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Archive for the ‘student life’ Category

Hospital de Simon Bolivar

Good week this week.  Spent Wednesday in the operating room at Simon Bolivar with my professor for an altitude-related condition.  As soon as I finish writing up the case I will post it at the sister site.

Then – yesterday – at Cardioinfantil with Dr. Garzon and Dr. Tellez .  They are preparing to start a new lung transplant program – one of just a few at elevated altitude.

Dr. Tellez, Director of Thoracic Surgery at Cardioinfantil

(Hopefully, I can interview Dr. Tellez more about the program in the future..)

Getting ready to take a trip to talk to some more surgeons about thoracic surgery soon.

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First day with my new professor, Dr. Ricardo Buitrago and everything went well.  (He is supernice – and a total expert (but really humble about it.)  Had a great case – a VATS lobectomy.. (for my thoracic experts out there – no, no utility incision..)

Rounded on patients with the residents; reviewed labs and films..

VATS – yes, the whole room is green (except for the white towel covering the patient..)

 

 

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As I get ready to leave Mexicali, I am posting several old postcards of the city.  Today’s post is more reflective of the many changes going on now – but we’ll be back to our usual topics soon..

this one is just a few years old

I’m sure that my regular readers can tell that parting is ‘such bittersweet sorrow’.. How could it not be  – when I have met such wonderful people, learned so much and made some great friends?

Mexicali – Av..Revolucion – circa 1960’s

At the same time, I am excited about moving forward – school, studying in Bogotá, and working on my research.

Governmental Palace (now part of UABC) circa 1960’s

Hard to leave the hospital in particular.  I went back there yesterday and got to see some of the people who were so welcoming, starting on my very first day.  (When I was still struggling – particularly with the regional accent here – which differs from the Spanish I was used to hearing.)

Av. Lopez Mateos

It was great to be back in the operating room with Dr. Ochoa.  With classes in Nashville, and my homework assignments, I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks.

I know I will miss him most of all even if I am embarrassed to admit it.  He will always rank up there as one of the world’s great “bosses”; he was great to be around; day after day after day- which is not something you can say about most people.   I know I’ve talked about what a good (and patient!) professor he has been, but this last month, when we’ve been collaborating on the book, has changed the dynamic a bit.  He’ll still always be ‘my professor’ and a surgical colleague – but now that we have worked together in a different capacity – he is more of a friend too.  (I’ve actually called him by his first name a couple of times, which is a hard thing for me to do..)

I think, too, that is was a little-bit eye-opening for him to be more involved on the writing (and researching) side of things.  I hope he enjoyed it as much as I have.  (He should – he did all the research on Mexicali’s nightlife.. )

and Joanna – who has become one of my best friends.. (Not just my best friend in Mexicali – but someone I consider a really close friend – anytime, anywhere..)  It just seems like we connect and communicate on that level that only really close friends ever do.. Despite different backgrounds, I feel like I’ve known her my whole life..  So it’s hard to say “see you later” to Joanna.. (“See you later” is so much better than goodbye, don’t you think?)

So of course, as you can imagine – I spent my last day at the hospital – in the place I love the most: the operating room.

Dr. Rivera (left) and Dr. Ochoa

I’m going to miss my ‘movie star’ surgeon too – Dr. Rivera has been great about being in all my pictures and film clips..  He’s a nice young resident – (still grounded)  and I think he’s be a great surgeon when he finishes his training..  He’s interested in surgical oncology – so we might be writing about him again in a few years..

 

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Long time readers (and former patients) will be familiar with my aspirin mantra but now Medscape has published a CME course by Dr. Desiree Lie for health care providers in primary practice, general surgery (and other areas that may not be familiar with post-cardiac patient recommendations.)  As I may have mentioned before, in cardiac surgery – we routinely start aspirin in our patients prior to bypass surgery.

Don’t stop Aspirin before surgery

I’ve converted the CME course, Don’t stop Aspirin before surgery into a pdf – but if you want credit – you will have to go to Medscape and log in.  (For everyone else – it’s a nice read – and explains the importance of continuing aspirin in patients who are taking it for “secondary prevention” or are at high risk of cardiovascular events.

That’s because the complications of discontinuing aspirin therapy in these patients are WORSE than the minor risk of bleeding.  (Bleeding issues for most patients taking aspirin are fairly minor.. Now, clopidogrel (Plavix) and prasugrel (Effient) are another story!)

Wait a second… What’s secondary prevention?

They way to think about secondary prevention is “closing the barn after the cows are loose,” as one of my colleagues explains it.  This means that Aspirin has been prescribed to these patients after something has already happened – like a stroke, a heart attack, stents or cardiac surgery.  So in these patients – secondary prevention can be thought of as preventing a second event or further complications from a disease process we already know about.

Now, patients that are at high risk for cardiovascular events like diabetics or people with other kinds of blockages (peripheral vascular disease, renal artery stenosis) haven’t had a heart attack yet – but we think that they are at a high risk of this happening – so they take aspirin to prevent this (primary prevention).

In people who are at low or moderate risk – low cholesterol, nonobese, normal glucose, nonsmokers:  these people may take aspirin, but (probably not prescribed) and it is safe for them to discontinue aspirin before surgery.

But in the first two classes of patients (secondary prevention group/ high risk group) – stopping aspirin may actually INCREASE the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other thrombotic event during surgery.  But if you are having surgery – be sure to check with your cardiologist or cardiac surgeon before.  Don’t rely on your PCP or general surgeon (it’s not their area of expertise) and they may not be up-to-date on the latest recommendations [hence the continuing education course].

A new chapter at Cartagena Surgery: the DNP program

Nashville, Tennessee

Back in Mexicali, MX after spending a week in Nashville, Tennessee for the start of my doctoral program in nursing.  It felt weird to be back in Nashville after so long (I lived there while attending Vanderbilt for my masters degree).  It was surprising how much had changed – the medical center and the university campus just continue to grow and grow!

But then again – with 70 people in the Fall 2012 DNP class, I guess it’s no surprise that the campus is growing.  About 15 of us are full-time students.  I’ll be heading off to Bogotá in a week to start some specialized study there – so between the DNP program and Bogotá – I might be posting a bit less often.

Fall 2012 class for DNP (doctorate of nursing practice) at Vanderbilt University

The DNP is a new degree that takes the place of the DNSc (doctorate of nursing science) or the ND (nursing doctorate) – depending on who you ask.  I know that sounds like alphabet soup to many people, so I’ll post some more information about the degree soon.  But the main thing to think about when thinking about doctoral degrees – is the focus behind the degree.

PhD – or a doctorate in Philosophy are Research degrees. (research with a capital ‘R’)  Think about labs, nursing theories and hard-core research..so think ‘nurse-scientists’.. I tell people to picture a nurse with a beaker and a bunsen burner.. Not entirely accurate but a good mental picture.

DNP – is a clinical doctorate – used to translate much of this research into improved clinical practice.  Clinical, clinical, clinical.. This is the degree for people who are still planning on working in the clinical (hospital-based or clinic-based) setting, seeing patients.  The courses in this program are designed to promote evidence-based practice – or using all of that research that our nurse-scientists (and other researchers) are publishing.

So the hope is that the DNP will be able to improve the care of patients by creating protocols and such.  As it is still a fairly new degree – there is currently a lot of cross-over among PhD trained nurses, and I suspect there always will be – it’s more a matter of preference in what a nurse wants to focus on during her doctorate education. (So don’t be surprised if your nurse practitioner has a PhD.)

There are still plenty of doctorates in education and other fields as well like administration because it takes all types of nurses to serve as faculty, deans of educational programs, and hospital administrators.

There are even a few doctorate of nursing science programs left – in Louisiana and Puerto Rico..

Now I apologize because this is a simplistic explanation that leaves out a lot of nuance but I’ll provide more information soon.  But now, I better get back to the books!

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Had an amazing day yesterday – one of those days that reminds you how much we can do in medicine when we all work together.  I am hoping to write it up as a case study – if not – I will tell you more about it here.  (The patient was exceedingly gracious when I asked permission.)

But this morning, I was back in the operating room with Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez.  (If he is tired of me – he sure doesn’t let on..)

I finally had the opportunity to get some of the pictures I’ve been trying to get on every visit to his OR – to show readers the heart, and the pulse of cardiac surgery..

There’s a running joke in Mexicali – if you need help in the operating room, any operating room, in any of the hospitals in the city; just holler for Lupita because she’s always there.

Introducing Lupita Dominguez, surgical nurse

All kidding aside on the popularity of the name “Lupita” among operating room personnel, there is just one Lupita that I would like to talk about today,  Lupita Dominguez, who is Dr. Vasquez’s surgical nurse.  In the months, and the numerous occasions that I have been a guest in Dr. Vasquez’s operating room, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and appreciate the hard-working Lupita.

Lupita Dominguez with Dr. Vasquez

Teacher, Coordinator and Mind-Reader

Most people don’t know it – but Lupita has the hardest job in the operating room, and probably (in Mexico) the most poorly paid.   They say a good scrub nurse has the instrument in the surgeon’s hand before he knows he needs it – and from what I’ve seen, that’s Lupita.  She’s here an hour earlier than the rest of the surgical team, getting everything ready, and she’ll be here after everyone else escorts the patient to the intensive care unit.

Here she is, a blur of motion as she takes care of everyone at the operating room table

As I watch again today, she is ‘running the table’ and anticipating the needs of not just one demanding cardiac surgeon, and an additional surgeon, but also one surgical intern, and another student.  With all of these people crowded at the table, she still has to follow the surgery, anticipate everyone’s needs and keep track of all the instruments and supplies in use.  In the midst of this maelström, the scrub nurse has to ensure that everyone else maintains sterility while preventing surgical instruments from being knocked to the floor, or otherwise misplaced (a difficult task at times).

Here she is demonstrating how to correctly load the needle, and pass sharp instruments

She’s forever in motion which has made taking the few photos of her a difficult endeavor; She’s shaving ice for cardioplegia, while listening to the circulator, adjusting the OR lights, and gently guiding the apprentices.  She’s so gentle in her teaching methods that the student doesn’t even realize she’s being led, and relaxes enough to learn.  This is no easy task, particularly since it’s just the beginning of the July, and while bright-eyed, pleasant and enthusiastic, the new surgical resident is inexperienced.  Her own student nurse, is two parts shy, but helpful enough that near the end of the case, (and the first time since I’ve known her), Lupita actually stops for a moment and flashes me a wave when she sees the camera faced in her direction.  I’m surprised, but I manage to capture it.

a very rare moment – Lupita takes a millisecond to say hello

She is endlessly busy, but ever uncomplaining – even when a scheduled surgery takes an unexpected turn and extends to twelve or even fourteen hours.  Bladder straining perhaps, baby-sitter calling, but Lupita never complains.  She’s not unique in that – scrub nurses around the world endure long hours, tired feet and legs, hungry bellies, full bladders, and aching backs as they complete their days in the operating room.  But she does it with good nature and grace.

Lupita assisting Dr. Vasquez during surgery

The surgical nurse

In the United States, this important job has been lost to nursing, a casualty of the ongoing shortage.  Positions such as scrub nurse and others like it have been frequently replaced with technicians who require less training and thus, less compensation that nurses.  Maybe the nursing profession doesn’t mourn the loss; but I do.

as you can see – here she is, ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak..

But in Mexico, and many other locations, this position remains the exclusive domain of the nurse.  Nurses such as Lupita, spend three years studying general nursing in college, before completing an (optional) additional year of training for a specialty such as the operating room.  After completing this training, these nurses spend yet another year in public service.

The idea of the public service requirement is honorable yet almost ironic (to me)  at times, since the majority of nurses in Mexico will spent their careers in public facilities, and by definition (in my mind at least), nursing is an occupation almost entirely devoted to the service and care of others.

Working conditions vary but some constants

Depending on the country, the culture, and the facility; conditions may vary; nurses may get short breaks, or be relieved during particularly long cases.   The only constant is the cold, and the hard floors, and rickety stepstools[1].  While the nurses here tell me that the workday is only seven hours long – I’ve been in the operating room with these ladies before, and watched a supposed ‘seven-hour’ day stretch to fifteen.   But it is just part of being a nurse.

[Usually I tell people when I am writing about them – but on this instance – there was never an opportunity.. but she (and all the nurses in the OR with Dr. Vasquez) certainly deserve mention.]


[1] Temperatures are set lower in cardiac surgery rooms.  Why the stepstools always seem rickety, I have no idea.

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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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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.

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