Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the doctor who pushed the creation of the Peruvian epidemiologist’s day

The story of Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, organizer of the Peruvian Epidemiologists' Day.  (capture)
The story of Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, organizer of the Peruvian Epidemiologists’ Day. (capture)

The world has known five deadly pandemics throughout human history. The first records take us back to antiquity and the last ones take us back to the present COVID-19. In this recent pandemic that has left much of the population in mourning, the light of hope has been transmitted by medical and scientific personnel whose research has shown advances in reducing the lethality of this disease.

Within the entire group of doctors who epidemiologistswho gave recommendations to the population to take care of their health against the new strain of Coronavirusand in turn provided information about the behavior of the virus.

In Peru respectively September 22 is Peruvian Epidemiologist’s Dayto recognize the indispensable work of these professionals who work tirelessly to prevent and treat all epidemiological diseases that exist and may arise in the country.

That September 22, 1977 was officially recognised Day of the Peruvian Epidemiologist, under Resolution RM 000748-76-SA/DS, although the law was enacted on December 30, 1976. A key figure in medicine in Peru was the forerunner of this commemoration. Is about Joaquin Roberto Cornejo Ubillus, who was a pre-eminent medical epidemiologist in the country.

Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian epidemiologist's day.  (
Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian epidemiologist’s day. (

In order to understand a little better this complex medical work, it is necessary to know a little more about the promoter of this dating.

Joaquin Cornejo Ubillus, He was born in 1925 in the city of Piura. As a young man inclined towards medical sciences, he entered the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, where he excelled academically. However, these were difficult years on a political level, which ultimately also had an impact on the education of the students at the time, but did not diminish Cornejo’s desire as a student, let alone as head of the Medicine Student Center. He later became a member of the Medical Faculty Council and the University Council of UNMSM.

After a long journey as a student and member of the medical council, he ended his career in 1952 with a doctorate in surgery. However, his intellect did not go unnoticed as his thesis was considered the best of the year and earned him the Camino Award presented by the Daniel A. Carrión Medical Association. The title of his dissertation is “Contribution to the knowledge of tegumentary leishmaniasis in Peru”.

Know all the details to take the San Marcos 2022 Admission Exam.  Check all information.  Photo: UNMSM
Know all the details to take the San Marcos 2022 Admission Exam. Check all information. Photo: UNMSM

The following year, the still young doctor began to work as an assistant doctor in a department newly created in 1951, called the Department of Communicable Diseases of the MSPAS, headed by Dr. Enrique Villalobos Carranza made him a pioneer in the fight against malaria in Peru.

This new department had seven departments that performed specific functions in each location. It was also the first time in the country’s history that the heads of these departments were health professionals who knew the functions of the assigned directorate.

The addresses were: epidemiologyImmunizations, fight against vectors, plague, leprosy, venereology and international health.

Cornejo Ubillús joined the department through public competition and worked in the Department of epidemiology, without knowing that his destiny was entirely shaped by this branch of medicine. Within a short time he was promoted to Head of Field Operations. Between 1953 and 1956 he evaluated the control results of communicable diseases from epidemiological, bacteriological and entomological studies on malaria, plague, spread of triatom infestationthe effects of insecticides, among other topics.

Day of the Peruvian Epidemiologist.  (UPCH)
Day of the Peruvian Epidemiologist. (UPCH)

He was then tasked with disinfesting the country’s valleys to control insect-borne diseases. Since he was only shown certain areas, Cornejo considered how he could extend the scope of national regulations, which at the time only earned him sanctions from his superiors.

His excellent work prompted the Department of Communicable Diseases to send him abroad for his postgraduate studies to further develop at the University of Chile. Here he worked in the infectology department of the Barrios Lucco Hospital in Santiago de Chile. After a while, however, the department that welcomed him as he took his first steps as a professional was deactivated and replaced by the National Malaria Eradication Service (SNEM).

After this episode, Cornejo Ubillús was appointed to various managerial positions, most of them related to epidemiology and the fight against communicable diseases. He attended the First and Third Congresses of the Peruvian Society of Public Health, where he highlighted the importance to the country’s health, examined areas other than communicable diseases, and reviewed legislation to address existing deficiencies.

Day of the Peruvian Epidemiologist.  (capture)
Day of the Peruvian Epidemiologist. (capture)

When 1969 came around, the doctor specializing in epidemiology resigned from the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare (MPAS), now known as the Ministry of Health (MINSA). The reduction of the political-administrative level to the development of studies epidemiological.

By mid-1975, Cornejo shone in the world as a consultant and appraiser epidemiology. Countries like Egypt, Sudan, Uruguay, Spain and others called on the quoted doctor.

With a new government in Peru, Joaquín Cornejo is contacted and offered to become the new Vice Minister of Health (former Senior Director) and he has accepted. In this position he would carry out highly relevant activities, including the development of the first population policies in Peru’s history.

It promoted rapprochement between senior officials in the sector and heads of the hospital service. He also promoted the idea of ​​not only knowing the country’s health problems, but also applying the appropriate “solution” among other things.

Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian Epidemiologists' Day, with an award in hand.  (capture)
Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian Epidemiologists’ Day, with an award in hand. (capture)

The initiative to set a commemoration date for the epidemiologists came from him, commemorated 1976 and was first celebrated on September 22, 1977.

During the same years he also dedicated himself to teaching, sharing his knowledge with students at his alma mater and also with students at Cayetano Heredia University.

Over the years and now officially retired, he has not hesitated to offer ad-honorem advice to Minsa officials.

He died at the age of 92 on December 19, 2017, leaving a jewel for Peru’s health, namely his work “Biographical-experimental record (vivigram) of the history of public health: Peru 1956-1999: Interviews” and a After his Death canceled book entitled “Experiences and Reflections on National Epidemiology”.

Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian epidemiologist's day.  (capture)
Joaquín Cornejo Ubillús, the promoter of the Peruvian epidemiologist’s day. (capture)

The work of an epidemiologist is of significant importance for a country since he devotes a large part of his life to research, which is generally divided into: Determining the spread and cases of various diseases. This includes knowing who is getting sick, where they are getting sick, when they are getting sick, and why they are getting sick, including any diseases that are present.

Duties even extend to vaccine and drug development to achieve effective results in the future.

All of this also helps to develop prevention mechanisms for communicable, acute, widespread and vaccine-preventable diseases.


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