University Health Service (UHS)

History of the UPLB University Health Service

The founding of the UP College of Agriculture in 1909 led to the creation of one of the oldest support services of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, five years later…the University Health Service, also known as the UPLB Infirmary or UPLB Health Serve.

The University Health Service was initially created in 1914 as a clinic to address the felt need for medical services of the pioneering few faculty members and students then of the College of Agriculture. Originally named the College Health Service, the clinic was situated in the upper floor of the old Agricultural Economics building at the present site of the Humanities building. It was manned only by one nurse, Mr. Felix Valera until eventually junior resident doctors from the Philippine General Hospital rotating from a period of 6 months to 1 year were assigned to head the clinic.  The very first resident assigned was Dr. Herminio Velarde, Sr., followed by Dr. Jose Villacorta.

A few years later, Dr. Sixto A. Francisco informally expanded the clinic’s dispensary services to provide interim infirmary services in one of the guest houses in front of the old Molawin Mess Hall by the foot of Palma Bridge.  On June 14, 1930, Dr. Francisco formally assumed the position as Director, and the College Health Service officially became the U.P. Los Baños Infirmary, with a capacity of 25 beds, and facilities for confinement, minor surgery cases and dental services.  Dr. Francisco was succeeded by Dr. Ascalon who hailed from San Pablo, Laguna.  He unfortunately died in a vehicular accident while on his way for work at the Infirmary.  Dr. Villaruz of Central Luzon assumed his post, and thereafter by Dr. Jaime Laico, Dr. Arturo B. Rotor, Dr. Ambrosio F. Tangco, Dr. Roman Bersamin, and Dr. Tierry F. Garcia, all junior residents of PGH at that time.

The ravage of the Second World War in 1945 did not prevent the Infirmary from being burned down to ashes.  This was during the first term as Director of Dr. Antonio G. Tan, a native of Bay, Laguna, who was also a graduate of UP-PGH.  From its original abode in the current Department of Military Science & Tactics site, the Infirmary had to hold temporary office at the Home Economics building of the old Rural High School, while the DMST facility was occupied by the American medical staff.  When the Japanese occupied the UPLB campus, the entire Infirmary staff was urgently convened by Dr. Tan to elude the Japanese.  Except for the Chief Nurse Mr. Galicano Ilagan, they all headed to the mountains in Putho toward the shore of Mayondon to board bancas operated by guerillas.  They sailed towards Cabuyao during which their sail encountered a misfortune when one outrigger detached. The group stayed in Cabuyao until safety was assured.  Seventeen staff and their families had been saved.  Unfortunately, Mr. Ilagan who preferred to gather around 200 other civilians to find refuge at the Chapel of St. Therese, was the first to be massacred by the Japanese.  Dr. Tan served as the Director of the Infirmary until 1961 when he was sent to Minneapolis to pursue a post-graduate degree in Hospital Administration under the scholarship by USAID, together with Dr. Ambrosio F. Tangco and Dr. Santiago De Guzman.  His post was assumed by Dr. Serafin R. Panggat, Sr. who served until 1977.  Dr. Tan assumed his second term as Director in 1978, after initiating the post-graduate degree in Hospital Administration at the Institute of Hygiene, now the College of Public Health of U.P. Manila, as one of the core faculty.

During the Liberation, the Infirmary relocated to the Entomology building in 1946 until it was reconstructed through War Damage Funds from the United States.  It transferred to its new building at the present site in April 1972, during the headship of Dr. Panggat, Sr.  In 1974, upon the recommendation of the Board of Regents, the organization was renamed the UPLB Health Service; and in 1987, to its present name, the University Health Service.

Beginning under the supervision of the College of Agriculture in 1914, to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Instruction in the early 70’s, and to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Administration in the 80’s, the UHS is now under the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs since the latter’s constitution in 1997.

The growth of the University Health Service gained mileage in 1995 during the term of Dr. Emiliano S. Mendoza when it was elevated by the Department of Health into a secondary level general hospital.  Its development was carried on by his immediate successor Dr. Ma. Victoria S. Matias-Turalba, and henceforth by Dr. Jessie Imelda R.Foronda-Walde and Dr. Marilyn M. Palma-Reaño.

Previously providing clinical care and management of prevalent health needs of the UPLB community as a primary level general hospital, the UHS is now capable of rendering comprehensive health care at the secondary level.  The Operating Room Complex was made functional in 1999 to enable major surgeries to be performed. Networking of services was executed with the support of the UPLB Central Administration to provide a wider range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. An additional one-storey building was constructed in 2003 to house medical out-patient services. Preventive and promotive activities such as the free Annual Medical Examination for UPLB employees, preventive dental services to include expanded restorative dental care, Diabetes & Nutrition Clinic, Nutrition Counseling, and yearly Mass Immunization Project, among others have been initiated and consistently enhanced.  Visiting consultants in various areas of specialization have also been consistent partners in addressing patient care. With the unrelenting support of the UPLB Central Administration, continuous rehabilitation and upgrading of physical facilities and acquisition of vital equipment is realized, making it a well-equipped 30-bed first level referral government hospital.

And now, on its 100 years of existence, the University Health Service moves forward, as it prepares the next generations of the UPLB community to come, and be provided with compassionate health care that is like no other.

Written By: Myla Lourdes C. Ramirez-Avena, DDM (UHS Deputy Director, Dentist III, Public Information Associate)