Juan Ramón de la Fuente, M.D. Rector, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
Dr. De la Fuente's career has developed in many diverse activities which have strengthened Mexico's health, higher education, and scientific research systems. These activities have led to national and international recognition of his leadership as both academician and public administrator. He has additionally committed efforts to develop institutions devoted to research.
Born in Mexico City (1951), he obtained his M.D. at UNAM's School of Medicine and trained in Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where he has been conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Back in Mexico, he became the founding Head of the Clinical Research Unit at the Mexican Institute of Psychiatry as part of his quest to create spaces to promote scientific development. He joined the faculty of UNAM's School of Medicine and by combining both his teaching and research activities, he contributed to the development of conditions leading to the highest level of teaching and research in his field of expertise.
Contributions to Education
After being appointed Professor at UNAM's Medical School and Director of the University Program for Health Research, he was nominated Vice-Chancellor for Science in 1989; Dean on the Medical School in 1991 and Rector of the University in 1999, a position for which he was unanimously reappointed for a second term in 2003.
In this capacity, not only did he solve a deep crisis that hurt UNAM for months, but contributed to restore the university's leadership in higher education in Latin America. New centers and research facilities were created, as well as new undergraduate curricula and updated graduate programs.
He has established new procedures for administrative control aimed at optimizing the management of financial resources, and set up standards for administrative transparency allowing for the access to financial records by society. He has fostered the strengthening of the University's infrastructure and promoted new models for education throughout the use of newest information and communication technologies. This has helped increase access to higher education in the context of growing demand in Mexico and responded to the call for education for life as proposed by UNESCO in 1998.
During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor for Scientific Research, the Institute of Biotechnology and the Center of Neurobiology were created. It is worth mentioning that at this time all of UNAM's scientific work received great support, and its production now is close to 50 per cent of the all scientific research carried out in the entire country.
During his tenure as Dean of the School of Medicine, it became the Regional Center of the World Health Organization for Education and Training of Human Resources. He carried out a profound transformation with remarkable results: scientific production more than tripled; plans and programs of undergraduate and graduate studies were updated, and new key courses were initiated. His policies strengthened the teaching of both public health and experimental sciences. Over fifty medical specialties were restructured and more rigorous academic criteria were implemented for hiring new faculty.
Contributions to Science and Health
Besides authoring nearly 250 scientific papers, he has published 16 books on topics related health, education and scientific research. His contributions have been cited more than a thousand times in indexed international publications. He has been invited as guest speaker at prestigious institutions around the world.
His research on alcohol abuse led to the design of a tool of universal validity for the reliable identification of this problem from its early stages, which was adopted by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization. He has also been active at numerous International Advisory Boards. He was President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 1995, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2001.
He was the Minister of Health of Mexico between 1994 and 1999. At that time research at the National Institutes of Health increased substantially and he established new forms of collaboration between the health care institutions and medical schools around the country. He created the National Commission to protect patient's rights. The Health Reform he conducted benefited 16 million Mexicans who were incorporated to the health system.
National and International Recognition
Dr. De la Fuente has been appointed to key international positions: Vice-president of the World Health Assembly; President of the Board of the United Nations Program on AIDS; Member of the Board of Directors at the International Association of Universities and President of the Net of MacroUniversities of Latin America and the Caribbean. He is also member of the Board of the Cervantes Institute, and of the Administrative Council of UNESCO's International Institute for Higher Education for Latin America and the Caribbean.
He has been appointed to more than 70 honorary positions and a number of editorial committees in prestigious academic journals and because of his innovative research he has received, among others, the Natural Sciences Award of the Academy of Sciences of Mexico, the Award for Biomedical Research of the National Academy of Medicine, and the Ricardo J. Zevada award - by the National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico. He has also received the Merit Award in Psychiatry of the Laughlin Foundation in Washington and the one given by the Mexican Chapter of the American College of Physicians.
He has received special honors at the National University of Costa Rica and a number of international scientific institutions and organizations such as the Weizmann Institute of Israel, as well as Honory Degrees from the universities Ricardo Palma of Lima, Peru; the National University of Colombia, the University of La Havana, Cuba; the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, and the University of Montreal.
As Rector of UNAM he is responsible for a community of more than 250,000 students and nearly 30,000 faculty and administrative workers as well