the legacy of a man dedicated to service and medical research
Dr. Norman Maldonado practiced medicine, researched and disseminated his knowledge in prestigious magazines in order to help others.
Dr. Norman Maldonado Simón, internist and hematologist, former rector of the RCM, former president of the UPR. Photo: Magazine of Medicine and Public Health. Fabiola Square.
Doctor Norman Maldonado Simón, internist and hematologist, former rector of the RCM, former president of the UPR, is a native of Adjuntas, studied in public schools in Puerto Rico and in 1959 graduated from the school of tropical medicine, located in San Juan; his third and fourth year internships were at the Hospital de San Juan.
At that time, Dr. Maldonado recalls, it was not easy, since patients often arrived late to be treated.
From the tropical medicine school, he recalls that a cardiovascular surgery program was started with Dr. Frank Fucci, and it was very successful. Dr. Ortiz was the head of pediatrics, a unit where many children came with dehydration, tropical diseases, or parasites. There was also a department of medicine. Obstetrics and gynecology was another important area, where Dr. Maldonado had the opportunity, along with other colleagues, not only to attend deliveries, but also to instruct other students from the Dominican Republic and Spain, who came to the island with very little knowledge and practical experience.
As students, they had some special benefits. In internal medicine, Dr. Maldonado spent a semester in New York. Dr. Maldonado’s mother was from Romania, but she grew up in the United States, so English was easy for him. He helped the other students understand what the Spanish-speaking patients wanted to tell them.
He returned to Puerto Rico to graduate from a class of 52 students. She decided to do her internship in the United States. There she started in surgery and went on to pediatrics, where she fell ill with mumps, after having contact with a sick child with this condition. She was in bed for two weeks, but then she returned to the United States to finish her exams.
In an emergency room he met a young woman named Mirian, whom he married. She knew a little Spanish, but in Puerto Rico she finished learning.
Doctor Maldonado was part of the first group that worked at the university hospital, there he began his residency, a place where he learned a lot, he treated patients with respiratory failure, paralysis and there was a special machine that breathed for the patients, that was new for him and his companions.
Unexpected news in a telegram
Construction began on the medical center in Puerto Rico, there were patients with diarrhea and severe anemia, a tropical disease. These patients improved with folic acid, but the cause of the disease was not known. On December 31, he came home to celebrate the New Year, in Adjuntas, and when his wife entered, he showed him a telegram sent by the selective service for him to receive training in Texas, something he had not planned, since he never thought to be a military doctor.
He entered the United States Army and trained for six weeks. He went to serve Germany, a country where he arrived by boat from the United States. He then took a train to get to the artillery battalion where he was assigned.
There was a time when President Kennedy was on the verge of declaring war. Fortunately, nothing happened to him and he was able to complete his two years of service. They offered him to stay longer, but Dr. Maldonado refused. His wife already had two children, and he had returned to Virginia. Dr. Maldonado arrived in New York and separated from the army.
In the third and final year of studies, the head of hematology sent him to take an internship in this area. By that time he had 3 children. Every day he received extraordinary teachings. He also had the opportunity to do experiments and studies that allowed him to learn a lot.
Return to Puerto Rico and preparation in hematology
From the United States he returned to Puerto Rico, where he began to prepare for the field of hematology. They told him that he would be the boss and he was surprised because he did not expect it. This made him anxious for about two months, but he continued to do research at the university hospital and the pediatric center.
The first patients were not given B12 or folic acid, which were deficiencies they had, but antibiotics. He and his colleagues received funds and decided to improve their work area. This allowed him to do more studies and discover more about tropical diseases that were hitherto unknown, as well as disseminate such valuable information in the best medical journals in the United States and elsewhere.
Dr. Maldonado and his colleagues inspired other young people who wanted to study hematology. This made tropical diseases decrease and deaths were also fewer. Similarly, he and his companions were the first to treat patients with the Russian medicine Alkeran, which made those affected experience incredible improvements. The patients crowded together and up to 120 people came to them.
They learned of a new treatment to treat lymphoma, it was an antibody that destroys malignant cells. This was one of the most important discoveries and Dr. Grillo was a participant, gaining patients in the United States and Europe. Dr. Grillo received an award for this discovery and Dr. Maldonado was one of the laudable guests. Grillo was one of his students and later he was a great friend.
Dr. Maldonado returns to his practice and later retires. To this day, he rates his work as wonderful. Among so many facets in which he excelled, two books stand out in which he wrote, entitled: “On health in Puerto Rico”, a story about some 800 doctors who have had outstanding work in cancer management throughout Puerto Rican history.
He also directed the municipal hospital of San Juan, where there was capacity to care for almost a thousand patients, including adults and children. He devised sending patients directly to the hospital, bypassing the emergency room to avoid congestion. This measure allowed patients to be seen more quickly.
After completing the internship or residency, doctors and nurses had to complete two years of public service, this became a reality thanks to a law promoted by Dr. Maldonado and other colleagues, since they needed to decongest medical areas and cover the needs of patients. patients.
He served as director of the medical sciences campus and was also rector of the University of Puerto Rico, where student enrollment increased after his arrival.
He was always requested for these positions by other professionals who saw in him the necessary qualities to carry out the tasks successfully. Indeed, his passage through different institutions was notorious, since he left the best and indelible traces.
He has always succeeded in all the challenges he has had, he has improved all the areas in which he has assumed responsibilities and today he considers that he does not teach, but rather learns from the new generations.
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