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Posts Tagged ‘surgery in Mexicali’

I was in the United States most of last week (at my reunion) but I didn’t stop working.  While a reunion may not seem like the most ideal situation for a medical writer – it’s actually a great opportunity to talk to people and get their opinions about health care, medicine and surgery.  After the first few minutes of catching up – talk naturally turns to everyday life, and for many of us – ‘everyday life’ involves worrying about the health of our families.. Also, many of my classmates – and old friends have been some of my biggest supporters of the blog (and my other work) so it was good to get some critical feedback.

Bret Harte class reunion

The book is coming along – almost continuous writing at this point.  While I (always!) want more interviews with more surgeons, I am now at the point where I am filling in some gaps  – talking about the city of Mexicali itself.  So I am visiting museums, archives, and talking to residents about Mexicali so I can provide a more complete picture to readers.  Right now, I would really like some information about 1920’s -30’s Mexicali – I can find a lot of interesting stuff about Tijuana, but Mexicali is proving more elusive.

It’s a bit of a change from my usual research – finding out about decades old scandals (even local haunted houses), visiting restaurants and nightclubs, but it’s been a lot of fun., even if it seems frivolous or silly at times.  I hope readers enjoy this glimpse into Mexicali’s rich history as much as I have.

Finished the cover – which to me, is critical at this point.  (I use the cover to inspire me when it comes to the less than thrilling stage of copy editing) so I am posting an image here.

cover for the new book

Meeting with an architect later this week – to learn about, and write about some of the variety of styles here in Mexicali.  (There is such a surprising array – I thought it would be nice for readers to have a chance to know a bit more.)

Now there’s one house I’ve dubbed “Mexicali’s Graceland.”  I don’t know why Graceland comes to mind every time I go past this home (it looks nothing like Elvis’ home in Memphis) but the term has stuck.  I am hoping to get some of the history on this house because it just looks like a place where even the walls have stories to tell.

The pictures aren’t the most flattering – but I’ll post one so you can tell me what you think.  (It’s actually far more lovely in person – with the contrast between the pink walls and the white scrollwork, as well as some of the more classic design features.) I guess my imagination tends to run away with me – with images of grandeur and elegant ladies sipping champagne in the marbled halls of the past – but then – most of my usual writing is technical in nature, so I have few outlets for my creativity.

Mexicali’s Graceland

Meeting with my co-writer today to go back to the archives..

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As much as I have adored working with my previous co-author, Dr. Albert Klein, PharmD on two previous editions – it just wasn’t practical for this title.  He’s now living and working in North Carolina, whereas – I don’t know when (and if) I’ll be returning to my beloved southern Virginia, which makes this sort of collaboration more difficult.  Also, Dr. Klein, (by the nature of his background) is more of an expert on Colombian history, culture and Bogotá life than the rest of Latin America.  (I always feel that the best way to get a glimpse of life is through the eyes of those who have lived it.)

But I do want to sincerely thank Albert for everything – (without him, I might not have been brave enough to publish at all!)  It’s been a pleasure working with him – both on the books and in the hospital, so hopefully we can collaborate again in the future (Medellin, perhaps?)

In the meantime, I have a new co-author for the latest book, the ‘mini-gem’ guide to Mexicali.  While it’s a more breezy style book compared to my other offerings, I still feel very fortunate to have enlisted some local assistance for the sections on culture, Mexicali life and local color.  The input has been invaluable for me during the writing process – and will prove to be the same for readers, (I hope!)

I am also hoping to get a few additional contributors for other sections of the book to talk about issues in their respective areas of expertise.  (It may be free but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a quality product and a good read.)   It’s not a done deal – and it may be difficult due to everyone’s busy schedules etc – but I am hoping it all comes together.

Once I get all of the specifics nailed down  – I’ll post more about it here.

The rest of the book is going well – I am probably about 75% complete (and then the dreaded editing process!!)  Depending on how horrible editing is – and time limitations – determines whether or not the Mexicali book becomes a e-book.  (I find the e-book conversion process endlessly frustrating, particularly for a die-hard fan of footnotes like myself.)

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As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, the New York Times article  by Jennifer Medina has really gotten Mexicali officials to sit up and take notice.  The NYT article was just one part of a ‘medical tourism plan’ outlined by the mayor of Mexicali and other government officials.

turismo medico

city of Mexicali

Right now the outline consists of several points:

1. Guide to medical services – they have published a book with the names and addresses of surgeons interested in participating in medical tourism.

2. Transportation – mainly by automobile and buses.  The medical tourism lane at the border was part of this.

3. A plan for a 32 block medical tourism zone.

A good start, and it shows forethought – but as I listened to their outline it prompted my own (humble) suggestions:

1. Medical guide – make this a ‘real’ guide not a phone book of surgeons and providers offering their services.  It should be comprehensive, and offer more than just names and addresses, ideally written as an independent review.. But then take the risk that maybe everything, and every service won’t come out shining..   (Admittedly, this is something I understand the best).

2. Transportation – consider approaching Volaris or another carrier to offer direct flights once or twice a week from Las Vegas, Dallas and Los Angeles.  Right now there are no direct flights from Mexicali to the United States.  By offering direct flights – Mexicali could be much more competitive with both Tijuana and Las Vegas (which is pursuing its own medical tourism strategy to make Las Vegas a medical tourism destination.)  This would play to Mexicali’s two biggest strengths:

1.  It’s proximity to the United States

2.  It’s reputation as a ‘safe’ destination in comparison to Tijuana and other border cities which have their own medical tourism ideas..

It would also open up Mexicali to a much wider market since both Dallas and Los Angeles is a hub for several American carriers serving Canada and the USA.

2. Consider changing the 32 block ‘medical tourism zone’ into one large facility offering dedicated service lines.  While all the small private hospitals in Mexicali will hate this idea – instead of fighting over patients, they would have the advantage of having one large facility with pooled resources.

This would also address the weaknesses of medical tourism in Mexicali: Right now each facility has five (or two) ICU beds, and just 10 or so post-operative beds.  It would also eliminate some of the waste caused by the costly duplication of services – since each hospital currently struggles to offer CT scans, cath facilities and other costly equipment.  As part of a long-range plan – this would better enable the providers and facilities in Mexicali to seek outside accreditation/ and certification of programs and service lines, which in turn would attract more patients.

In the meantime, participating hospitals could convert to specialty facilities (ie. an orthopedic hospital, and plastic surgery center etc.) while the new facility is being built.  This would also reduce the stress on doctors traveling all over town to see just one or two patients at each facility.. If medical tourism really gets going here – these doctors are going to need as much time as they can get; caring for patients..

The centralized large hospital would also enable people like Dr. Vasquez to really get his cardiac surgery program off the ground.  More specialized ancillary services like physical and rehabilitative services would also be pooled and would improve the quality of services in the city, for everyone, including the people of Mexicali who also suffer from the lack of large, comprehensive facilities.   This also brings me to my next point –

3.  Since the city and government of Mexicali is involved in the project – there needs to be a clear and comprehensive plan about how the revenue from this project is going to serve the people of Mexicali.  After all – their tax dollars are helping to fund this ingress into medical tourism, so they need to get something out of it.. Like a PET scanner or some other service that doesn’t currently exist in Mexicali.

4. Don’t forget the rest of Baja – there are an awful lot of retirees and such living in southern Baja – so make sure they know about what your city has to offer.  These people need hip replacements, heart surgery and a whole spectrum of services that are very limited in their geographic area.  Give them a reason to come to Mexicali instead of Ensenada or Tijuana by courting their business.

If anyone from Mexicali reads this post – I hope they can see my suggestions, in the spirit that they are given.  Mexicali has a lot of opportunity here, and the potential to be a great place for a wide range of medical tourism – not just bariatrics and plastic surgery, but they need more comprehensive, and long-range strategies to put their plans into action.

Today was a great example of how much the city has accomplished by working together – with a little more work, and a lot of vision – Mexicali could really go far, and provide great services to more than just a bunch of gringos..

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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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