A graduate of medical school in Mexico, Vicky Guzman returned to her native El Salvador in 1971 and went into the villages where there was a desperate need for medical help. Within the first six months, she and her rural helpers treated 1,000 people. Combining modern medicine and folkways, Dr. Guzman won the trust of the people and helped them with issues of hygiene and sanitation.
Perceived as an agitator because of her concern for economic conditions and the distribution of land, Dr. Guzman was persecuted by the National Guard and police in El Salvador. During her imprisonment in 1973 her medical experience and commitment to the poor persuaded the police to put her to work, and soon she was implementing her cooperative programs in the capital.
In 1986, ASAPROSAR (The Salvadoran Association for Rural Health) received legal recognition. By 1996 health services were expanded to forty-four cantons (regions) and eighteen marginalized urban groups in El Salvador. Three rural clinics have been constructed and eight centers for maternal health have been established. To date more than 800 people have been trained as health promoters, child development promoters and lay midwives.
In addition to founding ASAPROSAR, Dr. Guzman has been national director for Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador and served as director of many community health organizations in her country. Among other honors she has received the 1993 Humanitarian Award for the International Benevolent Mission in Houston, Texas and the 1993 “Notable Distinguished Person” award from the Civic Department in Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Dr. Guzman’s life-long dedication to health care for the poor and her understanding of the rights of all people to fair treatment exemplify the spirit of the Salem Award.