The “Instituto de Medicina Tropical Alexander von Humboldt” (IMT AvH) was created on March 25th 1968 under the direction of Dr. Hugo Lumbreras Cruz.

Dr. Lumbreras obtained a medical degree from San Marcos University in 1954. He published extensively on diverse topics of Tropical Medicine, and received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Bernhard Nocht Tropical Medicine Institute in Hamburg, Berlin. There, he conducted important research focused in Chagas disease and continued to work on the creation of a Tropical Medicine Institute in Peru. This ideal was shared with Prof. Enrique Encinas and Prof. Hugo Pesce, supported by the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Alberto Hurtado, and the cultural attaché in Germany, Dr Victor Manchego.

Upon his return to Peru in 1960, Dr. Lumbreras, as a full-time teacher at the School of Medicine of San Marcos University, organized a service of Tropical Medicine in the Dos de Mayo Hospital. However, following the ideals of the new Medical Union of Teachers “Cayetano Heredia”, he parted from the dream of a Tropical Medicine Institute and participated in a massive resignation of teachers from the School of Medicine of San Marcos in 1961.

Later that year, Dr. Lumbreras was appointed as a full-time teacher at the newly created Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Médicas y Biológicas (today known as Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia - UPCH). There, he reinitiated the service of Tropical Medicine in the Sala San Vicente at Dos de Mayo Hospital. In 1964, multiple contributions were made to the 1st National Congress of Microbiology and Parasitology in Arequipa. This evidenced the vitality of this renewed research group in Tropical Medicine, constituted by Professors such as Dr Raúl León Barúa, young medical graduates such as Dr Raul Cantella and Dr Roger Burga, and medical students including Dr Juan Cabrera, Dr Humberto Guerra and Dr Renato Alarcón, among others. In total, 16 students and 7 professors participated as authors in the congress.

The construction of the Hospital del Rímac initiated in 1966. This would eventually constitute the University Hospital, with the premises for UPCH built adjacent to it. For the first time in Peru, a Tropical Medicine specialist position was included in a Hospital’s medical staff, won competitively by Dr Lumbreras. Other team members, Dr. Raúl León Barúa and Dr Humberto Álvarez Bianchi, also obtained positions at the new hospital. A laboratory to attend the diagnostic needs of patients with tropical diseases was created in the University. The laboratory team included Dr Hugo Lumbreras and Dr Raúl Tello in Parasitology, and Dr Rosa Ortiz in Mycology. Upon his return from a doctoral scholarship in 1971, Dr Humberto Guerra reincorporated opening the Microbiology area.

In 1967, the visit of Dr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, General Secretary of the German Foundation “Alexander von Humboldt’”, stimulated the consolidation of the Tropical Medicine service as an Institute. The University approved this initiative on March 25th 1968, naming it “Instituto de Medicina Tropical Alexander von Humboldt” (IMT AvH). The name was chosen as homage to the German researcher and to highlight the connection with the “Alexander von Humboldt” Foundation for their enabling role and support.

In 1970, as part of a larger request to the Ministry of Health to further develop the services provided by the Hospital, UPCH and the Hospital requested funds for the construction of a Clinical Unit of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine. This project took advantage of the capabilities of the UPCH and the Hospital, and was approved by the Ministry of Health and completed in November 1977.

The construction of the new Clinical Unit of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine allowed for relevant collaboration between the IMT AvH and the now called “Hospital Nacional Cayetano Heredia”. With over 36 hospital beds, an outpatient clinic, administrative offices, a library and infrastructure for multiple laboratories, the members of the Institute obtained appropriate ambiance for different kinds of activities. The fostering of clinicians, researchers, laboratorians and technical personnel within the same premises made evident the existence of common goals and the desire to excel. Work activities were oriented to promote the Institute and to fully implement all facilities, achieving important support from various sources throughout the following years.

Collaborations with the new clinical unit, later renamed “Department of Infectious, Tropical and Dermatological Diseases” allowed conducting research on a wide variety of topics since the early days. This included research in typhoid fever, brucellosis, tetanus, bartonelosis, hepatitis, leishmaniasis, toxoplasmosis, intestinal parasitosis, fasciolasis, cysticercosis, hydatidosis, and fungal infections among others. A particular attention was given to diagnostic techniques as an essential basis to optimize other clinical activities including epidemiology, pathogenesis, patient follow-up and complications, vaccine development, and studies during pregnancy.

Teaching has been one of the most important activities since the foundation of IMT AvH. In 1978, the first Peruvian Residency program in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine was initiated at Hospital Nacional Cayetano Heredia, an important milestone in academic activities for the Institute. This program involves active participation in high-quality research activities and a demanding clinical training. In 36 years, the Institute has trained over 60 specialists in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine. Former alumni now constitute expert groups of prevalent diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

IMT AvH is now considered internationally as an excellence center for Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine due to its high academic quality and the clinical expertise of its multidisciplinary team. The Gorgas Courses in Tropical Medicine, organized in collaboration with University of Alabama in Birmingham have trained more than 720 students from over 76 countries since 1996, and is considered as one of the best training programs on Tropical Medicine worldwide.

Since it's creation, Dr. Hugo Lumbreras Cruz was appointed Director of IMT AvH, a post he held until his death on December 7, 1985. Then the position was held by Dr. Humberto Guerra (1985-1992), Dr. Humberto Álvarez Bianchi (1992- 1995), Dr. Eduardo Gotuzzo Herencia (1995-2017), Dr. Alejandro Llanos Cuentas (2017-2018) and Dr. Theresa Ochoa Woodell (2019- present).

Basado en : Guerra H; Malpica L; Seas C. El Instituto de Medicina tropical Alexander von Humboldt: pasado, presente y proyecciones futuras. Acta Herediana. 2013; 53:13-28.