Dr. Victor Raul Felipa remembers Dr. Allen
“Are you the same Dr. Felipa who worked with my father in Peru and Boston 50 years ago?”
The inquiry came from Rosamond Allen, daughter of Dr. Henry Freeman Allen, who used Google to find the doctor whom her father had often mentioned - the one he mentored - Dr. V. Raul Felipa, Selva in Action’s past Medical Director and PAMS past Secretary.
Dr. Felipa reminisces:
I first met Dr. Allen in 1964 when he volunteered at the hospital where I worked right out of medical school (Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Yarina Cocha – Pulcalpa, Perú). I was working in General Medicine, and assisted Dr. Allen in ophthalmologic surgery. It was there that he trained me to perform Pterygium operations. Pterygium is a condition that is rampant in tropical areas and can lead to blindness.
I was offered an opportunity to study cardiology in Dusseldorf, Germany, but Dr. Allen encouraged me to come to the United States to continue my education. Because of his encouragement, I moved my wife and two children to the Boston area, where Dr. Allen became the greatest mentor of my professional life.
Some background on Dr. Allen:
Dr. Henry Freeman Allen (1916-1993) descended from a family with six generations of physicians and other important historical figures. His ancestors helped found Harvard School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Allen’s grandfather, Dr. John Collins Warren, was the first Anesthesiologist Specialist in the United States, and was the first surgeon to operate using ether for general anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Warren was also the founder of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In addition to his illustrious medical predecessors, Dr. Allen was a great-grandson of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the controversial anti-slavery 19th century masterpiece that became an American literary classic.
Dr. Allen graduated from Harvard Medical School and became a renowned ophthalmologist and philanthropist. From 1971-72, he presided over the American Association of Ophthalmologists. He was a good friend of Dr. Theodore Binder, the German physician who founded the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Yarina Cocha. Dr. Allan donated to the Hospital Amazonica Foundation, which was instrumental in recruiting volunteer professionals and supporting the hospital.
Dr. Allen’s Legacy:
Both Rosamond Allen and her brother, Dr. Freeman Towne Allen, are dedicated to keeping their father’s memory and legacy alive. Dr. Felipa told them about the medical work that Selva in Action (SIA) has been doing on the Rio Momón near Iquitos and about the numbers of people who have a serious Pterygium condition.
In 2014, Selva in Action (SIA) received a generous donation from the Boston Foundation, courtesy of the family of Dr. Henry Freeman Allen. The funds were designated specifically for ophthalmologic surgery in Iquitos, and this branch of SIA is now referred to as the “Dr. Henry Freeman Allen Pterygium Surgery Project.” As a result of this donation, former PAMS President Dr. Miguel Pro was able to perform Pterygium surgery on 14 patients, and many more are being helped through the combined efforts of SIA and the Lions Club of Iquitos’ “Sight First” program, chaired by Serafin Otero, brother of PAMS member, Dr. Alberto Otero.