Antonio Fernós-Isern : biography
Dr. Antonio Fernós-Isern (May 10, 1895 – January 19, 1974) was the first Puerto Rican cardiologist and its longest serving resident commissioner.
Fernos-Isern born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico and attended primary and intermediate schools in Caguas. His family moved to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania during his mid-year in high school. He finished his high school education in the "Pennsylvania State Normal School". After completing his pre-medical training, he applied and was accepted in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Maryland and earned his doctor’s degree in May 1915.
Fernos-Isern returned to the island and settled in the city of Caguas where he practiced medicine for two years. between the years 1918-1933, he held various administrative positions in the health services of Puerto Rico. In 1918, he was the Director for the City of San Juan; from 1919 to 1921, he was the Under-Secretary of Health; from 1921-23 the Director of Health in city; from 1923-29 he was once again Under-Secretary of Health and from 1930-33 the Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico.
His memory is honored at the Capitol building in San Juan with a bust facing the urn preserving the original Constitution of Puerto Rico. His collected papers are held in trust at the Fernós-Isern room at the Inter American University Law School in Hato Rey, San Juan.
In 1946, the governor of Puerto Rico, Jesus T. Piñero, appointed Fernos-Isern as his replacement for the Resident Commissioner to the U.S. Congress after unanimous endorsement from the legislature. Fernos-Isern was re-elected for six consecutive years, serving a total of nineteen years. As Resident Commissioner, Fernos-Isern played a very important role in convincing the Government of the United States to give Puerto Ricans the right to govern their island. In 1947, the "Crawford Project", allowing Puerto Ricans to elect their governor was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.
On June 8, 1950, the United States Senate approved the "Public Law 600", allowing Puerto Rico to establish its own constitutional government. Fernos-Isern served as president of the Constitutional Convention, which formulated the Constitution of the "Commonwealth" (Estado Libre Asociado).
First Puerto Rican cardiologist
In 1933, Fernos-Isern resigned as health commissioner and went to New York, here he completed his residency in cardiology at Columbia University and thus became the "first" Puerto Rican cardiologist. Upon his later return to Puerto Rico, he became a professor at the "Public School of Tropical Medicine of Puerto Rico",where he had previously served as assistant and associate professor.
In 1937, Fernos-Isern joined Luis Muñoz Marín organize the "Popular Democratic Party" (Partido Popular Democratico). In 1941, he served as the Director of civilian defense for the San Juan Metropolitan Area. In 1942 he returned to head the Department of Health and the Administration of Public Housing, as Director of the War Effort Office for Puerto Rico. From 1943 to 1946 Dr. Fernos-Isern was also the acting governor of Puerto Rico, during the Governorship of Rexford G. Tugwell under appointment as Permanent Acting Governor approved by president Franklyn D. Roosevelt.
Fernos-Isern did not seek re-election in 1964. He returned to Puerto Rico from Washington, D.C. and was elected to the Puerto Rican Senate, serving between 1965-1969. After he retired from politics, he returned to the University of Puerto Rico as Resident Scholar where he wrote his monumental work in three parts: The Estado Libre Asociado…(the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), and Filosofía y Doctrina del Estadolibrismo Puertorriqueño(Philosophy and doctrine of the Puerto Rican Commonwealth).
Antonio Fernos-Isern died in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 19, 1974 and was buried with full state honors in the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.