The beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810 triggered radical political, social, and economic changes, including the reorganization of the medical profession. During this tumultuous period of transition, physicians and surgeons merged in an effort to monopolize the field and ensure their professional survival in a postcolonial, liberal republic. Carving a Niche traces the evolution of various medical occupations in Mexico from the end of the colonial period to the beginning of the regime of Porfirio Díaz, demonstrating how competition and collaboration, identity, ever-changing legislation, political instability, and foreign intervention resulted in a complex, gradual, and unique process of medical professionalization — one that neither conformed to theoretical models nor resembled hierarchies found in other parts of the world. Through extensive research, Luz María Hernández Sáenz analyzes the uphill struggle of practitioners to claim their place as public health experts and to provide and control medical education in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Highlighting the significance of race, class, gender, and nationality, Carving a Niche demonstrates that in the case of Mexico, liberal reforms praised by traditional works often hindered, rather than promoted, the creation of a modern medical profession and the delivery of quality health care services.
Luz María Hernández Sáenz is associate professor of history at the University of Western Ontario.
"Hernández Sáenz knows her subject extremely well and has assembled a rich and thorough analysis of the different dimensions of medical professionalization in Mexico." Adam Warren, University of Washington and author of Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms
"This welcome contribution to the history of medicine offers a detailed examination of the trajectories of licensed medical practitioners and their efforts to acquire professional, social, and scientific recognition between the 1800s and the 1870s. Hernández Sáenz challenges the traditional and linear interpretations that have characterized the history of medical professionalization in Mexico and offers a novel understanding of both medical and Mexican history during an era that had seldom been the focus of a coherent and encompassing investigation." Journal of the History of Medicine