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Home » Features » The Needs Are So Many...

The Needs Are So Many...
A conversation with Dr. Aníbal Zambrano and Katy Zambrano
by Graciela N.V. Corvalan

Q. I'm sure! How do you contact the local hospitals and doctors?

A. You have to go there. You can call them, of course, and now, thanks to Katy's work, we can be in contact via e-mail. However, you still have to go to the hospitals, talk to the doctors, and see for yourself what they have, what they want, and what they need. You have to work with them, ask them how you can help them, and tell them what you can get for them.

Q. I assume that all these towns have at least one hospital?

A. For the type of missions that we do, yes, because they are organized with the aim of improving the quality of care at the hospitals and providing them with medical training, equipment and instruments. Therefore we have to select towns or cities with hospitals that have some facilities, such as operating rooms, medical specialties and a medical school.

Q. What kinds of surgery do you do?

A. We do laparoscopic surgery, which means that a patient can have surgery in the morning and return home the same day or the next morning. We also perform diagnostic tests. While we were in Iquitos we did what had never been done before there-we replaced an entire hip. Just think of it! Total hip replacements and laparoscopic surgery are great improvements, and now the local doctors are doing these operations themselves.

We took prostheses with us as well, and various equipment to diagnose cancer of the cervix and to perform electrocardiograms and pulmonary function tests. We even took a dermatome to start a burn unit and a complete gastroenterology laboratory.

Q. How did you acquire all this equipment, and how did you raise the money for it?

A. Some of the equipment is new, and some is secondhand but in very good shape and will last a long time-ten years for endoscopes, and five or six years for laparoscopic equipment. If you wanted to buy new instruments and equipment, you wouldn't be able to afford them. We could not have taken all the equipment we did without donations from people, especially my patients, and from St. Luke's Hospital here. Everyone has been very generous!

Q. Are all the doctors surgeons or do some of them have other specialties?

A. No, no, they belong to all specialties-internists, kidney doctors, cardiologists, pulmonary doctors, rheumatologists, and oncologists. For those in internal medicine it is more difficult to see the impact of their work, because they normally deal with chronic cases that require follow-up. Still, they can teach others by establishing good models for rounds and other important routine-type skills. However, I should say that the missions are mainly surgical.

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