Meet the Staff: Dr. Jose

Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez joined MEDLIFE in 2010 as a general practitioner. He has always demonstrated a keen aptitude for patient care; just a few months after starting with MEDLIFE he began implementing new medical and educational programs for our Mobile Clinics. Now doctor Jose serves full times as our Medical Director, and is in charge of the supervision of all medical aspects of MEDLIFE´s operations. Learn more about Dr. Jose below:

joseluis blogWhere are you from?

I am from Lima. I was born in Lima, but my father is from Trujillo and my mother is from the border between Chile and Peru.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

Three years ago a colleague and friend named Iliana Rodriguez, who used to work here, called and asked me to fill in for an absent doctor on one of MEDLIFE’s Mobile Clinics. So I agreed to help. This was in December, about three years ago. I came to the clinic and ended up helping for all five days and loved the experience; luckily, they invited me to come back for the next clinic. I was working as part of the Mobile Clinics for about two months when i first met MEDLIFE Director Nick Ellis, and he asked me if I wanted to work in a more permanent way, as a coordinator. I agreed and have been working here permanently since then. And that is how I got into MEDLIFE.

What do you like about working here?

First of all, as a doctor you have the call or duty to serve the community. Sometimes, our jobs don’t allow us to help as much as we would like to, but in the Mobile Clinics you can really see how the patients are so grateful. Those kind of experiences make me feel that what I have learned is really useful, and that is very fulfilling.

Talking about good experiences, I also enjoy working with the volunteers. The students have their own personalities and they come full of excitement, wanting to help and to learn at the same time. I like watching them interacting with the patients, and I get the sense that they also appreciate the way that I work. Since the feeling is mutual, we generally make a good team.

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What do you like to do in your free time?

I love dancing! That is definitely one of my favorite things to do. I also love soccer, and that’s because I’m 100% a sports person.

Could you name some of the patients who made or make an impression on you?

There is one lady who comes from the sierra and lives in the community of Oasis here in Lima. The first time she saw me was the first time she ever saw a doctor; she hadn’t been treated by a doctor in her entire life until that day. At the Mobile Clinic she was measured and weighed by a nurse; she then saw a dentist and general practitioner. She was very moved by the kindness we showed her and said she felt treated more like family than like a patient. She was so moved and grateful that she started crying, and I was thinking to myself, that i never understood how much we were really doing for our patients. That was a very emotional day.

 What is the problem you most frequently find on the Mobile Clinics?

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First of all, there are many problems with nutrition, including kids with a lack of appetite. And also, parasites. Every time a mom comes with her child her first words are “my kid is not eating.” So I grab my bag of chocolates, and ask the kids if they want some, and of course they say yes. They just don’t want to eat their mother´s food. Many times, when it comes to kids, we just need to give simple advice regarding nutrition.

Then, it depends on the season. In summer we see a lot of cases of diarrhea because of contaminated water and food. We also find a lot of skin problems.

In winter, the most common problem is the cold, pharyngitis, sore throats, asthma and allergies. These allergies come from the season´s weather as well as from the hostile environment they live in – dirt and humidity can create serious allergy problems.

In adults, one of the biggest problems is that they are overweight, and with that comes hypertension, diabetes, rheumatism, an knee pain.

In young people, we see stress which causes migraines, gastritis, dermatitis, and hair loss. They are making their bodies sick with all the worrying and stress they put on themselves these days.

Those are very common things. The special cases are the ones that get assigned to the patient follow-up program. These include congenital problems, mostly in the children, like imperforate anus and cardiac hypoplasia. In older people we have been finding tumors. We are also seeing lots of cervical cancer and breast cancer patients. MEDLIFE is working with these people with higher risk diseases, trying to find a solution to their problems.

Are there things that still surprises you?

Well actually there are always things that surprise me because the medicine and the human experience are very rich. Really, what surprises me more than the sickness I see is the love and care that patients receive from their families while dealing with their illnesses.

The case that surprises me the most is a young man named Eduardo Espinoza. He had suffered brain paralysis caused by a mycrocephaly; in common words, his brain is very small and because of that he cant´t move his body. Every doctor that saw him said the same thing, that he was going to live ten years tops. And it’s because of his mother’s tender care that he is now 22 years old. He is still lying down in his bed, but is alive, well cared for and loved. I think the reason that he survived is because of his mother´s efforts, and that is something that really impresses me.

Anything else you would like to say?

Well I am very grateful to you, Rachel [MEDLIFE Intern], for this interview. And thanks to the students who are always coming to Peru to help us with the clinics, because if it wasn’t for them this organization wouldn’t be what is today. Thank you for everything.

Interview by Rachel Goldberg. Translated to English by Ingeborg Lopez and Lindsay Bigda


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.