Dr Maria Alice Pestana Serrano e Silva, a beloved and much-respected doctor in the Algarve as well as a feature writer for the Resident, passed away on Tuesday night due to a sudden complication of a chronic illness at the age of 78.
Her medical career started over 50 years ago at one of Portugal’s largest university hospitals. Dr Maria Alice was brought up in close contact with the English community in Lisbon and, in 1983, moved to the Algarve to practice in Praia da Luz.
She became a well-known name in the region’s medical world for founding Praia da Luz-based clinic Luzdoc, which became a multifaceted, tailor-made health provider to the expat and local communities and to the tourists in the Algarve. Dr Maria Alice was also a part of the HPA Health Group since the outset and remained a member of the board.
Dr Maria Alice believed that the essence of the doctor/patient relationship is trust; that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease, and that disease must be seen in the context of the person who has it, thus making the practice of medicine more realistic and humane.
She also paved the way for more women to pursue their dreams.
“I was born at a time when women were still, as a principle, just women. There were exceptions to the rule, but it wasn’t easy, and there were few of them. I was always averse to what should be just because it should be. In school, I was always affirmative, but not a rebel,” said Dr Maria Alice during the launch of her first book, Coisas de Tudo, Pedaços de Nada, in 2016.
“Later on, and to the surprise of many, I always refused to take part in the fights for women’s rights, as I did not accept that women and men were different realities. The essence is the same. They are people,” she said.
“I have always defended the right to be different, to be a unique person, and thus the right for others to live their own lives in their own way. Life is, in fact, a mosaic of all those equalities and differences.”
João Bacalhau, president of the HPA Health Group administration board, has released a statement lamenting Dr. Maria Alice’s passing:
“It is with great sadness and consternation that Grupo HPA Saúde publicly manifests its deepest condolences for the death of Dr Maria Alice Serrano.
“Dr Maria Alice Serrano had a relevant role in the development of our hospital group. Her contributions to the health sector in the region are immeasurable.
“With her loss, we are all poorer, namely the entire region of the Algarve. We will miss her, as her journey was fundamental for the population and for what current exists in the health sector.”
Dr Maria Alice is survived by her husband Vasco and two sons, Tiago and Filipe. An event to honour her memory will be planned in the future, but a date has not yet been set.