Wrapping up and saying “Thanks!”


It’s a busy Sunday in Mexicali – presidential elections are today, so I am going to try to get some pictures of the nearest polling station later.. In the meantime, I am spending the day catching up on my writing..

a polling station in Mexicali

Lots to write about – just haven’t had the time..  Friday morning was the intern graduation which marks the end of their intern year – as they advance in their residencies.. Didn’t get a lot of pictures since I was at the back of the room, and frankly, unwilling to butt ahead of proud parents to get good pics.. This was their day, not mine and I was pleased that I was invited.

I did get a couple of good pictures of my ‘hermanito’ Lalo and Gloria after the event.  (I’ve adopted Lalo as my ‘kid’ brother.. Not sure how he feels about – but he’s pretty easy-going so he probably just thinks it’s a silly gringa thing, and probably it is..)

Dr. ‘Lalo” Gutierrez with his parents

Lalo’s parents were sitting in the row ahead of me, so of course, I introduced myself and said hello.. (They were probably a little bewildered by this middle-aged gringa talking about their son in atrocious Spanish) but I figured they might be curious about the same gringa that posts pictures of Lalo on the internet.. I also feel that it’s important to take time and tell people the ‘good things’ in life.  (Like what a great person their son has turned out to be..)

Same thing for Gloria.. She is such a hard-worker, and yet, always willing to help out.. “Gloria can you help me walk this patient?”  It’s not even her patient, (and a lot of people would say – it’s not our jobs to walk patients) but the patient needs to get out of bed – I am here, and I need some help (with IV poles, pleurovacs, etc.)  and Gloria never hesitates.. that to me – is the hallmark of an excellent provider, that the patient comes first .. She still has several years to go, but I have confidence in her.

She throws herself into her rotations.. When she was on thoracics, she wanted to learn.. and she didn’t mind learning from a nurse (which is HUGE here, in my experience.)

Dr. Gloria Ayala (right) and her mother

She wasn’t sure that her mom would be able to be there – (she works long hours as a cook for a baseball team) but luckily she made it!

Met a pediatric cardiologist and his wife, a pediatrician.. Amazing because the first thing they said is, “We want nurse practitioners in our NICU,” so maybe NPs in Mexico will become a reality.. Heard there is an NP from San Francisco over at Hospital Hispano Americano but haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her.  (I’d love to exchange notes with her.)

I spent the remainder of the day in the operating room of Dr. Ernesto Romero Fonseca, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma.  I don’t know what it is about Orthopedics, but the docs are always so “laid back”, and just so darn pleasant to be around.  Dr. Romero and his resident are no exception.

[“Laid back” is probably the wrong term – there is nothing casual about his approach to surgery but I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet, so my vocabulary is a bit limited.. ]  Once I finish editing ‘patient bits’ I’ll post a photo..

Then it was off to clinic with the Professor.

Saturday, I spent the day in the operating room with Dr. Vasquez at Hospital de la Familia. He teased me about the colors of the surgical drapes,(green at Hospital de la Familia), so I guess he liked my article about the impact of color on medical photography.  (Though, truthfully, I take photos of surgeons, not operations..)

Since the NYT article* came out a few days ago – things have changed here in Mexicali.  People don’t seem to think the book is such a far-fetched idea anymore.  I’m hopeful this means I’ll get more response from some of the doctors.  (Right now, for every 15 I contact – I might get two replies, and one interview..)

Planning for my last day with the Professor  – makes me sad because I’ve had such a great time, (and learned a tremendous amount) but it has been wonderful.  Besides, I will be starting classes soon – and will be moving to my next location (and another great professor.)

Professor Ochoa and Dr. Vasquez

But I do have to say – that he has been a great professor, and I think, a good friend.  He let me steer my education at times (hey – can I learn more about X..) but always kept me studying, reading and writing.  He took time away from his regular life, and his other duties as a professor of other students (residents, interns etc.) to read my assignments, make suggestions and corrections when necessary.    and lastly, he tolerated a lot with good grace and humor.  Atrocious Spanish, (probably) some outlandish ideas and attitudes about patient care (I am a nurse, after all), a lot of chatter (one of my patient care things), endless questions…  especially, “donde estas?” when I was lost – again.

So as I wrap up my studies to spend the last few weeks concentrating on the book, and getting the last interviews, I want to thank Dr. Carlos Ochoa for his endless patience, and for giving me this opportunity.  I also want to thank all the interns (now residents) for welcoming me on rounds, the great doctors at Hospital General..  Thanks to Dr. Ivan for always welcoming me to the ER, and Dr. Joanna for welcoming me to her hospital.  All these people didn’t have to be so nice – but they were, and I appreciate it.

* Not my article [ I wish it were – since I have a lot to say on the topic].

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Spending the weekend with Dr. Vasquez, and medical photography


For internet searches for medical photography – all of my images are free for your use, but please give proper credit for my work, ie. “Photo by K. Eckland”.  For commercial uses, contact me, (so that I can contact the subjects of my work).

Please note that patient privacy is protected – and patient permission is obtained prior to photographs.  For the most part – I photograph surgeons – not patients, or surgery.

Spent much of the weekend in the operating room with Dr. C. Vasquez, cardiac surgeon at two different facilities, and the differences couldn’t be more apparent – and perhaps not what one might expect.  Much of it comes from perspective; as a person behind the lens, I see the scene differently than others might.

harvesting the radial artery

In fact, this prompted me to write an article on the subject of medical photography, complete with a slide show to illustrate the effects of color on surgical photographs. I’ve also re-posted much of the article here (see below).  Once you see the photos from today, you’ll understand the article.

the beige operating room

The case today went beautifully, with the patient extubated in the operating room.

Dr. Vasquez, and Lupita, scrub nurse

While we were there – had an unexpected surprise! Dr. Gutierrez ‘Lalo’ showed up.  I have been trying to get him into the cardiac OR since he confessed his interest in cardiac surgery.  It was great to see him – and I like encouraging him in his educational goals.   (I kind of miss being a mentor, and preceptor to students..)

Lalo peeks over the curtain..

Dr. Gutierrez (Lalo) in the cardiac OR

Medical Photography

Medical photography is many ways is more art, and luck that skill – at least for people like me who never set out to be medical photographers in the first place.  It was a natural development prompted by dire necessity during the early days of interviewing surgeons and medical writing.  I am still learning, and hopefully improving.

But as I said before, much of it is luck, and timing, particularly in this field, where the subjects are always in motion and a slight movement of the hand tying the suture knot can result in either a breath-taking shot or an utter failure to capture the moment.

The most dramatic and vivid photographs often come at mundane moments, or unexpected situations.  In medical photography, where the subject matter combines with a dramatic interplay of color, light and shadow to illustrate some of life’s most pivotal moments such as birth, death and life-saving operations – it is surprising how important the background elements are.

Here in Mexicali, I have been taking photographs of different surgeons for several weeks at different facilities across the city.  But, almost unanimously, all of the photographs, regardless of subject at Hospital Almater are lackluster and uninspiring.  Contrast this with the glorious photos from the public facilities such as Hospital General de Mexicali, and Issstecali.

The culprit is immediately apparent, and it demonstrates how such carefully planned such as aesthetics and interior design can have unintended consequences.  The very studied, casual beigeness used to communicate upscale living in the more public parts of the hospital are destroying the esthetics of the operating room services they are selling.  Whereas, the older facilities, which have continued the use of traditional colored drapes and materials do not have the problem.

Historically, surgical drapes were green for a very specific reason.  As the complementary color to red, it was believed to be a method of combating eye fatigue for surgeons looking at the red, bloody surgical fields for hours at a time.  Over the years, operating room apparel and drapes evolved away from this soft green to a more vivid blue, know as ‘ceil’.  The reasons for this change are probably more related to manufacturing that medicine, and since that evolution, surgical drapes now come in a variety of colors – hence the color matching here, of the paint, the tile, the patients, the operating room and the surgeons itself.  Somewhere, an interior decorator is filled with gleeful satisfaction – but I can only muster up a groan; knowing I will be here again and that most of my photos will be unusable.

While the consequences of poor medical photographs may seem trivial to anyone but myself (and my interviewees) at this junction – it runs far deeper than that.  With the advent of the internet, and the complicated legalities of getty and other corporate images, small, independent photographers such as myself are gaining wider exposure than ever before.   Alas! – much of it is uncredited, but several of my more popular images are downloaded thousands of times per week, to grace slideshows, powerpoint presentations and other illustrations for discussions of anything from medicine and surgery to travel, technology and even risk assessment.  In an era of branding, and logo recognition, places like Hospital Almater are certainly missing out.

In  other news/ happenings: Upcoming elections!**

Finally found someone to talk to and explain some of the issues in Mexican politics – but he hates Quadri, and doesn’t really explain any of it except to say ‘He’s corrupt..”  (From my understanding, ‘corrupt’ is an understatement, and that all of the parties are corrupt – and it’s pretty well understood by everyone involved – so of course, if I hear something like that – please explain.. explain..)  It’s not like I am capable of voting anyway, but I’d sure like to hear perspectives..

It looks like I’m not the only one who is a little leary of pretty boy pena’s party’s dubious history.  His numbers have fallen in recent polls in advance of tonight’s televised debates.  (Let’s hope these debates are better than the last.)

My personal “favorite”, Quadri is still trailing in the dust, but it looks like Lopez has a chance to take the election from Pena (much like it was ‘taken’ from him in 2006 with his narrow defeat..  Lopez is a socialist which is hard for Americans like me to understand – but then again, it’s not my country, and the levels of inequity here are certainly wider than at home – so maybe someone like Lopez can bring some much needed support to the lower classes.

I mean, a lot of what we take for granted in the USA doesn’t exist here, like a decent free public school education.   (Okay – I know critics will argue about the value of an inner city education – but we still provide a free elementary & secondary school education to all our citizens.)  So socialism for the purpose of providing basic services in all areas of Mexico seems pretty reasonable.  (It would help if I could read some primary source stuff – without using translation software, so I would have a better idea of the specifics of AMLO’s ideas.)

I did ask my friend about the student demonstrations for Yo Soy 132.  I guess as an American growing up after the 1960’s – we tend to not too make much of a big deal over student demonstrators – after all – we have the ‘Occupy’ movements going on right now in our own/ other countries – but he was telling me that this is pretty uncommon in Mexico.

** No, I’m not really into politics but I feel like it’s important to try and understand as much as possible about the places (countries) where I am residing.

Dr. Gabriel Ramos, Oncology Surgeon


Dr. Gabriel Ramos, Oncologic Surgeon

Been a busy week  – (Yea!) but now that it is the weekend, I have a chance to post some more pictures and talk about my day in the operating room with Dr. Gabriel Omar Ramos Orozco. 

Despite living in a neighboring apartment, interviewing Dr. Ramos proved to be more difficult than anticipated.  But after several weeks, I was able to catch up with the busy surgeon.

Outside of the operating room, he is a brash, young surgeon with an off-beat charm and quirky sense of humor.  But inside the operating room, as he removes a large tumor with several cancerous implants, Dr. Gabriel Ramos Orozco is all business.

It’s different for me, as the interviewer to have this perspective.  As much as I enjoy him as a friendly neighbor – it’s the serious surgeon that I prefer.  It’s a side of him that is unexpected, and what finally wins me over.

Originally from San Luis Rio Colorado in the neighboring state of Sonora, Dr. Ramos now calls Mexicali home.  Like most surgeons here, he has a staff position at a public hospital separate from his private practice.  It is here at IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) where Dr. Ramos operates on several patients during part of the extended interview.

Operating room nurses at IMSS

During the cases, the patients received a combination of epidural analgesia and conscious sedation.  While the anesthesiologist was not particularly involved or attentive to the patients during the cases, there was no intra-operative hypotension/ alterations in hemodynamic status or prolonged hypoxia.

Dr. Ramos reviewed patient films and medical charts prior to the procedures.  Patients were prepped, positioned and draped appropriately.  Surgical sterility was maintained during the cases.  The first case is a fairly straight forward laparoscopic case – and everything proceeds rapidly, in an uncomplicated fashion.  45 minutes later, and the procedure is over – and Dr. Ramos is typing his operative note.

Dr. Gabriel Ramos in the operating room

But the second case is not – and Dr. Ramos knows it going in..

The case is an extensive tumor resection, where Dr. Ramos painstakingly removes several areas of implants (or tumor tissue that has spread throughout the abdomen, separate from the original tumor).

The difference between being able to surgical remove all of the sites and being unable to remove all of the gross disease is the difference between a possible surgical ‘cure’ and a ‘de-bulking’ procedure, Dr. Ramos explains.  As always, when entering these surgeries, Dr. Ramos and his team do everything possible to go for surgical eradication of disease.  The patient will still need adjunctive therapy (chemotherapy) to treat any microscopic cancer cells, but the prognosis is better than in cases where gross disease is left behind*.  During this surgery, after extended exploration – it looks like Dr. Ramos was able to get everything.

“It’s not pretty,” he admits, “but in these types of cases, aesthetics are the last priority,” [behind removing all the tumor].  Despite that – the aesthetics after this large surgery are not as worrisome as one might have imagined.

The patient will have a large abdominal scar – but nothing that differs from most surgical scars in the pre-laparoscopy era.  [I admit I may be jaded in this respect after seeing so many surgeries] – It is several inches long, but there are no obvious defects, the scar is straight and neatly aligned at the conclusion of the case – and the umbilicus “belly-button” was spared.

after the successful removal of a large tumor

As I walk out of the hospital into the 95 degree heat at 11 o’clock at night – I admit surprise and revise my opinion of Dr. Ramos – he is better than I expected, (he is more than just the kid next door), and he deserves credit for such.

*This may happen due to the location of metastatic lesions – not all lesions are surgically removable.  (Tumor tissue may attach to major blood vessels such as the abdominal aorta, or other tissue that cannot be removed without seriously compromising the patient.)  In those cases, surgeons try to remove as much disease as possible – called ‘de-bulking’ knowing that they will have to leave tumor behind.

Back in the OR with Drs. Ham & Abril, bariatric and general surgeons


My first case this morning with another surgeon was cancelled – which was disappointing, but I still had a great day in the operating room with Dr.  Ham and Dr. Abril.  This time I was able to witness a bariatric surgery, so I could report back to all of you.

Dr. Ham (left) and Dr. Abril

I really enjoy their relaxed but detail oriented style – it makes for a very enjoyable case.  Today they performed a sleeve gastrectomy** so I am able to report – that they (Dr. Ham) oversewed the staple line (quite nicely, I might add).  If you’ve read any of the previous books, then you know that this is an important step to prevent suture line dehiscence leading to leakage of stomach contents into the abdomen (which can cause very serious complications.)  As I said – it’s an important step – but not one that every doctor I’ve witnessed always performed.   So I was a pleased as punch to see that these surgeons are as world-class and upstanding as everything I’d seen already suggested..

** as long time readers know, I am a devoted fan of the Roux-en-Y, but recent literature suggests that the sleeve gastrectomy is equally effective in the treatment of diabetes.. Of course – we’ll be watching the research for more information on this topic of debate. I hope further studies confirm these results since the sleeve gives patients just a little less of a drastic lifestyle change.. (still drastic but not shot glass sized drastic.)

Dr. Ham

They invited me to the show this evening – they are having several clowns (that are doctors, sort of Patch Adams types) on the show to talk about the health benefits of laughter.  Sounds like a lot of fun – but I thought I better catch up on my writing..

I’ll be back in the OR with Los Doctores again tomorrow..

Speaking of which – I wanted to pass along some information on the anesthesiologist for Dr. Molina’s cases since he did such a nice job with the conscious sedation yesterday.  (I’ve only watched him just yesterday – so I will need a few more encounters, but I wanted to mention Dr. Andres Garcia Gutierrez all the same.

New series of articles


I’ll be writing a new series of articles for the Examiner.com based on my experiences, interviews and observations here in Mexicali, MX and Calexico, California.  While the focus will be on serving the needs of the Calexico community (particularly now that there is a fast pass lane for medical travelers), I hope that all of my loyal readers will continue to support my work.

I have already published my first three articles  – and have added a new navigation section (on the side of this blog) for interested readers.

As part of this, I wrote a story about the good doctor and all of the work he is doing – including one of our recent ‘house calls’ to San Luis, in Sonora, Mexico.   It was probably one of the more difficult articles to write; due to space limitations and trying to present information in an objective fashion.  (It’s hard to present all the evidence to support your conclusions in just a few hundred words;  ie. He’s a good doctor because he does X, Y, and Z and follows H protocol according the P.”  Makes for wordy reading and not really what the Examiner is looking for.

Too bad, since readers over at Examiner.com haven’t had the chance to know that if the opposite is true (a less than stellar physician or treatment – that I have absolutely no reservations about presenting the evidence  and stating the facts about that either..)

Don’t worry, though – I will continue to provide that level of detail here at Cartagena Surgery – where the only limitations are my ability to type, and the (sometimes) faulty keys of my aging laptop.

The ‘Art of Medicine’ with Dr. Jose Mayagoitia Witron, MD, FACS


I should be finishing my readings in preparation for clinic this afternoon, but after reading most of the day yesterday (it was an international holiday for people living outside the USA), I guess I am entitled to spend some time writing.

Besides, I spent an illuminating morning with Dr. Jose Mayagoitia Witron, MD, FACS over at Mexicali General Hospital.  While he was telling me what he doesn’t do: (no uniport laparoscopic surgery, and not a huge amount of bariatric surgery), what I observed told a very different story.

Dr. Mayagoitia, MD, FACS

I didn’t follow Dr. Mayagoitia to the operating room.  Instead – I accompanied him to a teaching session with his medical students, who presented case studies – and I observed Dr. Mayagoitia instructing his students in the ‘Art of Medicine’.  This skill is fast becoming a lost one in today’s emphasis on the science of diagnostics, and laboratory testing.  But not here, not today – and not with Dr. Mayagoitia.

He believes strongly in the physical examination and all of the wealth of information that it provides.  He also believes it is an underutilized tool to connect doctors with their patients.  As he explains, too often doctors become too busy ordering tests – which separates the doctors from their patients – instead of listening to ‘the person in the bed’.  (My terminology not his).  So during his students case presentations – the emphasis is on the story (the clinical history), the patient’s life (background, social settings, diet, habits) and the clinical physical examination.  Students aren’t allowed to talk about, or ask questions about diagnostic results such as radiographs or serum analysis until the story and the physical findings have been throughly discussed and examined in detail.

Even then – he challenges them – to use more than their eyes – to engage their brains, and their other senses.. “What about the description of this surgical scar?  Does it seem a little large for an appendectomy?” he asks.. “What about it’s location?’ he challenges**..

“What about the differentials?  What other diagnoses should we consider? he asks.  “I know you think the diagnosis is obvious – but give me some alternatives,” he coaxes.  “What else could be going on?  Tell me why you don’t think that it’s X” he asks – making the students review and explore the other possible causes for this patient’s abdominal pain.  “Could it be Z?” he asks.. “Why not?  What else would we see?” he states in reply to a student’s mumbled answer..

Then, only then, do we review the labs, and the films – the more tangible aspects of the practice of medicine.  Those results that students can see easily, (maybe too easily) and tempt them into abandoning the ‘art’ of medicine and patient care.  But he doesn’t allow it – and quickly steers the conversation back to the displayed pathology to this pathophysiology and symptomatology of the patient in question.

As someone who still struggles with the physical skill of percussion – this entry into the art of medicine hits home.  It is an art, and a woefully underappreciated one.

** Please note – these quotes are my best approximation from my translations during the case presentation, and may miss nuances. 

About Dr. Jose Mayagoitia Witron

Dr. Mayagoitia is more than a clinical instructor – he is a respected professor of surgery at the Universidad Autonoma Baja California (UABC) and has been teaching medical students for over 20 years. He also teaches surgical residents and has been doing so for over fifteen years.  He gives lectures daily at the University, in addition to his busy schedule as the Supervising Surgeon for the Intensive Care Unit at Mexicali General, and private surgical practice (with evening clinic hours).

He speaks in clear, unaccented English (my southern accent is thicker than any accent he might possess) which may be as a result of his fellowship training in San Diego.   He completed his general surgery residency right here at Mexicali General after attending UABC).

He remains active in the research community as a supervisor for resident research projects including two ongoing projects worthy of note: a new study looking at the treatment of open abdomens, (from massive trauma, infection, etc.) and a study looking at the early initiation of enteral feedings versus delayed (72 hours or greater) in surgical intensive care patients.

He, along with his wife, Gisela Ponce y Ponce de León, MD, PhD (a family medicine physician and instructor at the UABC nursing school) recently presented a paper on obesity research in Barcelona, Spain.

He does all of this in addition to a steady diet of general surgery (cholecystectomies, appendectomies, bowel surgery (such as resections) and the occasional bariatric surgery.  As one of the lead surgeons at a major trauma hospital** – he also sees a considerable amount of emergency and trauma cases.

He reports that on the last – bariatric surgery, he has mixed feelings.  While it has become a popular staple for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related complications – he questions it’s role in a society that steadfastedly ignores the causes.  “I wonder if we will look back one day and realize that we [surgery] did a real disservice to our patients by doing so much of this.”  So, while he does perform some bariatric procedures, he is very selective in his patients.  “It’s not a quick -fix, and they are going to be dealing with this [changes from bariatric surgery] for the rest of their lives so they [patients] need to understand that it’s a lifelong endeavor.”  When he does perform bariatric procedures, he prefers the gastric sleeve, which he believes is more effective [than lap-band, and smaller procedures] but less devastating in terms of complications and dramatic life alterations.

Dr. Jose Mayagoitia Witron, MD, FACS

General surgeon, Fellow in the American College of Surgeons

Edificio Azahares

Av. Reforma 1061 – 6

Mexicali, B. C.

Tele: 686 552 2400

** He reports that Mexicali General, as a public facility, sees about 80% of all traumas in the area.

Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Mexicali & Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez Jimenez


Note:  I owe Dr. Vasquez a much more detailed article – which I am currently writing – but after our intellectually stimulating talk the other day, my mind headed off in it’s own direction..

Had a great sit down lunch and a fascinating talk with Dr. Vasquez.  As per usual – our discussion was lively, (a bit more lively than usual) which really got my gears turning.  Dr. Vasquez is a talented surgeon – but he could be even better with just a little ‘help’.  No – I am not trying to sell him a nurse practitioner – instead I am trying to sell Mexicali, and a comprehensive cardiac surgery program to the communities on both sides of the border..  Mexicali really could be the ‘land of opportunity’ for medical care – if motivated people and corporations got involved.

During lunch, Dr. Vasquez was explaining that there is no real ‘heart hospital’ or cardiac surgery program, per se in Mexicali – he just operates where ever his patients prefer.  In the past that has included Mexicali General, Issstecali (the public hospitals) as well as the tiny but more upscale private facilities such as Hospital Alamater, and Hospital de la Familia..

Not such a big deal if you are a plastic surgeon doing a nip/tuck here and there, or some outpatient procedures – okay even for general surgeons – hernia repairs and such – but less than ideal for a cardiac surgeon – who is less of a ‘lone wolf’ due to the nature and scale of cardiac surgery procedures..

Cardiac surgery differs from other specialties in its reliance on a cohesive, well-trained and experienced group – not one surgeon – but a whole team of people to look out for the patients; Before, During & After surgery..  That team approach [which includes perfusionists, cardiac anesthesiologists (more specialized than regular anesthesia), operating room personnel, cardiology interventionalists and specialty training cardiac surgery intensive care nurses]  is not easily transported from facility to facility.

just a couple members of the cardiac surgery team

That’s just the people involved; it doesn’t even touch on all the specialty equipment; such as the bypass pump itself, echocardiogram equipment, Impella/ IABP (intra-aortic balloon pump), ECMO or other equipment for the critically ill – or even just the infrastructure needed to support a heart team – like a pharmacy division that knows that ‘right now’ in the cardiac OR means five minutes ago, or a blood bank with an adequate stock of platelets, FFP and a wide range of other blood products..

We haven’t even gotten into such things such as a hydrid operating rooms and 24/7 caths labs – all the things you need for urgent/ emergent cases, endovascular interventions – things a city the size of Mexicali should really have..

But all of those things take money – and commitment, and I’m just not sure that the city of Mexicali is ready to commit to supporting Dr. Vasquez (and the 20 – something cases he’s done this year..) It also takes vision..

This is where a company/ corporation could come in and really change things – not just for Dr. Vasquez – and Mexicali – but for California..

It came to me again while I was in the operating room with Dr. Vasquez – watching him do what he does best – which is sometimes when I do what I do best.. (I have some of my best ideas in the operating room – where I tend to be a bit quieter.. More thinking, less talking)..

Dr. Vasquez, doing what he does best..

As I am watching Dr. Vasquez – I starting thinking about all the different cardiac surgery programs I’ve been to: visited, worked in – trained in.. About half of these programs were small – several were tiny, single surgeon programs a lot like his.. (You only need one great surgeon.. It’s all the other niceties that make or break a program..)

All of the American programs had the advantages of all the equipment / specialty trained staff that money could buy***

[I know what you are thinking – “well – but isn’t it all of these ‘niceties’ that make everything cost so darn much?”  No – actually it’s not – which is how the Cardioinfantils, and Santa Fe de Bogotas can still make a profit offering world-class services at Colombian prices…]

The cost of American programs are inflated due to the cost of defensive medicine practices (and lawyers), and the costs of medications/ equipment in the United States****

the possibilities are endless – when I spend quality time in the operating room (thinking!)

Well – there is plenty of money in Calexico, California** and not a hospital in sight – just a one room ‘urgent care center’.  The closest facility is in El Centro, California – and while it boasts a daVinci robot, and a (part-time?) heart surgeon (based out of La Mesa, California – 100 + miles away)– patients usually end up being transferred to San Diego for surgery.

Of course, in addition to all of the distance – there is also all of the expense..  So what’s a hard-working, blue-collar guy from Calexico with severe CAD going to do?  It seems the easiest and most logical thing – would be to walk/ drive/ head across the street to Mexicali.. (If only Kaiser Permanente or Blue Cross California would step up and spearhead this project – we could have the best of both worlds – for residents of both cities.. 

 A fully staffed, well-funded, well-designed, cohesive heart program in ONE medium- sized Mexicali facility – without the exorbitant costs of an American program (from defensive medicine practices, and outlandish American salaries.)  Not only that – but as a side benefit, there are NO drug shortages here..

How many ‘cross-border’ cases would it take to bring a profit to the investors?  I don’t know – but I’m sure once word got out – people would come from all over Southern California and Arizona – as well as Mexicali, other parts of Baja, and even places in Sonora like San Luis – which is closer to Mexicali than Hermasillo..  Then Dr. Vasquez could continue to do what he does so well – operate – but on a larger scale, without worrying about resources, or having to bring a suitcase full of equipment to the OR.

The Mexican – American International Cardiac Health Initiative?

But then – this article isn’t really about the ‘Mexican- American cross-border cardiac health initiative’

It is about a young, kind cardiac surgeon – with a vision of his own.

That vision brought Dr. Vasquez from his home in Guadalajara (the second largest city in Mexico) to one of my favorite places, Mexicali after graduating from the Universidad Autonomica in Guadalajara, and completing much of his training in Mexico (D.F.).  After finishing his training – Dr. Vasquez was more than ready to take on the world – and Mexicali as it’s first full-time cardiac surgeon.

Mexicali’s finest: Dr. Vasquez, (cardiac surgeon) Dr. Campa(anesthesia) and Dr. Ochoa (thoracic surgeon

Since arriving here almost two years ago – that’s exactly what he’s done.. Little by little, and case by case – he has begun building his practice; doing a wide range of cardiovascular procedures including coronary bypass surgery (CABG), valve replacement procedures, repair of the great vessels (aneurysm/ dissections), congenital repairs, and pulmonary thrombolectomies..

Dr. Vasquez, Mexicali’s cardiac surgeon

Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez Jimenez, MD

Cardiac Surgeon

Calle B No. 248 entre Obregon y Reforma

Col. Centro, Mexicali, B. C.

Email: drcvasquez@hotmail.com

Tele: (686) 553 – 4714 (appointments)

Notes:

*The Imperial Valley paper reports that Calexico makes 3 million dollars a day off of Mexicali residents who cross the border to shop.

***In all the programs I visited  – there are a couple of things that we (in the United States do well..  Heart surgery is one of those things..)

**** Yes – they charge us more in Calexico for the same exact equipment made in India and sold everywhere else in the world..