Lakeside is fortunate to have many competent medical professionals, both those who have their practices Lakeside and those who come from Guadalajara for office hours. Dr. Santiago Hernandez is the expert speaker on the local medical system at our FOCUS learning seminars and he graciously agreed to a wide-ranging interview including his medical practice, medical tourism Lakeside, and stem cell therapy. The interview will be published in installments on our site over the next few weeks. First, let’s get acquainted with Dr. Hernandez and ChapalaMed.
Please tell our readers about your medical background and why you chose Lakeside for your practice.
I did medical school at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara after undergraduate and pre-med training at Indiana University. I was aware of Lakeside at the time and then I returned to the U.S. for training as a primary care doctor in family medicine at the University of Chicago. For family reasons, I returned to Guadalajara in 2012 on a year’s sabbatical with the intent to return to the U.S. to practice medicine. While here, I was offered a job Lakeside at a competing practice but that fell through and a friend of mine suggested I consider starting my own practice. He offered to help guide me and I opened up an office in Chapala with basically my laptop and a stethoscope and the rest is history.
Language and Cultural Issues
I think my language skills are more important here. Ironically, I spoke more Spanish when I was practicing in Chicago with my friend and mentor Dr. Myriam Ocana in Franklin Park, Ill. close to O’Hare airport. We saw mostly Mexican and Spanish speaking patients and I saw not only the language but the cultural barriers for their access to getting good medical treatment. Here it’s the same story in reverse. English speaking patients encounter both language and cultural barriers when they try to access medical care whether in private or public medicine. Because I’m completely bicultural I am well adapted to guide the community here in their medical needs.
Can you tell us how ChapalaMed has grown since its founding and what your vision is for the future?
I modeled it after primary care practices that I worked in in the U.S., specifically the practice I worked in with Dr. OCana in Franklin Park. It was primary health care and we were trained to handle 80% of all of the problems before handing them off to a specialist. Basically we referred patients with all lab testing and imaging done along with our presumptive diagnosis. Medical care in the U.S. is often guided by insurance companies and particularly if its an HMO the primary care doctor has to handle everything before referring to a specialist. Otherwise, there is a financial consequence for the primary care doctor. Therefore, we were very well trained as diagnosticians and that has served me well here.
Growth of ChapalaMed
When we started the practice I began with electronic medical records with a vision to expand the practice long-term. I founded it as ChapalaMed, not just me as Santiago Hernandez, and I had the vision of this practice growing as a primary care practice including other physicians. I was in Chapala until 2016 when they closed the medical building where my practice was located. I moved into this mall located at the junction of San Antonio and Ajijic that previously housed another practice. I started here renting a couple of the offices and it grew as more physicians in my network wanted to come and treat patients with me. We started the physical therapy and neuro-rehabilitation department and we have our audiologists here. On the weekends, other specialists come, including an orthopedic surgeon, neurologists, hematologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, etc. So now it’s grown beyond primary care and our patients are able to see the specialists that we refer to right here.
Bedside Manner and Patient Care
Again, it’s ChapalaMed and not just me. At the end of the day, I’m not only responsible for the care I provide but that of my specialists, whom I try to vet very carefully, mostly based on their resumes. Here in Mexico, I see patients who tend to look for Doctors based primarily on their language skills. It’s nice to be able to speak with a physician in your language, but as a Doctor, I believe that you should look for a professional based on their resume, on their ability to solve your problems. Some of my patients sometimes infer that some of my specialists, particularly the surgeons, don’t always have the best bedside manner.
That’s where I come in, I’m there when patients are hospitalized to help guide them and put them at ease during the really anxious process. That tends to make up for the lack of bedside manner of some of the specialists, which comes with the territory so to speak. Each specialty demands a particular type of personality. For example, you don’t want someone who gets too emotional while they’re performing brain surgery. I’m here to assure the patients that the care that I and my specialists provide will ultimately be successful. This is something that is more complicated in the U.S. where medicine is so compartmentalized and I’m not able to make hospital rounds. In some U.S. institutions, the primary care doctor does not have access to the patient while the patient is hospitalized. Here I am with them from the beginning to the end of the hospitalization process.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Stay tuned for more from Dr. Hernandez on Lakeside medical tourism and stem cell therapy in Mexico and come down for one of our fast track learning seminars where you can meet Dr. Hernandez in person. All of our experts have agreed to take individual questions from FOCUS alumni and you will have the opportunity to schedule a private appointment with Dr. Hernandez should you desire.
Focus On Mexico offers 6-Day Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico. Join us and learn why thousands of Americans and Canadians chose to retire in Lake Chapala.
Our programs offer the perfect balance; a wonderful vacation and an insightful, educational experience. Our expert speakers cover all topics: Health Care, Real Estate, Legal System, Safety, Immigration, Assisted Living/Care Options, Bringing Pets, Cost of Living, US Taxes for Americans, Non-Residency for Canadians, Living on the Lakeside, Investing in Mexico, Mexican Economy and much more…