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Manuel de la Pila Iglesias[note 1] (November 16, 1884 – October 5, 1950) was a Puerto Rican physician practicing in Ponce, Puerto Rico, who specialized in a half-dozen medical specialities. He founded a medical clinic in Ponce that grew into a large medical center. Pila Iglesias is considered "one of the giants of Puerto Rican medicine".[3] He was also one of the leaders behind the development of the School of Medicine of the University of Puerto Rico.

Dr. Manuel de la Pila Iglesias
Dr. Manuel de la Pila Iglesias from Ponce, Puerto Rico.jpg
"One of the giants of Puerto Rican medicine"
Born16 November 1884[1]
Died5 October 1950
NationalityPuerto Rican
EducationUniversity of Barcelona
Mayo Clinic
Years active1917 - 1950
Known forCo-founder of the University of Puerto Rico Medical School
First X-ray machine in Puerto Rico
First EKG in Puerto Rico
Founder Hospital Dr. Pila
RelativesMarina Valdecilla (wife)[2]
Medical career
InstitutionsHospital Tricoche
Hospital Damas
Hospital San Lucas
Sub-specialtiesSurgery, electrocardiography, otorhinolaryngology, allergy, others
Awards"Physician of physicians"
Order of the Knights of Saint Gregory
Order of Saint Gregory


Early yearsEdit

Main entrance to the old Dr. Pila Clinic/Hospital (now an apartment building) looking Northwest in Barrio Primero, Ponce, Puerto Rico. Founded in 1925.

Manuel de la Pila Iglesias was born in Cádiz, Spain, on 16 November 1884. His parents were Manuel de la Pila Mantes, a Spaniard, and Asuncion Iglesias Geneviera, a Puerto Rican woman.[4] After the death of his father and brother, he moved to Ponce with his mother. He was brought up in the home of his uncle on his mother's side, Dr. Iglesias, whom he came to admire and on whose footsteps he later follow. He studied at the Colegio Central Ponceño (Ponce Central High School) and upon graduation traveled to Spain to study medicine at the University of Barcelona.[3]

Medical studiesEdit

After receiving his medical degree, de la Pila Iglesias (or Pila Iglesias, as he is more commonly known) started his journey through specialization into many areas of medicine. He went to the San Antoine Hospital in Paris, the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the Laboratory for Technical Surgery in Chicago, the Philadelphia Hospital in Pennsylvania, and the Hamburg Hospital in Germany. Afterwards, he studied electrocardiography in Berlin, otorhinolaryngology in Vienna, and allergy in Venezuela and Cuba.[3]

Medical practiceEdit

In 1917, Pila Iglesias returned to Ponce to start his prolific professional career. He first worked as a municipal government physician at Ponce's Tricoche Municipal Hospital, which had been built in 1875. He also practiced at the San Lucas Hospital and the Ponce Santo Asilo de Damas Hospital, where he became medical director. An X-ray machine Pila Iglesias purchased in the United States in 1913 was the first such machine in Ponce. He also later acquired an EKG machine in Germany. It is believed this was the first EKG in Puerto Rico.[3]


In 1925, Pila Iglesias founded the Dr. Pila Surgical Clinic in Ponce. A few years later he founded the Mercedes Hospital and the Central Clinic to provide medical care to low income families. In 1929 he founded the Children's Catholic Dispensatory. He also worked for the Federal Public Health at the barrio Playa de Ponce. Pila Iglesias implemented various novel and experimental treatments in Puerto Rico earning him a reputation as the physician of physicians.[3]

Medical insurance legislationEdit

The new Hospital Dr. Pila (now, Hospital Metropolitano Dr. Pila) on Avenida Las Americas (PR-163) looking NE in Barrio Canas Urbano, Ponce

Pila Iglesias' efforts at the Puerto Rico Legislature resulted in the first medical insurance plan in the island: Cruz Azul de Puerto Rico. The plan provided help to working people and middle class individuals in the payment of medical expenses.[3]

Civic and social activitiesEdit

He was also involved in the civic and social environment in Ponce. In 1919 he was amongst the founders of the Ponce Rotary Club, the second such club on the Island. He also founded the Club Deportivo de Ponce.[3]

Representative in the medical communityEdit

Pila Iglesias was involved in the Puerto Rico Medical Association, becoming its president during a two-year term. He was also a delegate from Puerto Rico in the American Medical Association. Pila Iglesias was chosen several times to attend national and international medical congresses as a delegate from Puerto Rico.

University of Puerto Rico Medical SchoolEdit

Among the many contributions of Pila Iglesias was his involvement on the establishment and development of the medical school at the University of Puerto Rico. Appointed by UPR Rector Jaime Benitez, Pila Iglesias was one of the major leaders in the study that later made possible the creation of the medical school that for many decades was the only school graduating physicians in Puerto Rico. The magnitude of his work was felt for many years after his death.[3]


He awarded the Order of the Knights of Saint Gregory by Pope Pius XI.[3] On 15 November 1930, Pope Pius XI knighted Pila into the Order of Saint Gregory for his excellence in science, medicine, and religious matters.[5]


Main entrance to the Dr. Pila High School in Barrio Canas Urbano, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Pila Iglesis died on October 5, 1950, in an automobile accident in Cayey, Puerto Rico, as he returned from a meeting of the Puerto Rico Medical Association.[3] His was buried at Cementerio Catolico San Vicente de Paul in Ponce.[2]


The clinic he founded in Ponce, now a major medical center in that city, still carries its name, Hospital Metropolitano Dr. Pila.[6] There is also a high school in Ponce named after Pila.[7][8] Escuela Superior Dr. Pila opened on 17 September 1954.[9] In addition, also in Ponce, there is a public housing development named to his memory, Residencial Dr. Pila.[10][11] He is also recognized for his contributions to medicine at the Ponce Park for the Illustrious Ponce Citizens.[12]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ This article uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is de la Pila and the second or maternal family name is Iglesias.


  1. ^ Luis Fortuño Janeiro. Album Histórico de Ponce. Page 241.
  2. ^ a b Luis Fortuño Janeiro. Album Histórico de Ponce (1692-1963). Page 243. Ponce, Puerto Rico: Imprenta Fortuño. 1963.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j GALENUS: Revista para los Medicos de Puerto Rico
  4. ^ Luis Fortuño Janeiro. Album Histórico de Ponce (1692-1963). Page 241. Imprenta Fortuño. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 1963.
  5. ^ Luis Fortuño Janeiro. Album Histórico de Ponce (1692-1963). Page 242. Ponce, Puerto Rico: Imprenta Fortuño. 1963.
  6. ^ Completada la venta: Inyección vital para el Hospital Dr. Pila. Glorimar Muñoz Berly. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  7. ^ Escuela Superior Dr. Pila. Archived 2010-07-01 at the Wayback Machine Puerto Rico Department of Education. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  8. ^ Marcan su huella en Porta Caribe. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 31. Issue 1564. Page 27. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  9. ^ Benjamin Lugaro Torres. "Escuela Dr. Pila Celebra sus Cincuenta Años de Fundación." Page 33. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 17 September 2004. (15 to 22 September 2004). Page 33.
  10. ^ Radican cargos por robo a hermanos que simulaban asalto en Ponce. El Sur a la Vista. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  11. ^ Sunny A. Cabrera Salcedo. Hacia un Estudio Integral de la Toponimia del Municipio de Ponce, Puerto Rico. Ph. D. dissertation. May 1999. University of Massachusetts Amherst. Graduate School. Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Page 176.
  12. ^ Medicine. TravelPonce Retrieved 18 March 2012.