The fiftieth anniversary of the School of Medicine at the University of Navarre and the inauguration of the Medical Research Center (CIMA)

The University of Navarre Medical School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in October. Its first steps began in 1954 with 18 students and a handful of enthusiastic professors—without a building or official recognition. It was the first private institution of this type founded in Spain after the war. For the mindset of that period it was a revolutionary project that many saw as an unrealizable dream.

The doctors and professors who began the project under the guidance of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the University of Navarre, had to build a medical school from scratch devoted both to teaching and research. Their efforts during these fifty years have resulted in the training of more than 6,700 professionals, a University Hospital and the recently inaugurated Medical Research Center—CIMA (Centro de Investigación Médica Aplicada).

Inauguration of CIMA

The new building was blessed by Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona, and officially inaugurated on the following day in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Asturias. “Our goal is to carry out research that will help find solutions to patients’ suffering,” explained Francisco Errasti, the project’s general director. “CIMA has been born with the medical instinct to cure,” stressed Dr. Jesus Prieto, director of the Department of Gene Therapy and Hepatology. Prince Felipe of Asturias, in his address during the unveiling of a commemorative plaque, expressed his conviction that CIMA would lead to important advances in many fields of medicine. He made an especially moving reference to the University Hospital, where his grandfather, Don Juan de Borbón, the Count of Barcelona, spent his final months.

In his address, Archbishop Sebastian pointed to the transcendent mission of CIMA: “Your work demonstrates that the recognition of God neither paralyzes nor blocks reason, the capacity for knowing reality and advancing in the betterment of man’s life. Faith in God from many points of view frees and strengthens the intellect, increasing its capacity for knowledge and adding new and stronger motivations...The knowledge of reality has to increase our admiration for the wisdom, power and goodness of God, who has created a world that is truly to the measure of man.”

At present CIMA’s efforts are concentrated on twenty-two research projects. These build on years of laboratory experience accumulated in the University of Navarre’s Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Science, and in the University Hospital. The four areas of research into which the activity of CIMA has been divided are Gene Therapy and Hepatology, Cardiovascular Pathophysiology, Neuroscience, and Oncology.

The work of CIMA will range from laboratory research and clinical trials to the obtaining of patents. Its novelty is based on the provision of the infrastructure necessary to integrate and strengthen the four areas of work selected, with the goal of clinical application. This has been achieved through an innovative model of financing which channels the social commitment of 15 institutions and biotechnical enterprises grouped in a UTE (Union Temporal de Empresas). The goal of these efforts is to work towards finding cures for a series of illnesses that, taken together, result in some 90 per cent of deaths in the West: hepatitis, cirrhosis, cardiac insufficiency, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, lung cancer, etc.

The fiftieth anniversary

A few days after the inauguration of CIMA, the Medical School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with more than 450 alumni in attendance. The commemorative ceremonies began with Mass in the Cathedral of Pamplona, officiated by Father Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, Delegate Vicar of Opus Dei, and concelebrated by those who have been chaplains of the Medical School during the past fifty years, as well as by a number of graduates who are now priests.

Later, in the library of the School of Science, the directors of the four departments of CIMA presented their respective areas of research to the alumni. Also taking part in the ceremony were Pilar Civeira, dean of the Medical School, Maria Kutz, Health Counselor of the Government of Navarre, and Yolanda Barcina, Mayor of Pamplona, who pointed out that the University of Navarre’s Medical School “is one of the pillars of the high quality of life in this city.”

In the evening, at an academic ceremony presided over by the Rector of the University, Maria Rosa Echeverría and Elica Brajnovic introduced a book about the medical school entitled, Fifty Years of Life, Memory and Hope, and a DVD commemorating the golden anniversary of the school.

Romana, n. 39, July-December 2004, p. 248-249.

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