I interviewed Hermes Binner when he was conducting a biographical research for the book “Social Dynamics of Hope. Life and work of doctor Juan Lazarte ”. The politician, recently deceased, told me that Lazarte had been one of his references when it came to carrying out his policies in primary health care. Santa Fe has had true teachers in this field. And with Binner one of the executors of social medicine in Argentina went.
In Rosario, the Juan Lazarte Health Institute was created in 1994, which today develops postgraduate activities in epidemiology, service management and health policies. One of the promoters of the institute was Binner, as Secretary of Health during Héctor Caballero’s administration. Its current president, Ernesto Taboada, said: “Juan Lazarte’s medical work is valid for its conceptual contribution to the integration of social medicine and for its approach to medical-social work.”
Today, in the context of a pandemic, medical voices are being heard demanding comprehensive measures. This was Lazarte’s conception that, already in the first decades of the 20th century, fostered that holistic view of the human being and the health-disease process. A similar approach was taken by Dr. Juan Maurín Navarro as Health Director of the Socialist Intendance of Renato Della Santa (1939-1942) in Godoy Cruz, Mendoza.
Binner drank from that tradition in social medicine in Rosario. A classic study that he used to consult, according to his oral testimony, was the book “Problems of social medicine” by Juan Lazarte. They also contacted the lands of Cuyo with the work of Maurín Navarro.
Returning to the figure of Lazarte, let us remember that he had a comprehensive training. In addition to being a biologist and a doctor, he was a sociologist, with some thirty books and hundreds of articles published on scientific, union and social issues. It had its center of action in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Santa Fe, Córdoba and Santiago de Chile. He lived with his family in the Santa Fe town of San Genaro. He participated in social, cooperative and union movements and in the creation of popular schools and libraries in the cities mentioned. He was a professor of sociology at the National University of Rosario (1956-1963).
He was trained in natural and biological sciences in Buenos Aires and La Plata; in genetics in the United States with Morgan (Nobel Prize in Medicine); and as a doctor, at the National University of Córdoba. In his student days, he was one of the leaders of the University Reform of 1918. He appears in the emblematic photo, after the rectory was taken, with his right hand resting on the shoulder of his colleague who is raising the university emblem. As a celebration of the 100 years of the Reform, in 2018, the Rosario Culture Secretariat published the book “Juan Lazarte. Writings on social medicine and other topics ”.
In the field of medical unionism, he was one of the managers in the founding of the Santa Fe Medical Federation and the Medical Confederation of the Argentine Republic (Comra). He was a consultant for Salvador Allende when he was Minister of Health and wrote the book “Chile en la vanguardia”.
Through his work at Comra, he maintained contact with rural doctors such as René Favaloro, whom he considered one of his teachers.
In the 1930s Lazarte gave lectures on republican Spain and was a kind of representative of the republicans in Argentina. For example, Emilio Mira y López, head of the Psychiatric Services of the Spanish Republican Army, at the end of the Spanish Civil War had to go into exile. When he arrived in Argentina, on the recommendation of Lazarte, he was appointed head of the Psychiatric Services of Santa Fe. Today the Psychiatric Hospital of the provincial capital bears the name of that Catalan doctor.
Another advanced in social medicine was the aforementioned doctor Juan Maurín Navarro. Della Santa, mayor of Godoy Cruz de Mendoza, hired him in 1939 as a sanitary doctor. He dedicated his life to the organization and application of social medicine programs and was a professor at the Universities of Litoral and Cuyo.
His work Introduction to social hygiene of Cuyo (1945) was awarded by the National Commission of Culture and in the prologue Dr. Gregorio Araoz Alfaro (Argentine and world authority in social medicine) commented: “Dr. Maurín Navarro is one of the few Argentine doctors who have understood well the social meaning of modern medicine ”. He also valued the work carried out in Godoy Cruz to reduce the causes of infant morbidity and mortality. He considered that this campaign had been a role model “due to the great results achieved in a short time and relatively inexpensively, thanks to his intelligent fervor and his capacity as a practical hygienist.”
Its action focused on the pre and postnatal hygiene of the child and its mother. The action was focused on monitoring the different phases of the cycle: conception, pregnancy, delivery, early childhood and preschool age. The assistance was provided through the prenuptial examination, prenatal surveillance, delivery assistance, protection of the single mother, early care and study of the newborn, care and upbringing of the infant, and preschool care and preservation. Among the achievements we find that in 1941 there were no deaths from diphtheria in Godoy Cruz, unlike those registered in the rest of Mendoza.
“The experience of Godoy Cruz – says Maurín Navarro – serves to verify that in the Argentine interior those magnificent conquests that, in terms of child demography, have been achieved by all cultured and socially evolved foreign media are perfectly feasible and achievable.”
Synthesizing, we can affirm that Lazarte, Maurin Navarro and Binner had a comprehensive observation of the health – disease process that included not only medical aspects but also social and economic problems that cause diseases such as hunger, poor nutrition and unemployment. Among the main contributions of these doctors we find studies, research and practices on the determinants in the health-disease process. This comprehensive conception of medicine is what different health voices in our country demand today.