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Argentina bank note celebrates work of two medical pioneers

The board of directors of the Central Bank of Argentina approved a new 2,000-peso bank note that commemorates the development of science and medicine in Argentina.

Images courtesy of the Central Bank of Argentina.

The board of directors of the Central Bank of Argentina approved a new 2,000-peso bank note that commemorates the development of science and medicine in Argentina.

It will feature the Malbrán Institute, Dr. Cecilia Grierson and Dr. Ramón Carrillo, forerunners in the development of medicine in the country.

The face will feature the facing busts of Grierson and Carrillo, and the reverse of the note will show a detail from the building of the Dr. Carlos G. Malbrán National Institute of Microbiology.

The Malbrán Institute is a decentralized public organization whose mission is to participate in scientific and technical policies related to public health issues. It was founded in 1893 with the goal of developing biological products to treat infectious and contagious diseases. It adopted the name of the physician in 1941. Nobel Prize winners Bernardo Houssay and César Milstein are among the important scientists who have worked there. More recently, the institution was responsible for the analysis and detection of coronavirus cases during the most difficult times of the pandemic.

 Dr. Cecilia Grierson was born in Buenos Aires on Nov. 22, 1859, and died there on April 10, 1934. She was Argentina’s first physician, graduating from the University of Buenos Aires in 1886. She practiced as an obstetrician and kinesiologist but was never able to work as a surgeon because she was a woman, despite a degree in that specialty. She also dedicated herself to teaching, and she fought tirelessly for women’s rights. She also created the first nursing school in Latin America, was a founding member of the Argentine Medical Association, and pioneered the idea of opening first aid rooms in different towns to help with primary care for the sick. She had a key role during the 1886 cholera epidemic in Buenos Aires.

Dr. Ramón Carrillo was born March 7, 1906, in Santiago del Estero and died in Belén, Brazil on Dec. 20, 1956. He was a neurosurgeon, neurobiologist, sanitary doctor, and Argentina’s minister of Public Health. He graduated from the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires in 1929. He became professor of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine but abandoned his career as a neurologist to devote himself to the development of social medicine, where his credo was “All men have an equal right to life and health”.

His eight-year term as minister of Public Health beginning in 1946 was marked by massive vaccination campaigns and making vaccination certificates mandatory for schools. He worked to end epidemics of malaria. He eradicated malaria and ended typhus and brucellosis epidemics, and drastically reduced the infant mortality rate.  He also created a significant number of public hospitals and promoted the incorporation of the sanitary train that traveled throughout the country for 4 months a year doing clinical analysis, x-rays, medical and dental assistance.

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