The City Magazine May 2024

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Raised in El Paso Texas, Victoria grew a passion for all things beauty early on. Her passion for beauty evolved into becoming a Licensed Medical Aesthetician. She began her career in Las Cruces NM, providing rejuvenating facials, lash services and everything beauty. She knew she wanted to take her expertise to higher levels and specialize in antiaging and skincare. Victoria then joined the MedSpa team at Southwest Plastic Surgery early this year. She now specializes in antiaging treatments like Microneedling and Morpheus 8, as well as laser treatments. Her outgoing and warm personality are a perfect complement to her beautiful smile, her passion and dedication for the aesthetic profession shine through consistently. One of her favorite treatments to provide is a relaxing and rejuvenating HydraFacial, a fundamental skin care maintenance treatment that keeps skin young, healthy and radiant. Victoria has been a wonderful addition to the Southwest Plastic Surgery MedSpa team. May 2024 The MedSpa @SouthwestPlasticSurgery @southwestplasticsurgery
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hat do I have in common with Diane Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Khloe Kardashian, and Christie Brinkley? Surprisingly, I’m neither an Oscar-winning actress, nor a reality star, nor a renowned model, nor do I have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

However, I do share something with them— we all have skin cancer.

It all started because I’m a goddess, a “SUN GODDESS.”

Like many young people, I reveled in the warmth of the sun, often concocting my own tanning lotion with baby oil, betadine, and lavender for a perfect scent. I was a habitual tanner, kissed by the sun, basking (baking) in the sun’s warmth year after year, believing that a golden tan made me look better and that vitamin D was beneficial. Or so I thought. But there’s no turning back the clock. The damage was done.

Fast forward ...

“Dr. Karen,” I said, “I know it’s probably nothing, but there’s this spot on my chest, right where my necklace hangs, it gets in the way of my jewelry, and it looks ugly. Can you remove it?”

Wearing her red glasses, she examined the spot, and uttered a thoughtful “hmm.” Then, she stared me squarely in the eye and delivered a bombshell: “I’m 99% sure it’s cancerous.”

“No, it can’t be,” I replied with a sassy, “notme” attitude. “You’ve removed other spots before, sent them to the lab, and they’ve come back clean. This one will be no different.”

“I’m 99% sure,” she insisted.

Despite my self-assuredness, fueled by countless hours of “Dr. Google” research, I

asked her to remove the “ugly” spot that took much longer than I expected. As I reminded her, I don’t like scars. (If I could read her mind, I’m sure she was thinking “I have much more to worry about than a scar.”)

“Let’s be done with this conversation,” I insisted, while she insisted we send the “ugly” to the lab.

She did. It was. She was right.

The diagnosis: Basal Cell Carcinoma Cancer.

In her doctor tone (not her friend voice), she informed me that the pre-cancer cells on my face, the flakiness that I thought was dry skin needing more moisturizer, needed treatment immediately, and she warned me the treatment was brutal. Dr. Karen explained that my face would be scarlet red, burn like the worst sunburn I’d ever had, and that I needed to prepare to be home for a month.

“I have obligations: a party, a trip, clients to see, I don’t have time for this,” I said. But my protest fell on deaf ears. She prescribed a 30-day topical chemotherapy, warning me of its effects.

Chemotherapy, a term I associated with “real” cancer, not with a mere blemish on my chest. But denial quickly gave way to acceptance as my face deteriorated, flaking off in sheets of skin, I was resembling something out of the horror movie, “Poltergeist.”

I didn’t want to be in public and those of you who saw me were surprised I’d show my face (no pun intended), but I don’t have the luxury of hiding out. I thought I could cover up my “secret.” I wanted no one to know. Despite my layers of makeup, there was no covering up, no hiding.

The “C” word was now a permanent fixture in my medical history.

What have I learned?

The title “Sun Goddess” comes with a lifelong price. That one in every five Americans will battle skin cancer, with Basal Cell Carcinoma being the most prevalent. That more than 3.6 million cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S. I’ve debated whether to share this publicly, it’s not a conversation any woman wants to have. Yet, I’m reminded of the brave women who’ve shared their battles with breast cancer, uterine cancer, and how their stories prompted me – actually guilted me – to get my yearly check-ups.

I still have an affection for the sun; I live in the desert; I love gardening; I’m an outdoor girl.

I’m not going to be a hypocrite and tell you I’m not going to be in the sun. I am, however, finding the balance between enjoying the sun’s warmth and using proper protection. I’m learning how to enjoy the sun responsibly.

It’s time we all practice safe sun care! See a specialist! Embrace sun protection!

Don those fabulous hats!


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From the

hen you think about a surgeon “opening up,” the first thing that comes to mind – obviously – is the image of skin meets scalpel, a gloved hand expertly gliding over the body as delicately as one might open an envelope. Opening up is necessary to performing surgical procedures that save and improve lives, even though it might seem daunting.

Same can be said for opening up in an interview, although with much lower stakes.

Still, opening up is important – regardless of the line of work.

This is a very special edition of our annual medical issue, one that celebrates physicians as rooted in the community of El Paso as they are globally connected.

For example, Dr. Day of Nexus Neuroscience is new to El Paso after training, studying, and teaching all over the world with some of the most esteemed neurosurgeons to introduce a new era of excellence to our region’s healthcare.

During our interview and photoshoot, I had the opportunity to pick Dr. Day’s brain (although in a way dissimilar to his line of work). I learned that in addition to being an accomplished physician and scholar, he’s also a rock and roll guy! We talked about the early days of grunge, the transition from acoustic to electric guitar, and the power of a riff to make your day. In holding the human brain in his hands day after day, Dr. Day values the anatomy, physiology, and qualities that make us all human. Time with family. Enjoying music. Loving dogs.

I think you’ll enjoy this inside look at some of the community’s most notable physicians and innovative research.

Clinical trials at Texas Oncology and UTEP are leading to groundbreaking discoveries that are also diversifying data that helps develop treatments for illnesses like cancer and diabetes. The spirit of innovation and an environment that cultivates clinical creativity are helping our community thrive with an improved quality of life.

No one likes spending time in the waiting, exam, or hospital room.

The beige walls, fluorescent lighting, and sad linoleum floors don’t inspire hope or healing – but some El Pasoans are. Don’t miss the editorials on Once Upon a Room, a volunteer-led nonprofit with a 16-year old at the helm that decorates hospital rooms for pediatric patients; or the architectural splendor that is the Summit Surgical Center / El Paso Eye Surgeons that is quite literally created with vision in focus.

In addition to the physicians’ skills and expertise, we’re also celebrating the entities who house and support their work.

The El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center is bringing together a multitude of specialties at one location to better serve families at the local, national, and international level. The afternoon we spent with Dr.Stout, Dr. Yates, Dr. Makoshi, and Dr. Howe, as well as patients Camilla and Jeremiah demonstrated the fun and finesse that goes into this extremely important work.

So often we hear that El Paso is medically underserved, but that’s not to be confused with undeserving.

The doctors and medical professionals in this issue are changing the medical landscape of the community while also inviting other physicians, researchers, and institutions to learn from El Paso’s example.

May this issue inspire us all to “open up” in one way or another.
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16 May 2024
Erin COULEHAN Senior Editor Jordan LICON Katherine KOCIAN Yoali RODRIGUEZ Dr. Ogechika ALOZIE Annabella MIRELES Amber LANAHAN Claudia CASTILLO Stephanie AMERENA Charity VIZCAINO Sergio OLIVAS
17 May 2024 MAY 2024 VOLUME 121 contents Features Here and Now 48 Transforming Pediatric Healthcare By: ERIN
56 The Science of Baby Steps By: YOALI RODRIGUEZ 70 Miracle Molecule By: ANNABELLA MIRELES 24 Nurturing the Mental Well-being of Healthcare Heroes By: CHARITY VIZCAINO 94 Sugar, Spice, and Skincare Advice By:
20 How to Talk to Your Doc By: DR. OGECHIKA ALOZIE 56 48 70

Your Doc

How to Talk to A 1

lmost everyone knows that regular doctor visits are part of healthcare. Often, though, we don’t talk about how patients can have regular visits but gain very little information. This is why effective communication between patients and doctors is so important. According to studies, 60% of U.S. Latinos have trouble communicating with their healthcare providers because of language and cultural barriers.

Here are a few tips to ensure clear and effective communication during your clinic visits or hospital stays:

Bring an interpreter

Ideally, this should be a licensed medical interpreter, but if that’s not possible, make sure someone is available to translate the medical information to both you and the medical provider. It helps prevent misunderstandings. Interpreters are available in many healthcare facilities, either in person or over the phone. Patients just have to ask.

May 2024 20


3 Take

a family member or friend

You, as the patient, may feel more comfortable discussing your health concerns in your native language with a trusted family member or friend who is bilingual. However, keep in mind that family and friends may not have medical training and may not be able to convey accurate medical information. You can still get emotional support from them, and they can clear up any misunderstandings.

Prepare a list

I always encourage patients to write lists. In it, you can write down questions, concerns, or even reminders for later. By doing this, you’ll make sure no important topics get missed. I would suggest listing the most important topics first, as much as possible.

May 2024

Be honest and open

Rapport and a physician-patient relationship do not come easily. Opening up about changes to your body (symptoms), medical history, and lifestyle habits can be helpful. Make sure you’re honest about any drugs or supplements you’re taking, as well as any cultural practices that could impact your health. Making accurate diagnoses and developing treatment plans is easier with clear communication.

Ask for clarification

If you don’t understand a word or term your health care professional uses, ask! There are no dumb questions, and you can avoid drug interactions or side effects by clarifying how medications should be taken. There’s a lot of jargon in healthcare, and physicians may use it unintentionally. Every patient should know what their medical condition is and what options they have.

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Reiterate instructions

These go along with clarifications. But in healthcare, there is a practice called TORB/VORB: Telephone / Verbal Order Read Back. It’s just to make sure everyone knows what was said. It’s okay to ask and repeat what you heard to ensure everything is understood correctly. This can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure adherence with treatment plans. Feel free to ask

Make sure you advocate for yourself

Despite what we may act like, doctors aren’t gods. Sometimes we make mistakes, either by omission or commission. Therefore, it’s important to feel empowered to advocate for your own healthcare. This might involve getting a second opinion, asking for specific tests or treatments, or expressing concerns. Communication is a two-way street, and you, as the patient, are essential to getting your voice heard – even though that can sometimes be hard.

Follow up as needed

If you feel something, say something! Continued concerns or questions after an appointment deserve follow-up. Some doctors don’t have time to answer right away, but most clinics and organizations have team members who can help. It could be scheduling a follow-up appointment, calling the office with questions, or using secure messaging.

Providing high-quality healthcare requires good communication between patients and doctors. Patients can make sure their concerns, questions, and healthcare needs are met by following these strategies. 23
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HEALTHCARE HER ES Nurturing the Mental Well-being of

In the relentless pursuit of caring for others, doctors and healthcare workers often find themselves at the forefront of providing support and healing to those in need. Yet, amidst the demands of their professions, it’s imperative to recognize that their own mental well-being is equally vital. According to author and psychologist Jack Kornfield, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” This sentiment underscores a profound truth: the significance of prioritizing mental health within the realm of medical and healthcare professionals cannot be overstated. In this article, we delve into the importance of addressing the mental health challenges faced by those who dedicate their lives to caring for others, shedding light on the complexities of their roles, the unique stressors they encounter, and the indispensable need for self-compassion and self-care in their journey towards holistic well-being.

What are some common stressors and challenges faced by physicians and healthcare workers in their profession, and how do these impact their mental health?

There are numerous factors that contribute to medical and healthcare workers’ poor mental health.

Physicians and other healthcare workers typically experience work environments that are high in stress and low in support. Individuals in helping professions are tasked with making, sometimes, decisions that can have life-altering consequences or potential lawsuits. These careers, while rewarding, also expose workers to witnessing trauma, child abuse, neglect, suffering, grief, and death.

It is estimated that 40-50% of physicians, 35- 45% of nurses, and up to 78% of licensed mental health counselors experience burnout. Burnout is not just a fancy word for stress. Stress is not a negative. In fact, stress, in short bursts, can be useful for motivating us to focus and give our best effort. However,

burnout occurs when stress is prolonged and you feel incapable of performing your job due to lack of control/agency, workload, lack of purpose, and lack of support.

Burnout = Emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.

Being “burned out” can look like focusing on negative aspects of your experiences, with an inability to notice the positives.

What are signs that someone might be burned out?

• A decrease in positive emotions –feeling hopeless

• Consistent feelings of dread when thinking about work

• Becoming cynical, irritable, and easily agitated

• Poor sleep quality/always feeling tired no matter how long you’ve slept

• Poor immune function

• Feelings of depression

24 May 2024

• Overindulging in alcohol or other substances to cope with distressing feelings

• Suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts do not only include things such as having a plan or intent on acting on thoughts. Suicidal thoughts can also be passive, such as not wanting to wake up, feeling ambivalent to the thought of dying, or engaging in risky behaviors.

What are effective strategies and resources available for physicians and healthcare workers to cope with stress and prioritize their mental health amidst their demanding schedules?

Prioritizing well-being (physical, mental, and emotional.A study looking at using yoga/mindfulness practices to decrease symptoms of burnout found that, when done continuously, practice of both yoga and mindfulness were effective strategies for sustained, lower anxiety levels:

• Socialize and have fun

• Healthy, supportive relationships

• Discover meaning and purpose for self

• Set firm boundaries at work and in your personal life. Overextending yourself is not doing you or anyone else good. Be present wherever you are.

Take that PTO! When off of work, do not take phone calls or respond to emails.

Remember the good in life:

We humans have a tendency towards a “Negativity Bias.” We are biologically primed to remember the negative/scary/traumatic aspects of our day to day experiences. This is a built-in protective mechanism we all have. When we experience many negatives in a row (i.e. healthcare settings where there is a plethora of suffering, trauma, and death), our brain kicks into its Fightor-Flight response. Your brain desperately wants to protect you from danger, and so it reminds you that danger is out there and 25 May 2024

could happen at any moment. This is why we often feel hurried, nervous, get impatient, and become irritable. Research shows that for every negative experience, it takes seven positive ones to balance it out.

In a world where so much is out of our control, it’s natural to become overwhelmed

and feel helpless. However, there is also good. Look around you: see how nature blooms, savor that bite of food, close your eyes when you receive a hug, deeply inhale when you step outside your door, feel the air in your lungs, and the sun on your skin. These micro-moments have a profound

impact, that when added up, remind our brain that we are safe and can go on.

The Five-Minute Journal has simple prompts to keep you on track and remind you of the good that has occurred in your day.

May 2024

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help individuals discover their personal values, and establish the meaning they want their life to have.

How can healthcare organizations promote a culture of mental wellness and support for their staff, including access to mental health services and destigmatization of seeking help?

Healthcare organizations, no matter the mission, are a business that respond to numbers and what will bring the most benefit to the company financially. A finding from a study looking at HCW burnout found that when controlling for variables such as a patient’s severity of illness, nurse-patient ratios, and other factors, the burnout of nurses was the only variable that contributed to patient mortality.

Burnout costs money. It increases turnover and subsequently a reduction in productivity. In the United States alone, this costs healthcare $4 billion annually.

This means that by cutting corners with hiring, not providing adequate resources, organizations are paying for it in the long run. So are the healthcare workers and, lamentably, so are the innocent patients who are entrusted to their care.

To help reduce and prevent burnout:

• Leadership should be open, approachable, and model well-being.

• Engage in collaborative decision making with employees. This provides employees the feeling of agency.

• Frequent and consistent team goals/ benchmarks for raises and career growth.

• Debriefing with leaders/staff and, importantly, actionable follow-up afterwards.

• Support for work-related concerns and victim support.

• Provide therapy in-house or, at minimum, therapy resources for employees.

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Nexus Neuroscience specializes in the surgical treatment of these complex areas of the body.

The brain, neck and spine require a much higher level of understanding. For a physician, that means additional education, deeper training and advanced skills.

The neurosurgeons at Nexus Neuroscience are a board-certified team of specialists who have those skillsets and can provide the most e ective treatments for conditions a ecting the brain, neck and spine.

They believe in and practice non-invasive treatments first, making surgery the last choice. They also know that keeping you close to home, with family, can lead to more successful outcomes and speedier recoveries.

1580 Lomaland Dr. | Phone 915.231.2381 to learn more.

A Day in the Life of

Nexus Neuroscience

30 May 2024

There’s a new bright “Day” on the horizon when it comes to neurosurgery in El Paso, and many more to come.

Dr. J.D. Day is making a remarkable impact, not only as a pioneering neurosurgeon who is new to the region, but also as an enthusiastic guitar student. His journey offers a profound lesson on the balance between professional dedication and personal passion, teaching us that it’s never too late to explore new horizons.

But, let’s start at the beginning.

Dr. Day was a medical student at the University of Washington in Seattle during the early days of grunge music, and lived in a house with five other medical students and a law student as the early buds of bands like Nirvana and SoundGarden blossomed.

“That was a formative time for me,” he explains. “I listened to a lot of grunge, in fact,” he laughs.

While in medical school, three of his housemates opted for the route of rock and roll then formed a grunge band.

Although he continued on the medical path, he always felt an urge to play music.

“I really wanted to learn to play guitar,” he recalls. “After residency, I bought my first guitar, but I didn’t really make any progress for years and years, until this year.” For Christmas, Dr. Day treated himself to an electric guitar, learning each note as studiously as the anatomy and physiology of a nerve.

His career in neurosurgery is distinguished by his commitment to minimally invasive techniques and a focus on complex cranial base surgery. He brings innovative practices to El Paso, a city that he sees as ripe with potential for medical advancements. His work is driven by a profound understanding of the brain’s awe-inspiring complexity 31 May 2024

and a compassionate approach towards improving patient outcomes, even when faced with the most daunting challenges.

“It used to be that these surgeries were performed using a kind of a top-down approach. Make an opening in the skull, move the brain over, and then take the tumor out,” he explains. “What the skull base techniques do is turn that around. We don’t want to retract the brain, we want to come from underneath. The challenge is that the anatomy is very complex at the base of the skull, because you have arteries and veins traversing from the neck up into the brain and nerves coming off the brainstem. Then, throw in a tumor that is distorting the anatomy. That was something that drew me because it was just extremely challenging.”

The dedication to his craft is paralleled by his love for music, a recent pursuit ignited by his desire to master the guitar.

For Dr. Day, learning to play guitar is not just a leisure activity but also a form of mental engagement that demands his full concentration and offers a refreshing counterbalance to his demanding medical career. His choice of a Fender Stratocaster over his old acoustic symbolizes a fresh start and a deepening of his musical journey.

Besides, it feels good, which isn’t always the case with a high stakes career in medicine.

“I was attracted to it because I can’t really think about anything else. It takes up all my brain power. I have to try to get my fingers right and get the strumming pattern,” he says.

Dr. Day says his path wasn’t always aligned towards neurosurgery. Influenced by the skeptical views of his parents, both in medicine, who remembered a time when neurosurgery had less favorable outcomes,

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Dr. Miller’s career choice was initially discouraged. Yet, his intrinsic optimism and zest for life propelled him towards a field where he could make a significant impact, alleviating suffering and extending the capabilities of medical science.

“When they were being educated in the 50s and 60s, neurosurgery was a totally different ballgame in terms of outcomes,” he says.

His story is also a testament to the power of education and mentorship.

He completed a research fellowship in cranial base surgery and anatomy at the University of Vienna Medical School in Austria, under legendary neurosurgeon Dr. Wolfgang T. Koos. After fellowship training in Austria, Dr. Day worked with pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Takanori Fukushima at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“One of the common traits of my mentors is that they were always willing to try something new,” he explains. “One of the things that I always stress to my trainees is, “Whatever we teach you now, should (hopefully) not be the way that you’re doing this 15 or 20 years from now.”

Dr. Day says he has always prioritized innovation and continuous learning, principles he now brings to Nexus Neuroscience, his new venture focused on bringing top-tier neurosurgical care to El Paso. This initiative not only aims to enhance local healthcare services but also to attract and cultivate a team of skilled and compassionate professionals.

“The most important thing is to recruit not only excellent surgeons, but good human beings to build a good, strong neurosurgery group,” he says.

Dr. Day’s personal and professional lives illustrate the importance of lifelong learning and adaptability—qualities that he impresses upon his trainees and colleagues. Whether it’s adopting new medical technologies or strumming new guitar chords, he embodies the spirit of continuous improvement and exploration.

His story is a compelling narrative of healing, learning, and playing—the chords of a welllived life resonating perfectly in tune. May 2024
and Operated Since 1948 Go to and find your nearest location today El Paso Owned
A Special Thank You to El Paso’s Doctors. Working together to improve the lives of the people from the borderland. MENDEZ ISAAC JOUDI LAW FIRM We Fight For the People of El Paso Everyday. 320 TEXAS, SUITE 300 EL PASO, TX 79901MIJLAWFIRM.COM • (915) 444-1000 18 Wheeler Accidents • Workplace Accidents • Construction Accidents


Not all heroes wear capes – in fact, many wear scrubs!

This month, we’re thrilled to showcase the Borderland’s top doctors and medical professionals, a remarkable group of dedicated and skilled individuals who are the backbone of our community’s wellness. Whether they’re saving lives one patient at a time, crafting personalized treatment plans in their clinics, or pioneering new treatments through innovative research, these professionals go above and beyond every day to ensure we’re all in the best hands possible.

Juan G. Becerra MD

Palliative Care Medicine board certified

Jose D. Burgos, MD

Palliative care and Hospice experienced

Adam Gomez, MD

Palliative care and Hospice experienced

Fernando Moran, MD

Palliative care and Hospice experienced


Chronic or Progressive Illness but seeking curative treatment

No life expectancy requirements to recieve Palliative services

Manages symptoms and assists with advance care planning while recieving aggressive/invasive treatment

Care is provided in conjunction with primary physician or specialists

Chronic or Progressive Illness - focusing on comfort NOT a cure

Requires life expectancy of 6 months or less

Manages symptoms and helping patient/family transition with end of life care

Hospice physician and care team take over care


Frequent hospitalizations or ER visits (two or more in a six-month period)

Uncontrolled symptoms like pain, dyspnea, depression, fatigue, etc., despite optimal medical managment

A person has entered the end-stage of a life-limiting illness such as dementia, central nervous system disease, cancer, renal disease, COPD, heart failure, liver disease, septic shock, or major trauma

Functional decline, including unexplained weight-loss, loss of mobility, frequent falls, skin breakdown, etc.

A permanent feeding tub is being considered

Call or Text for Hospital Consults: (915) 343-7069

VS 1810 Murchison Drive, Suite 250, El Paso, TX 79902

D. Burgos, MD, MBA, FACP, FHM

Ucare, Urgent Care Clinics

El Paso Medical Research Institute

Proactive Clinical Research

MobileMed, Home Physician Services

Palliative Medicine Coalition


What do you specialize in?

I am a board certified Internal Medicine specialist with a focus on hospital-based medicine, post acute care, as well as hospice and palliative care. I mainly oversee the comprehensive care of hospitalized patients, guiding their journey from the hospital to post-acute care, ensuring their recovery continues seamlessly.

How do you stay current with advancements and changes in medical practices and technologies?

My career is characterized by a continuous quest for knowledge and innovation, through research at the El Paso Medical Research Institute and Proactive research, I actively lead clinical trials that push the boundaries of medical therapeutics and technology.

In healthcare, teamwork is essential. Can you share an experience where you had to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for a patient?

My approach to leadership is based on the conviction that the quality of care I offer is linked to my team’s talent and commitment. As the Director of Hospitalist Medicine at the University Medical Center of El Paso, I lead a team known for its efficiency, contributing to reduced hospital stays and costs while improving service quality. At Ucare, I am fortunate to collaborate with an exceptional partner, our outstanding team ensures our commitment to top-tier patient care. My incredible team of nurse practitioners at MobileMed demonstrates unparalleled compassion and dedication in post-acute settings where transitioning from hospital to home care is crucial.

Dealing with uncertainty is a common aspect of medicine. How do you approach situations where there is ambiguity or incomplete information regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan?

My effective communication skills are key, especially in delivering complex medical information. I take pride in engaging through media appearances, to share health knowledge, demystify medical topics, and promote well-being in our community. This effort is part of giving back, ensuring accessible health information for all to improve lives in El Paso.

What do you want readers to know about you?

My mission transcends traditional Internal Medicine, focusing on enhancing hospital processes, improving post-acute and home-based care through MobileMed, and pioneering new treatments at the El Paso Medical Research Institute and Proactive Research. Committed to healthcare innovation, I aim to elevate El Paso’s medical services quality, exploring new avenues to enrich the healthcare landscape for the community.

Photography provided by Palliative Medicine Coalition SPECIAL ADVERTISING | 37
38 | SPECIAL ADVERTISING Photography provided by Advanced Surgery Center of El Paso 1125 Texas Avenue Unit 502 El Paso, TX 79901

John C. Dunn, MD

The Advanced Surgery Center of El Paso

When my youngest son needed specialized surgery, my wife and I brough our child to Scottsdale. Although we were very happy with the care, the travel was terribly inconvenient. As a hand surgeon and father, it troubled me that the same high level care couldn’t be provided here in El Paso.

Dr. Ben Westbrook, Ear Nose and Throat surgeon, and I are long time friends, from our time in the Army together. We shared the same desire to add high quality surgical subspecality care in El Paso. When we pitched the idea to Dr. Zac Lovato, spine surgeon, he was immediately sold. The three of us decided to build a high-end surgical center in the heart of downtown El Paso. The central location aimed to serve the maximal geographic radius. The medical center will take occupancy in a revitalized historic industrial building, The Wiley, which will gentrify downtown El Paso.

Several other young surgeons with fellowship training, a rarity in El Paso, also shared our vision. Soon Drs. William Arroyo, sports surgeon; Andrew Cleveland, spine surgeon; and RoseMary

DeLaCruz, pain management, joined our ranks. The Advanced Surgery Center of El Paso was born.

The center has also forged new bonds and rekindled old. For example, I completed orthopedic surgery residency training with Drs. Arroyo and Cleveland at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center of El Paso. In fact, most physicians working in The Wiley are military veterans, settling in El Paso after completion of their respective active duty service, committed to serving their adopted community. Additionally, Dr. Lovato and I have decided to form the El Paso Orthopedic and Spine Institute, which will call The Wiley home. In additional to the Advanced Surgical Center and the El Paso Orthopedic and Spine Institute, several other medical entities will collocate at the building including El Paso Ear Nose and Throat Clinic, Epiphany Dermatology, Proactive Motion Therapy, Therapy Consultants, and of course, everyone’s favorite restaurant: Salt and Honey. The surgeons hope to attract other physicians and medical services, who share their vision, to some of the open spaces which remain in the building.

The surgeons are excited to open The Advanced Surgery Center of El Paso in The Wiley this month and look forward to rendering the same care found in Dallas or Phoenix, right here in the borderland.

40 | SPECIAL ADVERTISING Photographed by: JORDAN LICON Dr. Ogechika Alozie, MD MPH AAHIVM Infectious Disease Specialist Sunset West Health 1201 East Schuster Ave, Bldg. 7 (915) 229-6448 Let Sunset West Health provide all your sexual health and infectious disease needs!

How do you stay current with advancements and changes in medical practices and technologies? Advancements in medical practices and technologies occur on a daily basis. Basing care on the most current evidence-based practices ensures patients are receiving the best possible care. Continuing education by reading peer-reviewed medical journals and attending conferences are the best ways of staying abreast of current practices and implementing them into practice while caring for our patients.

Can you provide an example of how you’ve implemented new knowledge or techniques into your clinical practice? With the integration of predictive analytics and personalized medicine as a Primary Care Provider, we screen patients for diseases or conditions based on their individual genetic makeup, lifestyle factors, and medical history. This allows for more targeted and proactive interventions, such as lifestyle modification plans and early interventions, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for patients.

Communication is key in the doctor-patient relationship. Can you discuss a time when you had to convey complex medical information to a patient or their family in a way that they could easily understand? How did you ensure effective communication and understanding?

We recently had a patient diagnosed with lymphoma and informed the patient of her medical condition as clearly as possible using everyday words that are easy to understand.

1550 N Zaragoza Rd Suite A-107 (915) 500-1100

This includes information about the system affected, its usual function, its current disease and most importantly, what comes next on her treatment.

In healthcare, teamwork is essential. Can you share an experience where you had to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for a patient? What was your role, and how did you contribute to the team’s success?

As physicians, we encounter a lot of patients with incomplete information regarding their conditions and treatment. We think the best approach is to listen to the patients and when we confirm their diagnosis, we explain to them in a simple way so they can understand their diseases and that helps to control their conditions better.

Dealing with uncertainty is a common aspect of medicine. How do you approach situations where there is ambiguity or incomplete information regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan? Can you give an example of a time when you navigated such uncertainty effectively?

If a specialist discovers a new issue during a consultation, they can promptly inform the PCP, who can then adjust the treatment plan or schedule additional tests or appointments as needed.

What do you want readers to know about you?

We are driven to provide excellent patient care and work as a team to treat each member of the community like our own family.

FNP Iskra Garcia Dr. Minerva Medrano MD Dr. Martha Montanez MD


121 Paragon Ln, Bldg B STE 2

El Paso, TX 79912

What is your specialty?

Family practice and Medical Aesthetics


1014 N Stanton El Paso, TX 79902

How do you stay current with advancements and changes in medical practices and technologies?

Through continuous learning from reputable sources, including medical journals, research papers, conferences, and seminars, I can access real-time information to staycurrent with the latest developments in the medical field. An example of this technology is our Chronic Care Management (CCM). This program allows us to remotely monitorblood pressure reading for our hypertensive patients, easily identifying critical low or high values.

Can you discuss a time when you had to convey complex medical information to a patient or their family in a way that they could easily understand? How did you ensure effective communication and understanding?

It is always difficult conveying a poor prognosis to the patient and family members. It is important to use simple, everyday language that the patient or family member can easily understand. I consider the individual’s background, education level, and cultural beliefs when conveying information. Providing an overview of the condition or procedure in simple terms before delving into more complex details.

Can you share an experience where you had to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for a patient?

Communication is key, but teamwork is essential. Healthcare providers are expected to collaborate with each other to provide comprehensive care for a patient. My role as a PCP is to serve as the care coordinator, I refer the patient to the appropriate


11351 James Watt Dr, C-300 El Paso, TX 79936

specialists for further evaluation and management of their specific conditions. I communicate relevant information about the patient’s medical history and current status to the specialists to facilitate continuity of care.

Dealing with uncertainty is a common aspect of medicine. How do you approach situations where there is ambiguity or incomplete information regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan? Can you give an example of a time when you navigated such uncertainty effectively?

My approach is obtaining a detailed patient history. This helps to fill in gaps and provide a complete picture of the patient’s condition. Considering a range of possible diagnoses or treatment options based on the available information. Eliciting the patient’s preferences and values to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon treatment plan. Transparency This helps to manage patient expectations and build trust in the healthcare provider-patient relationship.

What do you want readers to know about you?

Don’t wait until you’re sick to see your primary care provider; preventive care is just as important as treating existing conditions. We’re here not only to treat your medical conditions but also to understand your individual needs, values, and goals for your health. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your concerns. We’re here to advocate for your needs and ensure that you receive the highest quality of care. We believe in empowering patients to take an active role in their own health. We strive to provide timely access to care and continuity of services, so you always have a trusted healthcare partner to turn to.

Photographed by: ERIN

Sun City Orthopaedic & Hand Surgery Specialists is proud to welcome Dr. Ahmed!

What is your specialty?

I specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). I am delighted to announce that I will be joining Sun City Orthopaedics to provide patient care in El Paso.

How do you stay current with advancements and changes in medical practices and technologies?

I think a requirement of being a physician is a commitment to lifelong learning. I regularly read the newest studies and publications. An example of this would be the initiation of a medication in stroke that generally is used for depression but has shown promise to help with speech production and comprehension to which I have seen positive results and ultimately changing the quality of their lives.

Can you discuss a time when you had to convey complex medical information to a patient or their family in a way that they could easily understand?

Communication is one of the cornerstones of providing proper healthcare. I generally employ multiple modalities of communication. This includes having models of the body to demonstrate where a patient may have pain, fracture, or pinched nerve.

(915) 581-0712

EASTSIDE LOCATION 1387 George Dieter, Ste. 106 D El Paso, TX, 79936

WESTSIDE LOCATION 820 Redd Rd Bldg B El Paso, TX 79912

Can you share an experience where you had to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for a patient?

Teamwork is a vital skill of any good physician but this holds especially true for those in my field. While working in the rehabilitation hospital, I am in constant communication with nursing, physical therapists, occupation therapists, speech therapists, and case managers. We also have weekly team meetings where I lead the conversation of how a patient is progressing and value the insight of all our team members.

How do you approach situations where there is ambiguity or incomplete information regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan?

Patient safety is always my top priority. One example was when I had a patient at the rehab hospital with a rare neurological diagnosis. The patient’s condition was deteriorating so I scoured the literature, but due to the rarity of the disease there was limited information. I emailed the leading expert on this disease at Oxford University for guidance and ultimately made sure the patient was treated appropriately. The patient did much better and eventually was able to return home.

What do you want readers to know about you?

I am a true El Pason born and raised. I received excellent specialty training with some of the top physicians in the field at UT Austin Dell medical school and am honored to be returning home which has always been my goal. I know that Sun City Orthopaedics will provide me the best opportunity at making a difference in the community that is my home.

SPECIAL ADVERTISING | 43 Photography provided by Sun City Orthopaedic

What is your specialty?

I specialize in family care as a nurse practitioner, with a focus on aesthetics as well. I’ve been a nurse for more than 7 years with tele-med-surg and ICU experience.

How do you stay current with advancements and changes in medical practices and technologies?

I stay current by regularly attending medical conferences, participating in continuing education courses, and reading relevant medical journals. For instance, when I learned about a new minimally invasive technique for a certain procedure, I implemented it into my practice.

Can you discuss a time when you had to convey complex medical information to a patient or their family in a way that they could easily understand?

Effective communication is crucial. Recently, I explained a complex diagnosis to a patient using simple language, visual aids, and analogies. I ensured they understood by encouraging questions and providing written materials for reference.

Can you share an experience where you had to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for a patient?

Teamwork is vital in healthcare. I collaborated with other professionals, such as physicians and specialists, to develop comprehensive care plans for patients. My role involved coordinating follow-up appointments, communicating treatment plans, and ensuring continuity of care, contributing to positive patient outcomes.

How do you approach situations where there is ambiguity or incomplete information regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan?

Dealing with uncertainty requires a methodical approach.

I gather as much information as possible, consult with colleagues or specialists, and involve the patient in decisionmaking while being transparent about any uncertainties. This approach ensures a collaborative effort to address the situation effectively.

What do you want readers to know about you?

I want readers to know that I am dedicated to providing compassionate and quality care to all my patients. I prioritize their well-being and work tirelessly to stay updated on the latest medical advancements to offer the best possible treatment options. I believe in open communication, mutual respect and creating a supportive environment for my patients to feel comfortable and empowered in their healthcare journey.

44 | SPECIAL ADVERTISING Photography provided
by Paola Luna


CINDY CEO, El Paso Children’s Hospital
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El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center Transforming Pediatric Healthcare

An old grocery store in Central El Paso has been transformed into a community-driven pediatric specialty center that promises patients care in an environment that’s as fun as it is functional.

Access to specialized care for children with complex medical needs has historically posed challenges for families, especially those residing in underserved regions. However, the landscape is evolving, and at the forefront of this transformation stands the El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center, a place of hope and innovation for pediatric healthcare in the region.

Led by Dr. Cindy Stout, President and CEO of El Paso Children’s Hospital, the MSC embodies a paradigm shift in pediatric

healthcare delivery. Dr. Stout’s vision, rooted in a profound commitment to patient-centered care, has catalyzed the establishment of a comprehensive facility housing a myriad of specialties under one roof. This integration of services eliminates the arduous task for families of shuttling between different locations for various medical appointments, streamlining the process and ensuring holistic care for the young patients.

“How it works is very simple. As moms, we’re often scheduling different appointments for our children and have to go to different places within the city to see specialists. We’ve brought all the specialists together underneath one roof, and they’re able to consult with each other then come up with treatment plans specifically for the patient,” she says.

48 May 2024 49

At the heart of the Multispecialty Center lies a team of dedicated physicians, including specialists from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, working collaboratively to devise tailored treatment plans for each child. With expertise spanning Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Cardiology, Dermatology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Nephrology, Neurosurgery, Otolaryngology, Orthopedic Surgery, and Urology, the Multispecialty Center is equipped to address a diverse array of medical conditions.

Additionally, the Multispecialty Center includes:

• 45 exam rooms

• 17 infusion rooms

• Audiology services

• Laboratory services

• Radiology services

“We treat brachial plexus clinic, spina bifida, vascular malformation, these are these types of diagnoses that are extremely difficult sometimes to diagnose, and certainly to treat,” explains Dr. Stout. “But when all the physicians are in the same room, assessing that child and talking with the parents, that’s the game changer.”

One of the standout features of the Multispecialty Center is its Cranial and Facial Clinic, helmed by esteemed surgeons Dr. David Yates and Dr. Ziyad A. Makoshi. This clinic represents a lifeline for children with craniofacial abnormalities, offering cuttingedge surgical interventions previously unavailable in the region. Dr. Yates and Dr. Makoshi’s collaborative approach, supported by advanced imaging technology and a multidisciplinary team, ensures that each child receives individualized care of the highest caliber.

“We’re one of the busiest centers in the country,” says Dr. Yates. “I feel very fortunate to be part of the team here. I don’t think I ever expected a career like this, with national and

international patients. We see kids from all over the world and it’s an incredible privilege and honor to operate on these kids.”

The Cranial and Facial Clinic at El Paso Children’s Hospital has long been a beacon of hope for families grappling with complex medical conditions. Recognized by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, this clinic represents a pinnacle of expertise, providing comprehensive care for children with facial, jaw, and skull abnormalities.

For patients like Jeremiah, who have craniosynostosis, access to care from esteemed surgeons is a life-changing blessing.

Craniosynostosis is a congenital condition characterized by the premature fusion of one or more of the fibrous joints, or sutures, between the bones of an infant’s skull. Typically, these sutures remain open during infancy to allow the skull to grow and expand as the brain develops. However, when one or more sutures close too early, it can lead to abnormal skull growth patterns, resulting in head shape abnormalities and potential complications such as increased intracranial pressure and developmental issues.

Dr. Yates and Dr. Makoshi worked together on Jeremiah’s case, which included extensive preparation prior to a five or six hour procedure.

“Together, we look at the scans. Then there’s a 3D reconstruction that’s created,” explains Dr. Makoshi.

The surgeons’ expertise, coupled with advances in surgical techniques and collaborative care, plays a pivotal role in improving outcomes and enhancing the quality of life for children like Jeremiah affected by craniosynostosis.

“Dr.Makoshi takes off the bone and then we perform the reconstruction. It’s nice because it’s a real collaboration,” says Dr. Yates.

The Multispecialty Center heralds a new era of collaboration and synergy, elevating the reach and impact of existing clinics to unprecedented heights. By integrating the Cranial and Facial Clinic into the Multispecialty Center framework, the hospital extends its continuum of care, offering families a seamless pathway to access a spectrum of specialized services under one roof.

“We work very closely with our physicians and listen to what their needs are. We look at what’s important for the community and where the gaps are,” says Dr. Stout.

Dr. Jarrett Howe, a Pediatric Surgeon at El Paso Children’s Hospital, underscores the significance of the MSC as a transformative force in pediatric healthcare. With a commitment to excellence and compassion, Dr. Howe and his colleagues navigate complex cases with skill and dedication, offering solace to families facing daunting medical challenges in a city that’s become home.

“I’m a South Dakota native. Many years ago I was looking to train in general surgery, and was tired of the snow – so I ended up in Texas. I’ve been here since 2006 and have spent most of my adult life here. El Paso has adopted me,” says Dr. Howe.

No longer constrained by geographical limitations, families in the greater El Paso area can now avail themselves of the expertise housed within the MSC without the burden of traveling outside the region. This not only alleviates the logistical challenges faced by families but also fosters a sense of community and belonging, as children receive care in a familiar and supportive environment.

Beyond its clinical prowess, the Multispecialty Center is emblematic of community-driven healthcare. As a not-for-profit institution, El Paso Children’s Hospital reinvests its 51 May 2024
El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center
52 May 2024 El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center

resources into enhancing patient care and supporting its dedicated staff. Dr. Stout emphasizes the hospital’s unwavering dedication to serving the needs of children and families, transcending the confines of profit-driven or government-funded models.

“We are not a government entity and we are not a for-profit hospital. If we were a for-profit hospital, we would be giving revenue back to shareholders. If we were a government entity, we would receive taxpayer dollars,” she says. “But we’re set up differently. We have to be doing the right things for kids, we have to be efficient. We have to make sure we have the right technology for our physicians. Everything that we make is

pumped back into the hospital, whether it’s making sure to take care of our staff and physicians with the right salaries, or further developing our services.”

For families in the El Paso region and beyond, the new Multispecialty Center represents more than just a medical facility: it is a sanctuary of healing, compassion, and hope. By consolidating specialized services, fostering collaboration among healthcare professionals, and prioritizing patient wellbeing, the Multispecialty Center exemplifies the transformative power of pediatric health care done right.

“We want parents to know that the level of care children are receiving has never happened before in our region. As the only children’s specialty hospital, we cover a 350-mile radius. Before, patients would have to leave El Paso for care that would really disrupt families. Parents would have to take their children out of school,” says Dr. Stout. “Sometimes, siblings remained here locally while the parents were in another city. We’ve been able to decrease the percentage of kids who have to leave for treatment or services because the Multispecialty Center brings the doctors together to make the most accurate diagnosis and determine the proper treatment.” 53 May 2024
El Paso Children’s Hospital Multispecialty Center Save up to 70% in Favorite Name Brand Stores! SHOP HAPPY IN 100+ FOR SPECIAL EVENTS & SALES Ship & Shop!
Office: (915) 759-4072 Fax: (915) 759-4092 Email: 221 N Kansas Street, Ste.1201 El Paso, TX 79901 Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Company (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®, and the companies available through the Preferred Product Network, Inc. Securities and advisory products offered through Principal Securities, Inc., Member SIPC. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392. Inaam Ziyadeh, Principal National and Principal Life Financial Representative, Principal Securities Registered Representative, Financial Advisor. Ethos Financial is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®. 2962909-062023 CA. Ins # 0L98851 INAAM H. ZIYADEH President & CEO Get the financial care and support you deserve with Ethos Financial! Doctors need care too. At Ethos, we can assist in aiding medical professionals to help build a solid foundation for a future of financial success.

Baby Steps The Science of

In a big pool of science research, every result can lead to unimaginable possibilities. At the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Arshad M. Khan, a Biological Sciences professor and principal investigator of the UTEP Systems Neuroscience Lab, saw the opportunities for his students create an impact. He trained them to map brain activation in response to the fluctuation of glucose, mostly known as sugar, in blood sugar levels.

Completed and published in 2023, the study titled “Glycemic Challenge Is Associated with the Rapid Cellular Activation of the Locus Ceruleus and Nucleus of Solitary Tract: Circumscribed Spatial Analysis of Phosphorylated MAP Kinase Immunoreactivity” focused on locating brain cells in animal models that were rapidly

activated in association to a sudden drop in circulating glucose.

The researchers found notable activity, specifically within the region known as the locus ceruleus, or LC.

Directly translating from Latin, the nomenclature translates to ‘blue place.’ Khan said this name is a reference to the physical appearance of the tissue in the unstained human brain. He mentioned that to the naked eye, the tissue looks a little blue.

“The LC is responsible for producing an alert to your brain. Among other things, it’s an arousal system,” said Khan. “It basically mobilizes you to be aware that something is changed in your body.”

Khan mentions that his discovery was not new.

In the past, the late Dr. Sue Ritter of Washington State University, reported activation within the LC in a two-hour time frame. What innovated Khan’s study was the rapid time period they were able to observe robust activation of the LC.

“It’s really interesting because we found that 15 minutes after we give an intravenous stimulus to the blood sugar, we found cells that basically turn on,” Khan said.

His team examined brain tissues under a microscope to find activity around the time of the stimulus event. Khan made a direct

connection to the Sun City to simplify the significance of examining cellular activation.

“It’s almost like if you were to look at a picture of El Paso at night and you see houses that have lights on inside,” said Khan. “That picture of that light visually tells you there was likely some activity in that house.”

Separate to this discovery, Khan said that his students also helped pinpoint more precisely where brain cell activation occurred inside the brain. This was a shifting moment for Khan and his team, as previous researchers who had conducted this type of study had never done this before. This pushed the team to begin mapping their findings onto a brain atlas.

UTEP student Geronimo Tapia, assisted Khan throughout the years in last stages of the study. His major role was to map out cellular responses on three different brain atlas levels, including the LC.

“My responsibility was mapping neurons in the hindbrain that are what we call the first responders to severe drops in blood sugar,” said Tapia.

Tapia joined the study during his master’s degree and is in the process of obtaining his Ph.D. focusing on studying brain controls associated with feeding. He said in the beginning he did not understand the magnitude of Khan’s project, until they all reviewed their results.


“It was really interesting that we saw it (the LC) so active at this 15-minute time point because it hadn’t really shown to be that active this early before,” Tapia said. “But it also made us think, this region is producing noradrenaline and has the capability to alert you that blood sugar is high.”

Khan described the study as a baby step towards a bigger experiment. He said further efforts to mapping the entire brain can help obtain more insights on the condition of diabetic individuals.

The study cited clinical studies of diabetic patients who give themselves insulin every day. He mentioned that most patients will mess up their dose at least once a year for every year they are diagnosed with the disease.

“They’ll mess up the dose such that they’ll either overdose on insulin where the blood sugar gets way too low,” said Khan. “Or they accidentally skip an insulin dose, and the blood sugar remains way too high, and they have to go to the ER.”

Khan said that his research is not a step to cure diabetes nor solve it, but rather to better understand complications and improve its management.

“Diabetes is a disease of high blood sugar, but insulin therapy sometimes gets misused or misperformed, and it causes a diabetic to experience iatrogenic hypoglycemia,” said Khan.

Khan said if this condition occurs repeatedly, it can cause brain sensors to be blunted and not alert the body when blood sugar is too low.

According to Tapia, the stimulus tested in the study simulated the effects of iatrogenic hypoglycemia, which is most common amongst Type I diabetes patients who cannot produce their own insulin. The stimulus was also used to mimic advanced stages of Type II diabetes, where insulin is produced naturally, but the body is unable to properly use it.

“I have relatives who have had this problem (hypoglycemia), and they keep some orange juice by their bedside in case their blood sugar drops at nights. But they have to wake up to sense the drop and wake up to drink the juice,” said Khan, “The thing is we aren’t exactly sure what parts of the brain tells you to do that and we don’t know where the specific cells are located.”

Throughout his 13 years of conducting research, Khan’s biggest goal was to begin mapping those stimulated regions and using them as models to investigate this problem.

“What we would like to do is have a global view of the brain and know exactly where all the little populations are that sense changes in sugar,” said Khan.

Khan wanted to go beyond just showcasing photos of activated regions, like the LC, but

wanted to report specific coordinates that localize which parts of the brain activate. He mentioned that the students in his UTEP System Neuroscience Lab are amongst the few in the world who have received training to use a standardized brain atlas and are be able to perform cellular-level mapping.

“The reason we’re using a standardized atlas is because it is used also by many other scientists to map brain connections,” said Khan. “This will help us start superimposing a map of connections onto the map of the glucose sensing.” Khan also mentioned that if other scientists used the same atlas for their studies, it would broaden the possibility of connecting their datasets and understand the similarities in a spatial location.

“I believe that the best way to understand the brain is to have a common model and everybody put their data into it,” said Khan.

All of Khan’s research has been funded by agencies within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in addition to the private foundation of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The agencies included are the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

He mentions due to his research’s success, he was selected to serve on the NIH grantreview panel for diabetes. 57


elcome to a world where the medical diagnosis of a serious illness also comes with a beacon of hope, the world of breakthroughs in clinical trials that begin in the minds of researchers as sparks of possibility that can potentially save lives.

In oncology, every breakthrough heralds a new dawn of possibilities for treatment, survival, and quality of life that is having resounding effects in the Borderland for patients battling cancer.

Dr. Ines Sanchez-Rivera is an Oncologist and Director of Research at the Center for Integrative Cancer Medicine at Texas Oncology in El Paso, where she saves the lives of patients while also conducting clinical trials that lead to medical breakthroughs specific to populations like our own.

Her research endeavors include pioneering clinical trials for prostate cancer, with a particular focus on precision medicine-driven approaches that target specific genetic mutations in order to provide tailored treatments.

For patients enrolled in her clinical trials, breakthroughs could mean a new lease on life. Beyond individual stories, discoveries in clinical trials can pave the way for systemic changes in cancer treatment and oncology for generations. Successful trials can lead to the approval of new drugs or therapies that could potentially become standardized care, fundamentally changing the landscape of treatment.

Additionally, diversifying data is critical to developing new treatments while also addressing healthcare inequities and gaps in research. Including minority groups in clinical trials ensures that the medical community can evaluate how

different groups respond to treatments, leading to safer and more effective healthcare outcomes for everyone.

Dr. Sanchez-Rivera emphasizes the importance of Hispanic and Latino representation in clinical trials, noting the need for treatments developed with diverse genetic backgrounds in mind.

Traditionally, most clinical trial data has not been based on diverse populations, which Dr. SanchezRivera’s seeks to address. Historical mistrust of the medical system is prevalent in some minority communities, partly due to past abuses and neglect. Conducting ethical, respectful, and inclusive research can help rebuild trust between medical researchers and minority populations.

“Hispanic, Black, and Latino populations are extremely underrepresented in the clinical trial arena, and decisions about how these cancers are treated are made that are not based on genetics,” she explains.

Different ethnic groups may have distinct genetic profiles and biological responses to diseases, including cancer. Variations can affect how a cancer progresses and responds to treatment. Clinical trials that include diverse populations help to discover these variations, enabling the development of tailored therapies that are more effective across different genetic backgrounds.

Minority populations in many regions across the U.S., including Texas, often face significant health disparities, including higher rates of certain types of cancer and lower survival rates. By actively including these groups in clinical trials, researchers can better understand and address the specific health challenges these populations face.

May 2024 58
“We need to be represented,” Dr. Sanchez-Rivera continues. “We need to make sure that we make our own history and our own roads to cure cancer based on our genes.”

To achieve this, informed consent plays a crucial role to ensure that patients fully understand the potential risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial by providing materials in English and Spanish, and providing ample time to make an informed decision.

“I want them to understand what they are signing up for,” she explains. “I want to give them plenty of time to discuss it with family members and loved ones. As long as they understand.”

Ultimately, the narrative of a breakthrough in clinical trials is one of human perseverance, ingenuity, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge. It’s a narrative about overcoming the odds, pushing the boundaries of human understanding, and fighting the ceaseless fight against disease. Each breakthrough tells a story of its own, a story of hope, resilience, and the endless pursuit of a healthier future for all.

Dr. Sanchez-Rivera finds fulfillment in patient care, cherishing the small victories and meaningful connections made with patients and their family. Her passion for research is as evident as her dedication to her patients, which can be felt with each embrace.

“The best part of my job is being with the patients,” she says. “The hugs! The beautiful hugs from my patients and having that interaction. Sometimes we have victories and those are worth celebrating.”

May 2024

Meet El Paso’sQueen of Opthalmol

The story of Dr. Violeta Radenovich begins in the small jungle town of Tingo Maria, Peru. Born the daughter of grocery store owners whose desire was for their daughter to graduate from university before getting married and having a family. Before her first year of high school, Dr. Radenovich’s mother sent her to the Peruvian capital of Lima with her uncle to further her education. Unfortunately, it was during her schooling that her father became ill and was later hospitalized in Lima. After classes, she would journey to the hospital to keep him company as she studied and worked on her class assignments. Sadly, her father did not overcome his illness.

“During that time, I watched as the hospital staff worked hard to save their patients,” she recalls. “While my father may not have been one of the ones who survived, many others did. This was the impetus for my going into medicine to help people and not take over the family grocery store like my parents wanted me to.”

60 May 2024


In 1988, she succeeded in obtaining her M.D. from the University of Peruana Cayetano Heredia.

Following graduation, Dr. Radenovich spent the next year doing community service in suburban clinics throughout Peru while commuting to and from home. A fateful trip to the States to visit her aunt in Houston led her to discover a world of medical care that would change everything.

In Houston, Dr. Radenovich met her aunt’s husband, Gary Gridley, a man of business who would be instrumental in her decision to expand her medical knowledge. Gary suggested the idea of moving to the U.S. to further her education with Dr. Radenovich. He explained that she would be welcome in their home,to spare her the cost of renting an apartment. This suggestion provided her with the courage to obtain a student visa and begin working on honing her English skills. Dr. Radenovich opted for university English courses. She took a job familiar to many university students and applied at her local May 2024

McDonald’s, which benefited Dr. Radenovich by allowing her to work on her English speaking skills through her engagement with customers while saving a significant portion of her paycheck for expenses. A hiccup in this arrangement occurred during a regular employee follow-up meeting, during which the manager asked her about her work visa. With just a student visa in her possession, Dr. Radenovich quickly discovered that the work details within her visa limited her to positions available at her university.

Then, she met her future business partner and forever love, Wayne Germano.

A relationship born from a dispute over a childhood mattress, the pair found themselves inseparable the day she phoned Wayne to help drive her to an important meeting. “When he found out that the location of my meeting was three hours away, he was so shocked,” she fondly recalls, “but because he’s a nice guy and had promised to take me, he drove me to where I needed to go.” The next few hours flew by as the duo realized they had much more in common than a simple mattress and would begin dating one another shortly after. Wayne helped Dr. Radenovich opened her first clinic, utilizing his extensive construction and medical recruitment background to support El Paso’s newest pediatric ophthalmologist as they navigated the myriad issues accompanying any budding business endeavor. Wayne’s assistance within the practice proved to be a vital asset so Dr. Radenovich could focus on the care of her patients without worrying about her clinic’s management.

When she began her first semester at the University of Texas at Houston, she sought a means to earn some income while fulfilling the requirements of her student visa. This search led her to Hermann Hospital, an affiliation of the university. As she walked through the doors to inquire about a position,

she was quickly redirected to the doctor’s secretary to schedule an appointment. To her surprise, she learned the secretary had relinquished her position due to the demanding nature of the doctor. As she was to ask for further details on the position, the doctor in question, who she would later learn as Dr. Richard Ruiz, burst through the door. With a sudden impromptu interview from Dr. Ruiz about her background in the medical field, Dr. Radenovich found herself signed onto a job as the doctor’s research assistant in an ophthalmology study.

As she worked at Hermann Hospital with Dr. Ruiz and his team while working towards her master’s degree in public health, Dr. Radenovich was asked about the physician she aspired to be. As a lover of children and pediatric care, she would answer their questions honestly, “I always said that I wanted to be a pediatrician.This apparently annoyed Dr. Ruiz, who kept urging me to apply for an ophthalmology residency. However, the more I worked with Dr. Ruiz, I came to appreciate the essence of vision care, and I began to question if there was a way I could do both.” When she applied and was accepted as the first-ever foreign medical graduate accepted by the University of Texas at Houston Ophthalmology Residency Program, “Little did I know that the masked man I met at a secretary’s desk one day while applying for a $800 a month part-time research assistant was the man who ran the entire program. Without the guidance of Dr. Ruiz, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Dr. Radenovich came to thrive in her Ophthalmology Residency Program, proving wrong the naysayers who had continued to throw words of antagonism towards her long after her acceptance into the program. When she discovered fellowships available in pediatric ophthalmology, she was ecstatic. She’d found the answer to the question she had asked before starting the residency program. Headed by Dr. Malcolm Mazow and

then president of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), the Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellowship Program in Houston was to be the next step in Dr. Radenovich’s journey, “I was almost not accepted when I applied for the Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellowship with Dr. Mazow. They reasoned that there were already 11 practicing Pediatric Ophthalmologists in Houston, so they wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t practice in the Houston area afterward since they already had enough competition. However, I would not make such a promise.” It was an inquiry to Dr. Mazow from a physician in the El Paso area that would allow Dr. Radenovich to move forward with Mazow’s blessing for the fellowship.

Arriving in El Paso, she met with the doctor whose inquiry allowed her into the fellowship. An established physician in his own right, this doctor would assist Dr. Radenovich by explaining the city’s need for Pediatric ophthalmologists. He would disclose that attempting to establish herself would be a minor concern as she would be working under the umbrella of his practice. Hearing those words, Dr. Radenovich paused and disclosed that she might be interested in establishing a practice of her own instead of working under him at his. Feeling disrespected and offended that she would even consider such a notion, the physician who had once served as a guide to Dr. Radenovich upon her arrival now turned on her and, in no uncertain terms, told her that if she didn’t work under him, then she wouldn’t be getting any work in El Paso as he was the king of ophthalmology. Not the type to take such threats lying down, Dr. Radenovich responded to the doctor in kind, “If you’re the king of ophthalmology, you better prepare yourself. Cause the Queen is coming.”

And, arrive she did.

62 May 2024
Meet El Paso’s Queen of Opthamology 63 May 2024
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f you take a drive to Far East El Paso, you’ll find a sophisticated hospital that serves as a testament to both the community’s heritage and progress. Because of focused leadership, it’s a place where lives are not only saved but respected and cherished, that embodies the spirit of community care. The expansion of trauma services at the Hospitals of Providence East Campus isn’t just a medical upgrade, it’s a commitment to safeguarding the pulse of a vibrant community, ensuring that

in times of need, advanced care is no more than a heartbeat away. Tasha Hopper, Chief Executive Officer for The Hospitals of Providence East

Campus is acutely aware of the needs of the patients and the community.

Treating Trauma with I Care


As a nurse-turned-CEO, Hopper works to surpass the expectations of each person who receives medical care at East Campus, which boasts an expanded trauma program. She envisioned a trauma center equipped to save lives without the burdensome necessity of distant travel for advanced care.


“I know how it is to be sitting there, watching a patient need something that we don’t have, and watching the family wonder why we can’t provide it. Now, they have to figure out how to travel further to get that type of care – even if it’s just a 45 minute drive – but that can be so cumbersome,” Hopper explains.

The vision was clear and urgent: transform the hospital into a Level II Trauma Center, akin to Level I centers but without the teaching component. This meant providing the same level of acute care, which was previously only available far from the homes of those in East El Paso. Hopper led the initiative, securing the necessary state and federal approvals, upgrading facilities, and ensuring staff received specialized trauma training.

“This trauma program was developed to go to the next level,” she said. “We noticed, over the years, that we were transferring more than 100 patients in just one year. Those are

just the ones who came here that needed a higher level of care.”

The hospital soon had new operating rooms equipped with the latest medical technologies and a blood bank robust enough to handle the most severe cases.

“The sooner we can treat patients, the more lives we save,” Hopper said, emphasizing the critical minutes saved for victims of car accidents, falls, or violence.

The Hospitals of Providence East Campus opened its doors to the community in 2008, and now serves one of the fastest-growing zip codes in the United States. Since its inception, the East Campus has invested more than $250 million to expand bed capacity, fill gaps in services, and introduce new technologies.

“More people unfortunately means more injuries, and more need for emergency

care,” explained Hopper. “So, we decided to create a trauma program that can care for all of those patients.”

Beyond logistics and facilities, her approach was deeply humanistic, shaped by her background in nursing and her experiences as a mother. She recounted times she brought her own children to the hospital, stressing the importance of empathy in healthcare.

“Watching a patient, or even your own child, in need and knowing help is too far away is heart-wrenching. Now, we’re equipped to offer immediate care,” she said.

Her leadership style was inclusive, often consulting with physicians, understanding their needs, and ensuring they felt supported as part of the team. This collaborative environment fostered a sense of shared mission among the hospital staff.

May 2024
Treating Trauma with Care

For physicians like Dr. Andrew Shay, Critical Care Surgery, General Surgery, and Trauma Medical Director at The Hospitals of Providence East Campus, having needs met as a physician has been invaluable.

“Having resources in-house has been amazing,” said Shay. “We’ve been able to save countless lives, not just trauma patient lives. We’ve had other situations where other patients needed emergency procedures – they’ve been bleeding for whatever reason – and we have the supplies in order to care for them.”

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. The hospital doesn’t just offer medical care but is a place of refuge and support for families during crises. With Horizon City and El Paso County’s populations burgeoning, the demands of healthcare continue to grow. Last year, The Hospitals of Providence announced plans for additional facilities along Eastlake Blvd. that includes a new medical office building opening in 2026 and a new acute care hospital projected to open in 2029. With the rapid growth in East El Paso,the immediate addition of 20 inpatient beds at the existing hospital by 2025.

“When a patient arrives, they don’t come alone,” said Hopper, reflecting on the community spirit. “They bring families, and suddenly, we are all part of their world, sharing their concerns, and their stories.”

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Miracle Molecule

According to the National Institute of Health, 2,001,140 new cancer cases and 611,720 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States in 2024. Blood cancers account for about ten percent of all diagnosed cancers in the U.S. each year.

However, a compound named Thiophene F-8, discovered by UTEP graduate student Mia Swain, Ph.D. and principal investigator Renato Aguilera, Ph.D. could open doors for a more promising future for lymphoma and leukemia therapies.

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that starts in blood forming tissue, like bone marrow, and lymphoma is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system such as lymph nodes or the spleen. Leukemia and lymphoma are both among the top 10 most common cancers. Prevalence is increasing, with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reporting that approximately every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma.

Dr. Aguilera is a UTEP professor in the Department of Biological Sciences who aims at researching compounds that can eventually create a better way to treat patients with blood cancers, specifically lymphoma and leukemia.

He has been a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences for the past 22 years.

“I fell in love with the field of immunology,” he said. “Many of the cells we study are cancer cells of the immune system, so basically lymphomas. I decided to move into the field of cancer research because I realized that, at one point or another, we are going to get some form of cancer. So, I thought I would devote the remainder of my career to look for drugs that have activity against cancer cells.”

Dr. Swain led this project for her Ph.D. and spoke about what this means for leukemia and lymphoma therapies.

“Typical therapies include chemotherapy and radiation,” she said. “A lot of different

compounds that are being tested clinically right now could potentially be used as an adjuvant therapy that can be combined with current therapies. Drugs come in many forms. I don’t know yet if this can be intravenously injected or maybe compacted in a pill, but further studies of this on in vivo models can help us answer that question.”

Although finding the compound is impressive and a challenging journey in itself, finding out how it kills cells is even more vital.

“The issue is if you find a compound that kills lymphoma, the question becomes: ‘Does it kill everything else or does it only kill lymphoma?’” he said. “Part of what we do is kind of like a crime scene investigation. Once you kill a cell, the question is how did it happen? Since we don’t have bullets where you can see a definite bullet imprint on a human in cells, we don’t know how they’re dying.”

Through these tests, researchers can discover just how potent the compound is.

70 May 2024

“We even check to see if it could have activity against breast cancer, prostate, etc.,” the researchers explain. “It takes several months to determine how the compound is killing the cells. If the compound is too toxic, meaning it kills everything in sight, it’s not

useful for chemotherapy. You’re not going to want to swallow something that will burn your mouth. So, we want a compound that is killing cells we intend to kill, such as rapidly growing cancer cells.”

With the guidance of Dr. Aguilera, Dr. Swain was able to complete her dissertation and received her Ph.D. in 2022.

“I started during the second half of my Ph.D. which was in 2020,” Swain said. “Dr. Aguilera was my mentor. So, whenever I had a question as far as what I should do next, he offered a little bit of guidance.”

Dr. Swain says that the compound still needs to be in vivo tested before being picked up for a clinical trial, but says she sees a bright future for lymphoma and leukemia patients as well as wanting people to be hopeful about better therapies coming into existence.

“There are always people trying to discover new therapies,” she said. “There are scientists staying in the lab, reading, running experiments, trying to work our hardest to find a new drug. People should know that researchers are always trying to find a new anti-cancer compound. We’re always trying to understand tumor microenvironments and different avenues of approach. If an individual is diagnosed with cancer, things may seem bleak, but there are people working behind the scenes to make the world a better place.”

After in vivo testing, the next step is for the compound to be picked up for clinical trials where it will go through rigorous testing before being prescribed and integrated into traditional therapies.

Such hard work done by Dr. Swain and Dr. Aguilera and other researchers will help change the future of cancer therapies by getting us one step closer to finding better treatments.

May 2024
MAYOR OSCAR LEESER Mayor, City of El Paso


El Paso County


In a world where health disparities loom large and access to care can dictate quality of life, dental public health emerges as a pivotal force in shaping community well-being. This specialized field of healthcare goes beyond the dentist’s chair by addressing broad societal issues that influence oral health outcomes across populations. By integrating education, policy development, and preventive care, dental public health professionals work tirelessly to mitigate oral diseases and elevate health equity.

Dental public health emphasizes the prevention of dental diseases such as tooth decay and periodontal disease, which are among the most common health problems worldwide. Public health initiatives such as water fluoridation, school dental programs, and community dental screenings help to reduce the incidence of these diseases.

Monitoring the health status of populations is a key function of dental public health. This attention to detail helps to identify health trends, prioritize health needs, and allocate resources where they are most needed, especially in places like El Paso.

The impact of dedicated educators like Dr. Wilma Luquis-Aponte and Dr. Salma Elwazeer at the Woody L. Hunt School of Medicine, which is part of Texas Tech May 2024

Care for All

University Health Sciences Center El Paso, extends beyond the classroom and into the heart of community service. Both associate professors have not only dedicated their careers to advancing dental education but have also emphasized the importance of community involvement, demonstrating a modern approach to dental care that is both inclusive and progressive.

“It’s very good to give back to the community,” says Dr. Luquis-Aponte. “I practiced for 17 years and became a full-time professor when I retired from private practice. I’m able to give back to the community by educating the future in dentistry.”

Her journey in dentistry is fueled by a profound commitment to giving back to the community through education. By training the next generation of dental professionals, she plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of dental care.

“My students have taught me patience. It’s a different generation today than when I was learning. I encourage them, and they educate me as well – they’re very tech savvy,” she says. “We teach students using top-of-the- May 2024

line technology and digital expressions, like when we make crowns and dentures. We have digital scanners where the students can design dentures themselves.”

Dr. Luquis-Aponte’s philosophy is deeply influenced by her interactions with her students, from whom she has learned patience and adaptability. Recognizing the generational shifts in learning, she embraces the tech-savviness of her students, creating a reciprocal learning environment. This synergy between teacher and student enriches the educational experience and fosters a forward-thinking mindset in community dentistry.

“I’ve been involved in community dentistry in different ways and am able to have a role influencing what I’m passionate about by preparing future generations of oral health providers”

“Being in community dentistry is completely different than being in private practice because it centers on how we can reach the community and provide more services by asking questions,” she says.

What challenges are we encountering?

How can we better serve our community?

Dr. Salma Elwazeer, an assistant professor and director of interprofessional education in public health and dental public health, brings an international perspective to her work. Born in Egypt and raised in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Elwazeer’s global background informs her approach to dental public health, emphasizing the importance of prevention and community outreach.

“After dental school, I completed a residency program in pediatric dentistry. I’ve been exposed to various community outreach initiatives, primarily targeting children. I like what I’m doing in terms of being involved in the community, like supporting prevention aspects rather than just providing clinical care and reaching out to people to understand their needs,” she says.

After earning her MPH degree from Indiana University and becoming a diplomat of the American Board of Dental Public Health, Dr. Elwazeer has been instrumental in guiding future oral health providers. Her teaching goes beyond clinical skills to include a holistic approach to healthcare that considers social determinants of

Care for

health and potential barriers to accessing care. Her work in pediatric dentistry and community outreach initiatives, particularly those targeting children, highlights her commitment to preventive care and public health education.

“I’ve been involved in community dentistry in different ways and am able to have a role influencing what I’m passionate about by preparing future generations of oral health providers,” she says. “I’m passionate about teaching and translating the mindset to students to not only be a health provider, but also have a global perspective and holistic approach to provide care to the whole person. It’s important to consider social determinants of health and think

about potential barriers for patients to have good oral health.”

Dr. Luquis-Aponte and Dr. Elwazeer exemplify the role of dental educators as catalysts for change in community health. Through their innovative teaching methods and dedication to community service, they are not only shaping skilled dental professionals but are also advocating for a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to dental care. Their work ensures that the next generation of dentists will continue to push the boundaries of what it means to serve and support the community, making dental health care accessible and equitable for all –which we can all smile about. May 2024
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Hands of Hope

| By: ERIN COULEHAN photography by: KATHERINE KOCIAN additional photography provided by DR. JOSE CASTRO GARCIA |

78 May 2024

The gifts of hope and healing are best paid forward, and one surgeon in El Paso is sharing his gifts with the Borderland and beyond.

Dr. Jose A. Castro Garcia, M.D, FACS, serves as the Assistant Professor of Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery and the Division Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. However, his impact stretches far beyond the walls of the institution, reaching those marginalized by poverty and hardship in distant lands. May 2024

His journey to becoming a renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon began in his native Mexico. As a medical student, he witnessed the plight of patients from underserved communities, their faces and bodies marred by congenital deformities, trauma, and disease. It was here, amidst the stark realities of healthcare inequality, that his calling became clear.

“I was doing medical school rotations at one of the hospitals with a plastic surgeon, and every month they would do patient surgeries for bone. Unfortunately, these conditions occur in the people who are least fortunate. They don’t have education and they don’t have financial means, which inspired me. I thought it was a big gift to be able to do these procedures and do them free of charge,” he says.

Many of the patients come in for conditions like cleft lips, which have extreme social consequences in many cultures.

“These patients are denied or neglected by their families. They don’t go out and play because they have a deformity,” he explains. “When people are born with this condition, they’re hidden away from the rest of the community. They are believed to be ‘cursed’ people.

For Dr. Castro Garcia, each surgery is an opportunity to transform lives. Whether repairing cleft lips, reconstructing breasts after cancer, or restoring function after trauma, every procedure is approached with meticulous care and empathy. “It’s a huge gift and a blessing to have the capacity to be able to do some small incisions, move some things around, and then change that patient’s life forever,” he affirms.

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Hands of Hope

In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Castro Garcia extends his healing touch to underserved communities worldwide. Since 2016, he has embarked on medical missions to Zimbabwe, where poverty and lack of access to healthcare are pervasive. Amidst challenging conditions, he and his team perform up to 20 surgeries a day, offering hope to those who have long suffered in silence.

“I met the founder of a foundation who sends doctors all over the world to perform beneficial procedures. He personally invited me and I immediately said yes,” he explains. “I didn’t know anything about Zimbabwe until I was there. I found out really quickly that it’s a place where poverty is very prevalent. What we call ‘poverty’ here is nothing compared to what I saw over there.”

Despite the demanding nature of his work, Dr. Castro Garcia finds strength in the unwavering support of his family and colleagues. His wife

and children stand by his side, understanding the importance of his mission. “My kids are also really proud of the work I do,” he shares, noting their fascination with the transformative power of his surgeries.

As he prepares for each operation, Dr. Castro Garcia approaches the task with a blend of technical expertise and spiritual guidance. He meticulously plans every incision, considering the long-term impact on his patients’ lives. “You have to plan for the scars – and any complication – that they could have for the rest of their lives,” he reflects.

Through it all, Dr. Castro Garcia remains driven by a simple yet profound belief: that every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances, deserves the best medical care possible. In his hands, hope is restored, and lives are forever changed. 81 May 2024
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Designing dream spaces for inpatients

May 2024
| By: ANNABELLA MIRELES photos courtesy of: SOPHIE SPIER |

Having to stay overnight in a hospital isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite place to stay, let alone a child’s favorite place. Being far away from their bedroom and toys can’t be easy, however an organization in El Paso aims to change children’s attitudes towards hospital stays.

Once Upon a Room is an organization that brings cheer to inpatient children, teens, and infants fighting illnesses and long-term trauma by decorating their hospital room based on the patient’s interest, and also purchases toys for them.

The organization started in 2014 by Jenny and Josie Hull. Josie and her sister, Teresa, were conjoined twins separated at 1 year old at UCLA Medical Center.

“Josie’s adoptive mother, Jenny, started decorating her hospital room in order to create better energy, since she had been in and out of the hospital throughout her entire life, and noticed that it always seemed to enhance Josie’s mood,” Chapter President Sophie Spier said.

Spier wanted to spread the joy she experienced from room transformations and started the organization with her mother in Los Angeles. The organization spread to over 20 cities throughout the U.S. El Paso’s chapter started in June of 2022 by Caroline North and was passed down to Spier who currently holds the chapter president position.

“Just seeing the reactions of every patient is amazing, and you can feel the amount

of love they have,” Spier said. “When they finally see their room for the first time and seeing the huge smiles that are brought to their faces is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever accomplished.”

The organization has a partnership with El Paso Children’s Hospital and Providence Children’s Hospital. The hospitals reach out to the organization when a child is admitted and must stay for several days or longer.

“They’re selected through the child life specialist who gives paperwork to all of the children’s families on their floor,” she said. “Once we get the forms back, we work on them right away to try to make it happen within the week. I’m responsible for shopping for each of the kids, so every 85 May 2024
Sometimes the kids don’t know what’s going on because the parents and nurses tend to keep it a secret from them so when they come in the room, they see it completely transformed

patient fills out their ‘likes’ such as what characters or TV shows they like and what they want their room to look like. Everything is so gray and depressing in a hospital room, so we like to bring in bedding and pillows that will go with the theme and completely transform the room.”

Not only is Spier the chapter president but is also attending high school. At 16 years old, Spier is the only chapter president who is also a teenager. Between juggling high school, choir, and the program, Spier says she puts this organization first.

“It’s kind of tricky having to leave school at a certain time and I’m also a singer so I have a lot going on after school,” she said. “But, whenever an opportunity to help a child comes up, I immediately change all my plans to cater to this because it’s something that I don’t want to miss out on or postpone because you don’t know how long that patient will be there and how long they’ve been waiting for this.”

Along with Spier, several volunteers help decorate the hospital rooms. The organization sometimes gets requests for surprise room decorations that must be done when the child isn’t present.

“Sometimes the kids don’t know what’s going on because the parents and nurses tend to keep it a secret from them so when they come in the room, they see it completely transformed,” she said. “One of the most memorable experiences that I remember was when I first started leading. There was a child who was nonverbal because he had some sort of injury where he wasn’t able to speak. He had tears streaming down his face when he first opened the door. You could tell he was so excited without him having to say anything.”

The organization tries to decorate as much as they can for each patient, however, transforming hospital rooms following fantastical themes comes at a cost. Donations and volunteers fuel the organization and allow for Spier to buy decorations and toys for the children.

86 May 2024
Designing dream spaces for inpatients

“This program definitely cannot go unnoticed, and I feel like the more support that we get from the community, the better because this program is solely based on passion and drive for helping people,” Spier said. “It’s definitely a program that can be successful through people’s donations. Every donation counts, especially because we try to give as much as we can to each child and it’s all funded through donations.”

Organizations like this bring unique joy to children experiencing rough times in their lives. Simply seeing a recognizable character such as Peppa Pig or Spiderman can help distract them from where they are as well as helping parents be a little more at ease.

“We were able to give a 16-year-old a really cool Lego set that he asked for and absolutely loved. He was so excited because he told us he hadn’t played with Legos in so long since the hospital didn’t offer them,” she said. “I’ve had parents come over and just hug me and start crying in my arms because they are just so thankful.”

Spier aims to expand the program to more local hospitals and hopes to reach a wider audience to hopefully inspire more volunteers and donations.

“There really isn’t anything else like this,” she said. “I feel like this is the only program that I’ve seen in El Paso that is this unique and incredible. It’s really the little things that matter in life and I feel like this is a prime example of that. Just one room decoration changes a family’s life.”


Corporate Office Location 2244 Trawood Dr #100, El Paso, TX 79935 NMLS #256179 (915) 593-3111

Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

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Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 87 May 2024


| By: ERIN COULEHAN photography by: ART MORENO styling by: LADONNA APODACA |

At the intersection of precision and compassion lies the delicate battle against glaucoma, a condition that stealthily robs people of their sight. On the West Side, Summit Surgical Center / El Paso Eye Surgeons emerges as a center of solace and restoration to patients that coalesces cutting-edge technology and compassionate care within an architectural marvel.

As the sun casts its gentle glow upon the tranquil corridors of El Paso Eye Surgeons, it illuminates not just a building but a testament to the unwavering commitment to sight, community, and architectural ingenuity.

Spearheading this visionary project is Dr. Mark Gallardo, a renowned glaucoma specialist, whose commitment to his patients and community inspired the creation of this state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center (ASC) and eye clinic.

Dr. Gallardo’s vision transcends clinical practice; it’s about providing a haven for his patients, particularly those from underserved communities. In collaboration with Christopher Esper, AIA, Principal at Root Architects, and Vice President of Stem Construction, the team embarked on a journey to redefine the concept of healthcare architecture.

“The building had to reflect Dr. Gallardo’s mission of community-focused care,” explains Christopher Esper. “It’s not just about treating patients; it’s about ensuring they feel valued and at ease throughout their journey.”

El Paso Eye Surgeons stands out not only for its cutting-edge medical capabilities but also for its architectural brilliance. Blurring the lines between exterior and interior, the arcade wall, adorned with travertine tiles, serves as a welcoming embrace for patients. This meticulous detail not only adds aesthetic appeal but also enhances the patient experience, providing a seamless

91 May 2024

transition from the outside world to the healing environment within.

“The arcade wall symbolizes a sense of arrival and process, guiding patients along their journey with dignity and grace,” says Esper.

Moreover, the design approach resonates with the principles of hospitality and wellness rather than traditional medical aesthetics. From the expansive, light-filled waiting rooms to the carefully curated

interior finishes, every element exudes warmth and comfort, akin to stepping into a luxurious home.

“It’s about reinstating dignity to the patient,” Esper emphasizes. “We wanted to challenge the notion of sterile medical environments and create spaces where patients feel respected and cared for.”

This architectural marvel is also an example of collaborative innovation. Root Architects and Stem Construction took an architect-

led design-build approach, seamlessly integrating their expertise to bring Dr. Gallardo’s vision to life.

“Being both the architects and builders allowed us to synergize our efforts, resulting in a truly exceptional project,” says Esper. At its core, El Paso Eye Surgeons embodies the convergence of healthcare excellence and compassionate design. It’s a sanctuary where cutting-edge medicine meets unwavering community dedication, setting a new standard for healthcare architecture.

May 2024 92 A Visionary Architectural Triumph in Glaucoma Care 93

Sugar, Advice Skincare andSpice,

et’s face it, you can’t compare!

here is no comparison between medicalgrade and over-the-counter skincare products. Medical-grade skincare products are corrective and effective for your skin. Some assume that medical-grade is always more expensive, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, many popular brands cost the same or even more.

It can be overwhelming to choose the right products and find a proper routine. With so many influencers on social media claiming to be using “the best,” it’s easy to go down rabbit holes. My advice is to visit your favorite med-spa and talk with an aesthetician. They can create a unique and medical-grade skincare routine tailored to your specific concerns, lifestyle, and goals.

Prevention is key when it comes to your skin. It’s always easier to prevent than to correct. With the right routine, you can avoid enlarged pores, deepened fine lines, texture, and sun damage.


start with the skincare basics:

• Use a cleanser that suits your skin type. If your cleanser leaves your skin begging for moisture, it’s a sign that the ingredients are too harsh, and you need something gentler.

• Double cleansing is a habit everyone should adopt in their evening routine. Start with an oil-based cleanser for the first wash. This removes dirt, makeup, and environmental toxins. The second cleanse will clean your skin thoroughly, allowing your skincare products to do their job. Massaging the cleanser into your skin will stimulate blood flow circulation.Once you’ve rinsed off the oil cleanser, your face is prepared for a gel or cream cleanser for the second wash.

So I ask you: Why pay for celebrityendorsed products with popular names and pretty packaging when you should be focusing on the ingredients and a good skincare routine?

• Time for serums! Your skincare products will thank you now that you’ve washed,

May 2024

rinsed, and repeated. With clean skin, they penetrate better. Retinol and tretinoin should always be used at night, never during the day. They are the hero products with the ultimate anti-aging benefits. They help reduce acne, brighten dull skin, and minimize the appearance of sun damage and dark spots. Other products can be used, such as growth factor or glycolic acid for brightening and resurfacing, eye cream, and moisturizer. Your aesthetician will help you choose the most ideal products for your skin!

The most common question I’m asked is, “Should I wash my face in the morning since I washed it the night before?”

The answer

is, yes! 95 May 2024

Just like you accumulate natural oils during the day, you also accumulate them while sleeping. Not to mention, your nighttime skincare also needs to be washed off in preparation for daytime products:

• Start by cleansing with a cream or gel cleanser, followed by a gentle exfoliator. This helps soften and smooth skin texture by removing dead skin cells. Using an exfoliant in the morning is one of my personal preferences. I feel it brightens and preps my skin for the products that follow.

• After cleansing and exfoliating, applying an antioxidant, such as vitamin C, can help prevent and slow the aging process. It is also important to take care of the delicate skin around your eyes by using an eye cream to soften and prevent lines.

• Add your moisturizer.

• Last but not least, double up your skin’s defense by applying SPF. The sun is our number one enemy when it comes to aging.

I’m also asked, “Can aging and skin damage be reversed?”


yes! B

ut, you need to be patient.

Healthy skin is not an overnight process. Give your products at least a month to prove themselves. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t experience immediate results. Reversing the signs of aging or the damage takes time. It requires in-office treatments, medical-grade products, and good skincare habits. Consistency is key! The skincare routine designed for you by your professional aesthetician will help give your skin the maintenance it needs between facial treatments.

The Hydrafacial is an in-office treatment that enhances the benefits of your products. It’s

a gentle yet effective facial that cleanses and exfoliates your skin, removing dirt and impurities. The best part? No downtime. The painless extractions help keep your pores clean, while also infusing hydrating serums. A chemical peel is included, but you won’t experience any physical peeling thanks to the vortex technology of the Hydrafacial wand. This facial will leave your skin so hydrated and glowing, you won’t even want to apply makeup. The Hydrafacial is 100% customizable and safe for any skin type.

Other in-office treatments can include lasers for skin resurfacing, skin tightening, acne, melasma, and hyperpigmentation. Laser treatments can be done anywhere from 4-6 weeks apart. These treatments typically require multiple visits in order to achieve your goals. I want to remind you to be patient with the process.

You can also opt for a chemical peel. This treatment uses specific acids to remove

May 2024
Sugar, Spice, and Skincare Advice -Injectables -Laser Services -Intimate Health -Dermatologic Tailored Aesthetics Karen Herman, MD 915.745.5888 7470 Cimmaron Plaza Building
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layers of skin, revealing a more youthful and glowing complexion. There are different strengths of chemical peels available, and the right one for you will depend on your skin goals. These treatments will also be done about 4 weeks apart. Your aesthetician will guide and advise you along the way.

Alternating different treatments might also be a great option for you!

One of my favorite treatments to alternate includes microneedling. Microneedling is one of the most effective treatments to rejuvenate the skin. It helps with skin texture, wrinkles, and fine lines. It also helps create collagen to improve elasticity.

Microneedling can be done with different serums, including your PRP (plateletrich plasma) to maximize the benefits. Some skin types will not be ideal for microneedling. If this is the case, your aesthetician will inform you.

Beauty may be skin deep, but we all smile when we see our glowing reflection in the mirror.

Good skin is an entire mood!

May 2024
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F l

Move Better Bett


Werhile you read this story you might not be noticing how your shoulders might be tensed up towards your ears. Take a deep breath in…hold it…then as you breathe out, imagine those shoulders melt down like butter. This is a small example of one somatic technique taught and practiced by Dr. Melissa Melpignano in her current research project.

Dr. Melpignano is a dance scholar and practitioner who has been dancing, like many dancers, since her energetic childhood years. Growing from the classical studies of dance, she began expanding her knowledge to theoretical inquiry involving dance by the time she was in high school, taking close notice of the similarities between philosophy and dance. Under diverse teaching of UCLA, that included training under the renowned Susan Foster, Dr. Melpignano earned her PhD in Culture and Performance. Using her dedication to what dance could explore, she is now an Assistant Professor and the Director of Dance in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas in El Paso.

“My life’s mission is to use dance, performance, and movement to really understand what are the mechanisms that we’re using in our decision-making processes,” said Dr. Melpignano before she describes her current project, “Somatics and Movement for Healthcare.”

Somatics refers to a field of study and practice that explores the body-mind connection through sensory awareness to improve the way the human body moves. Dr. Melpignano explained, “If we learn to move better in everyday life, then we can move better when we do more demanding tasks.”

Which is what she wants to teach healthcare providers experiencing, or on the brink of, burnout.


The origin of this research project started in 2022 when Dr. Melpignano and her colleague, and co-principal investigator, Dr. Amelia Rau from the College of Health Sciences at UTEP were in a workshop called “Theater for Healthcare Equity,” a collaborative project between UTEP Theatre & Dance, UTEP Health Sciences, and Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso (TTUHSCEP) that addressed healthcare disparities through the performing arts.

During the workshop, the participating healthcare providers used theater tools to navigate through real life scenarios and make interactive decisions with patients. Then, Dr. Melpignano started thinking beyond the exercises before her.

“It would be fantastic to implement more movement and rely on the knowledge that dance can offer,” she said.

Dr. Rau heard this and was responsive to the idea of more movement-based works to assist healthcare disparities.

Then, in 2023 they applied for the grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that would examine the impact of a movement-based and somatic cross-training intervention on health care providers in the Paso del Norte region.

This study tackles the reality that many healthcare providers sometimes forget to care for their own bodies when they are busy taking care of so many patients.

The reality is that healthcare is often active, and puts a lot of pressure on the providers. After a series of surveys, small workshops, and medical follow-ups with volunteers, Dr. Melpignano and Dr. Rau crafted a training program that could help providers take better care of their own bodies and transmit that knowledge to their patients to use themselves.

This program is unique since the providers come in with an already extensive knowledge of the human body.

“There are many different ways of approaching and conceiving the body,” said Dr. Melpignano. “As somatic practitioners, we enter the space with an idea of the body not as only a site of diagnosis, but as a site of potential, healing, and even manifestation.”

Despite the self-longevity factor of somatic movement, this is in no way a substitute for modern medicine. Rather, it is instead the use of joint forces working together to support each other.

“We are PhDs not MDs,” said Dr. Melpignano. “We have a different set of skills that can complement the existing knowledge. It’s been vital to have a community of MDs and other health care providers that really support our project and understand the mission.”

With the research building on that groundwork of self-care, patient care can be improved into a more dialogical exchange between provider and patient that gives towards human consideration. Dr. Melpignano explained that somatic training gives the providers and their patients better tools to really detect how the body feels and have it expressed accurately. Her program even considers environmental factors associated with patient care.

Dr. Melpignano not only teaches these somatic practices but uses them herself due to medical reasons. She explained that after all these years of professional dance training, she had to learn to use her body better. “I just need to move better to feel better and I want to try to transmit this teaching because it is free, and it doesn’t take long to learn.”

Their first official intensive training will be only for providers, and it will be hosted in August of this year. The

providers will spend four days learning about somatic teachings from a variety of instructors, including award renowned somatic practitioner Ray Schwartz. Using the information gathered from the studies and this training, Dr. Melpignano and Dr. Rau will be able to build their research even further for the next session in 2025.

Departments that are expected to attend the intensive training stem from Texas Tech, UTEP’s Colleges of Health Sciences and Nursing, UMC, and even the Borderland Rainbow Center. The goal is to have 15-20 providers attend, but anyone who has an interest in this training is welcome to email Dr. Melpignano directly at her UTEP email.

Expanding this work to everyone in need of getting better connected to the body would be the next step since it is not taught to the everyday person. Even more so since too many people go without easy access to healthcare.

“It can help us support our community that can in turn support each other,” Dr. Melpignano said.“All bodies are different. That’s why it’s such an important and personal journey because you have to learn how your own body works to let it function. The real body is the one that you

Move Better to Feel Better

All bodies are different. That’s whysuchit’san important and personal journeybecause you have to learn how

yourown worksbody to let it function.
The real body is the one that you learn to feel.
103 Move Better to Feel Better

El Paso Children’s Multispecialty Center

The community flocked to the ribbon cutting center of El Paso Children’s Hospital’s latest venture. The El Paso Children’s Multispecialty Center is the most comprehensive pediatric specialty center in the region created to help families access the highest level of pediatric care at a single time, under one roof.

Photos by:

104 scene

April Launch Party

The atmosphere at Tequila Mockingbyrd was electric as entrepreneurs and advocates converged to celebrate the release of the April issue of The City Magazine. Cocktails clinked in celebration as guests networked and exchanged insights, inspired by the stories of resilience and achievement within the pages of the annual women’s issue. From seasoned executives to rising stars, the evening showcased the strength and diversity of women in the business world.

MAY 2024

Advertiser INDEX

108 May 2024
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