivel began his medical studies in 1950, obtaining a scholarship to the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and receiving his medical degree with the highest honors. In 1956, he specialized in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Mexico City.
Dr. Esquivel (with diploma), upon receiving the Abraham Horwitz Award, PAHO's headquarters. (Photo PAHO/WHO Armando Waak)
Dr. Esquivel was devoted to education and was a prolific author of books and articles on community medicine, including Anatomía del poder politico y consejos de salud, envejecimiento normal del hombre. [Anatomy of political power and advice on health and normal aging].
To the end of his life he continued to express his fervent desire to ensure that “health is a right that will never change; therefore, there must be equal health for all.”
Dr. José Renán Esquivel will be remembered as a pioneer for his work as a social humanist, developing new criteria for community medicine in the Region of the Americas.
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