María Antonieta Rebollo (1923-2021)
She was the first doctor in Uruguay to specialize in pediatric neurology – starting with the study of how brains develop on a basic cellular level, and moving on to study how children learn and develop throughout life.
The first female physician in Uruguay was Paulina Luisi (1875-1950), who graduated in 1909 and became the head of the gynecology clinic of the Faculty of Medicine at the National University in Montevideo. Luisi fought for women’s rights in Uruguay - primarily for the right to education about their sexual health - and to promote women working in professions, including medicine.
Rebollo was born in Montevideo, and graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the National University in Montevideo in 1950, the year Luisi died. Like Luisi, Rebollo stayed at the Faculty of Medicine after her graduation, focusing on neuropathology – particularly neuromuscular spindles in the chicken.
Rebollo published many books, starting with Neuroanatomia in 1954 (with Roman Arana Iñiguez), followed by Histologia in 1957. She received a scholarship to work in Paris for a year in 1957 with Paul Giroud, a French physician who studied infectious diseases at the Institut Pasteur, and focused on experimentally-induced malformations of the nervous system.
She held positions in the histology department, the neurology department, and the department of pediatrics. In 1961, she traveled to the United States to see the departments of pediatric neurology at various institutions, and returned to build the first Department of Neuropediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine in Uruguay. That same year, she also became the Chair of the Histological Research Laboratory of the Institute of Neurology.
In 1964, she published a book on hydrocephalus in pediatric neurology: La hidrocefalia en el niño (with Lía Zeiter de Carlevaro (1927-1966), a woman neuroradiologist who died shortly afterwards of lymphoma at only 39 years of age). In 1980, she published a book titled Disfunción cerebral minima (translated as “Minimal Brain Dysfunction,” an early term used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)) with Susana Cardus and Aurona Delfino de Gómez.
She retired in 1988, but published two more books: El aprendizaje (Learning) in 1994, and Dificultades del aprendizaje (Learning Difficulties) in 1996. She was passionate about teaching, and continued to participate in education as an Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Medicine until 2011. She died at 97.
Historias Universitaras. "Rebollo Carlsson, Maria Antonieta." https://historiasuniversitarias.edu.uy/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Rebollo_Maria_Antonieta.pdf
Essay by Alison Christy, MD, PhD