Mexican Health Minister Starts Faculty Exchange

President Derek C. Bok and Mexico's minister of health yesterday signed an agreement formalizing an exchange of faculty and students between Harvard's School of Public Health (SPH) and a similar research institution in Mexico City.

In a speech scheduled for last month but postponed after the country was ravaged by two earthquakes, Dr. Guillermo Soberon also told an audience at the SPH that the disasters caused more than $3 billion in damage, claimed 3000 lives, with 3000 still missing, and left 60,000 homeless.

The exchange agreement--which is unrelated to the quakes--formalizes an existing unofficial arrangement in which SPH students do research at Mexico City's Center for Public Health Research. Scholars from the that institution can also come to study at the Longwood Ave. school.

The formal agreement will also allow SPH faculty to act in an advisory capacity to the Mexican government.

Soberon stopped at Harvard in part because he is "exploring the ways in which health-related institutions and corporations in the U.S. can help Mexico City's hospitals recover from the earthquake," said SPH spokesman Daphne Northrop. In his speech, Soberon asked for "donations of teaching and time."


The health minister said the earthquakes hit especially hard in the medical sector, causing at least $250 million in damage and destroying nearly one-third of the capital city's hospital beds.

Six of the National Medical Center's eight hospitals, which contain about 2900 beds, were also crushed. In addition, two other major hospitals were reduced to rubble. Some of the hardest hit facilities have only now begun limited services.