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Dr. Ramon Guiteras
~ Inducted 2009
Certainly the most prominent person of Latin American heritage at the turn of the 20th century was Ramon Guiteras, a native of Bristol. He was the son of a prominent Cuban banker with financial ties to Bristol’s DeWolf family. Because the DeWolf’s maintained substantial investments in Cuba, family connections followed those of a financial nature. Ramon Guiteras, Sr., married Elizabeth Wardwell from one of Bristol’s old-line families, and the couple became the parents of Ramon, who was raised in that bayside town.
After early education in Providence, he attended Harvard where he completed a classical course of studies. Then he entered Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1883. He pursued post-graduate medical studies in Vienna, Austria for 18 months and then at Berlin under several of Europe’s most eminent surgeons.
Guiteras decided to establish his practice in New York City where he gradually gained respect and acclaim as a surgeon, a professor of medicine, and an author of two highly-regarded medical treatises. He eventually confined his practice to kidney and intestinal disorders becoming nationally known for his expertise in these specialities. He belonged to a host of medical societies including the Pan-American Medical Congress which he served as secretary, the Spanish-American and Latin American Medical Association of which he was president, and the Rhode Island Medical Society. He was also a fellow of the American College of Surgery.
Dr. Guiteras maintained connections with Cuba and during World War I, he was chosen by President Wilson to ascertain the viewpoint of that country toward the European conflict. He also made trips to France as an advisory surgeon and volunteered his services to the Italian Hospital in New York, a courtesy that earned him a gold medal from the Italian government.
In the spirit of his contemporary, Theodore Roosevelt, big game hunting was his greatest diversion. In addition to trips in the American wilderness, Guiteras made two safaris to the interior of Africa returning with impressive trophies.
Guiteras died in December, 1917 at the age of fifty-nine, but even in death he performed a humanitarian act. Following an admirable Bristol tradition he bequeathed the sum of $350,000 to his hometown for the construction of a school to honor his mother. Known as the Guiteras Memorial School, the large colonnade brick and limestone building was completed in 1925. It overlooks Bristol harbor and still serves as one of the town’s most visible and impressive landmarks.
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