Susan Abarca Salazar: consultant in paediatric infectious diseases whose research benefited children with neurological infectionsBMJ 2023; 383 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p2849 (Published 05 December 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2849
- Rebecca Wallersteiner
- London, UK
Susan Abarca Salazar, a consultant in infectious diseases who was conducting doctoral research on evaluating new diagnostics to distinguish between children with tuberculous meningitis and other central nervous system infections, has died unexpectedly.
Abarca Salazar was born in Cusco, Peru, the third child of Práxides Salazar Saire and Vicente Abarca Duran, who came from rural families and sent their children to the city to look for a better life. According to her sister Adelma, Abarca Salazar was eager for knowledge from a young age, so much so that she bought herself secondhand books, which she read avidly, eventually managing to assemble a large library. Aged 7, Abarca Salazar accompanied her mother, “a street vendor, with no home of her own, who raised her children on her own, to the city of Lima, where she had the support of her brothers.” Studious, hardworking, and determined, Abarca Salazar became a role model to her three siblings. When she was 14, her sister Cristina Milagros was born with cardiovascular complications, which necessitated many hospital visits as she grew up. When Abarca Salazar accompanied her mother to hospital with Cristina, she witnessed so much discrimination, apathy, and bureaucracy that she determined to do something about this by studying medicine herself. Despite reservations from some relatives, who perceived a medical education was only for wealthy people, she persisted with her dream.
Abarca Salazar successfully applied to study medicine at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru, and managed with the financial support of her mother, until she qualified in 2011. For the next four years she specialised in infectious and tropical diseases at the Cayetano Peruvian University in Heredia, recognising a lack of consultants in this specialty. She did her internship at the Edgardo Rebagliati Martins Hospital and started working in paediatric …