the Hidden Gem series
I received word today that Dr. Ruben Luna, general and transplant surgeon from Clinica Shaio in Bogotá, has passed away.
I met Dr. Luna a year ago while writing about Bogotá – he was a gracious and kind gentleman who didn’t mind taking the time to share some stories with an unknown writer. So, today, I would like to share some of my notes from those interviews with Dr. Ruben Luna.
Dr. Ruben Francisco Luna Romero, MD was also the Chief of Surgery at the Shaio Clinic, and was a member of the Colombian Association for Obesity and Bariatric Surgery.
Almost an engineer
Dr. Luna was a general and transplant surgeon who helped pioneer kidney transplantation in Colombia. During our interviews, Dr. Luna reported that he was initially training to be an engineer and had entered his third year of study in Spain when he decided to switch to medicine. He stated he had initially been dissuaded from medicine due to the long hours he saw his father work as a general surgeon.
Dr. Luna attended Universitario del Rosario for both medical school and his general surgery residency. He was working at San Rafael Hospital when he was approached by his department head who encouraged further specialization in Renal (kidney) and pancreatic transplant.
At that time, Dr. Luna’s sister was the Heart – Lung Transplant Coordinator at the University of Minnesota, and she helped arrange for Dr. Luna to complete a transplant fellowship under the guidance of Dr. David Sutherland, an American legend in the field of solid organ transplant. After his return to Colombia, Dr. Luna performed the first kidney transplant at Clinica San Rafael on Oct. 31, 1985. He went on to perform the first kidney / pancreas transplant at San Pedro Claver in 1987, and was part of the team performing the first heart – kidney transplant at Clinica Shaio in 1997.
Commitment to patients & humanitarian efforts
He never forgot his commitment to his the care of his patients. In fact, Dr. Luna started a foundation to support organ transplantation for children and performed over sixty transplants (for free as part of humanitarian efforts). His organization also convinced several drug companies to provide anti-rejection medications to the children for free. Dr. Luna helped to establish transplant surgery programs at Clinica Shaio, Colsubsido, San Pedro Claver and Clinica San Rafael.
Outstanding Young Person
In 1991 he was named the Outstanding Young Person of the World for medical innovation. He also established the regional procurement program now in place in Bogotá.
Hard work took its toll
However, all of these achievements took their toll; at 36, Dr. Luna had his first heart attack. Despite two subsequent heart attacks and cardiac surgery, Dr. Luna continued to maintain a full-time surgical practice. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing golf.
His son, Dr. Ruben Daniel Luna Alvaro, MD maintains his legacy. He is a third generation general surgeon and maintains an active general surgery practice in addition to performing bariatric surgery and kidney transplantation as a staff physician at Clinica Shaio. He has been operating since 2005.
** This was not the first kidney transplant in Colombia, which dates back to the 1960’s, at Hospital San Juan de Dios.