Perspectives in Health Magazine
The Magazine of the Pan American Health Organization
Volume 7, Number 1, 2002

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A Century of Public Health
in the Americas


PAHO Family Album

Since its founding in 1902, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been a central part of a century-long pursuit to bring health to all the peoples of the Americas. The world's oldest international health organization, PAHO has a history that is rich with the stories of dedicated individuals who faced major challenges and who, in many cases, achieved remarkable success. This "PAHO Family Album" salutes their valuable work and their accomplishments of 100 years of Pan American efforts in public health.

 Monthly Bulletin of the International Bureau   Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
No descriptionPhoto courtesy of the Martin Luther King
No descriptionLibrary,Washington, D.C.

 left arrow In July 1902 the Monthly Bulletin of the International Bureau of the American Republics reported on the conference that planted the seeds for the creation of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): "The Second International Conference of the American States further recommends...that a general convention of representatives of the health organizations of the different American Republics shall be called...to meet at Washington, D.C., within one year...that said convention...shall designate a permanent executive board of not less than five members...to be known as the 'International Sanitary Bureau,' with permanent headquarters at Washington, D.C."


 Panama Canal
Photo ©OAS
 Dr. Carlos Finlay
Photo ©PAHO/WHO

 up arrow Dr. Carlos Finlay (1833-1915), a distinguished Cuban physician and student of yellow fever, was one of four members of the 1902 organizing committee charged with setting up the new International Sanitary Bureau (the forerunner to PAHO). Dubbed "the mosquito man" by his critics, Dr. Finlay (on the right) had argued as early as 1881 that the mosquito was the sole vector for yellow fever, but he was unable to prove his theory. When in 1900 Maj. Walter Reed's Yellow Fever Board proved Finlay right, the stage was set for eradication efforts that routed the disease in the Caribbean and allowed completion of the Panama Canal.

 left arrow Members of the first executive board of the International Sanitary Bureau (clockwise from top) were: Dr. Juan J. Ulloa of Costa Rica, Dr. Eduardo Moore of Chile, Dr. Rhett Goode of the United States, Dr. Eduardo Licéaga of Mexico, Dr. Juan Guiteras of Cuba, and Dr. A.H. Doty of the United States. Dr. Walter Wyman (center), surgeon general of the United States, became the Bureau's first chairman. His experience transforming the U.S. Marine Hospital Service into a comprehensive national public health agency helped shape the early work of the Bureau, which he headed until 1911.

 First executive board
Photo ©WHO
 4th Sanitary Conference

 up arrow Delegates gather at the Fourth International Sanitary Conference, in San José, Costa Rica, in 1910. The conference's agenda covered inter-American cooperation in smallpox vaccination, malaria and tuberculosis control, national health legislation, and tropical disease research. The final document included this timely call:
"[We] request...of the Governments of the American Republics that they favor the establishment in seaports and important cities of laboratories where not only diagnoses may be made in order to comply with the requirements contained in the resolutions of our sanitary conventions, but where also original investigations in tropical medicine and general pathology can be made along lines which the sanitary authorities deem practicable."

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