Social Medicine Unit

About SMU

The College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines has always been cognizant of the import and relevance of social concerns in the scope and practice of medicine. It had, for example, identified community orientation as one of its core commitments. Likewise, it had enriched its undergraduate curriculum with subjects such as Ethics as well as Human Rights. Nonetheless, there was a felt need to integrate as well as further develop these and similar socially-relevant areas. It was in the light of these developments that the Social Medicine Unit came into being.

The Social Medicine Unit (SMU) was established in September 2002, as a means of promoting social consciousness in academic and clinical medicine. Specifically, it aims to provide students with the intellectual and analytic resources to recognize and respond to key social, cultural and ethical dilemmas in contemporary medicine. Likewise, its faculty members, through further study and research, are to advance the understanding of the social, cultural and historical dimensions of health, illness, and medical care.


Dr. Ramon Arcadio, then Dean of the U.P. College of Medicine (UPCM), spearheaded the Unit’s creation. Dr. Marita Reyes, the current Chancellor of U.P. Manila, ensured the unit’s viability by helping secure a three-year grant from the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation had previously provided support to the establishment of the UPCM-based Reproductive Health, Rights, and Ethics Center for Studies and Training (REPROCEN). With the conclusion of the funding period for the latter, efforts were made to secure and reallocate funds for the development of the SMU. A project proposal to this effect entitled, “Enhancing Social Responsibility in Health Professional Training, Research and Service: Sustaining the Commitment to Ethics, Gender and Human Rights”, was thus submitted to and subsequently approved for funding by the Ford Foundation. With the ensuing establishment of the SMU, REPROCEN was retained as one of its sections.

Upon its establishment, Dean Arcadio concurrently served as the head of the unit. In 2003, Dr. Cecil Tomas assumed the deanship of the U.P. College of Medicine. On January 5 2004, she appointed Dr. Alvin Caballes to the position of Chief of the unit. Dr. Edelina de la Paz was designated as the Vice Chief.

The unit, in keeping with its mandate of enriching the undergraduate medical curriculum, provides vital administrative and technical support to many academic activities. Thus, the corresponding sections of the unit have been involved in nearly all undergraduate year levels, providing instruction in Medical Jurisprudence, Management, Human Rights, History of Medicine, and others. The administration of the graduate programs in Bioethics and Medical Anthrolopology is also the purvue of the SMU. The former is handled jointly with the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy of U.P. Diliman. The latter encompasses two degree programs, and anticipates its first graduates in a year’s time. Needless to say, the unit’s faculty members have been engaged in various research and advocacy endeavors. Likewise, the unit had organized and sponsored various college conferences and symposia dealing with the social aspects of medical care.