Early Life and Education
Born in Santiago, Bachelet moved often during her childhood due to the military career of her father, Force Brigadier General Alberto Bachelet Martínez. After completing high school, she entered medical school at the University of Chile in 1970, after obtaining one of the highest national scores in the university admission test.
In February 1979 Bachelet returned to Santiago, but her medical school credits from the GDR were not transferred, forcing her to resume her studies from where she had left off before fleeing the country. She graduated as an M.D. in 1982, She earned a scholarship to specialize in pediatrics and public health at Children’s Hospital Roberto del Río (1983–1986). During this time she also worked at PIDEE (Protection of Children Injured by States of Emergency Foundation), a non-governmental organization helping children of the tortured and missing in Santiago and Chillán. She was head of the foundation’s Medical Department between 1986 and 1990. Some time after, her second child with Dávalos was born in 1984, she and her husband legally separated. In 1990, after democracy was restored in Chile, Bachelet worked for the Ministry of Health’s West Santiago Health Service and was a consultant for the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization and the German Corporation for Technical Cooperation.
In 1996 Bachelet began studies in military strategy at the National Academy for Strategic and Policy Studies (Anepe) in Chile. She continued her studies in the United States at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington, DC, completing a Continental Defense Course in 1998. She returned to Chile to work for the Defense Ministry as Senior Assistant to the Defense Minister. She subsequently graduated from a Master’s program in military science at the Chilean Army’s War Academy.
On March 11, 2000 Bachelet was appointed Minister of Health by President Ricardo Lagos. She was also given the task of eliminating waiting lists in the saturated public hospital system within the first 100 days of Lagos’s government. Unable to meet this goal, she offered her resignation, which was rejected by the President. More controversially, she allowed for the free distribution of the morning-after pill for victims of sexual abuse.
On January 7, 2002 Bachelet was appointed Defense Minister, becoming the first woman to hold this post in a Latin American country and one of the few in the world. While Minister of Defense, she promoted reconciliatory gestures between the military and victims of the dictatorship, culminating in the historic 2003 declaration by General Juan Emilio Cheyre, head of the army, that “never again” would the military subvert democracy in Chile.
Due to her popularity, she was chosen to represent the CPD as their candidate for President, which she won in the second round. Bachelet was sworn in as President of the Republic of Chile on March 11, 2006.
President Bachelet is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders , an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.