Born in the Supe District of Lima on this day in 1872, Laura Esther Rodríguez-Dulanto was a physician who broke many barriers for women in Peru. Though she excelled in school from a very young age, her parents were frustrated that educational options were limited for women—no matter how gifted or motivated they might be.
There were no secondary schools for girls, much less universities or postgraduate programs. Nevertheless, Rodríguez-Dulanto’s parents persisted, appealing to local authorities until a special jury was appointed by the Ministry of Education to allow the gifted young student to advance her studies. With help from her older brother Abraham, who would teach her everything he learned after returning home from school, Rodríguez-Dulanto passed her high school exams. With a combination of intelligence, motivation, and a very supportive family, Laura Esther Rodríguez-Dulanto became the first Peruvian woman to attend college as well as the first female physician in the nation’s history.
Though it was a great achievement to begin her studies at the National University of San Marcos, 19-year-old Rodríguez-Dulanto still faced numerous obstacles. While the male students worked with human cadavers in anatomy class, she would have to sit behind a screen to conceal her presence. During her third year of medical school, she was allowed to perform dissections in a special room, accompanied by her brother who was also studying medicine. In September 1900, her hard work paid off when she earned her Bachelor of Medicine, taking her Hippocratic Oath a month later.
Rodríguez-Dulanto specialized in gynecology, publishing papers on ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids. She went on to co-found Peru’s first nursing school, teaching anatomy, physiology and hygiene, and paving the way for other women to pursue careers in medicine. Her legacy is honored with a bust in a public park in Lima, Peru, as well as a hospital in her home town of Supe, which is named after her.
Happy Birthday Dr. Laura Esther Rodríguez-Dulanto!