Health Care Across Borders

By | August 30, 2019

[GUITAR STRUM] In southwestern Arizona,
where the Colorado River crosses the international
border into Mexico, there are two communities which
are separated by the border wall, San Luis Rio Colorado in
Mexico and San Luis, Arizona. In addition to having close
ties and a shared history, these two cities
share something else in common, a University of
Arizona College of Nursing alumni who has spent the last
several decades improving the lives of individuals
in both places. I’m the oldest of five children. And we emigrated to
the United States when I was about 17 years old. I went to school here in
San Luis Rio Colorado, to elementary school
and high school. And then I went to college in
Yuma, Arizona when I was 18. And then when I was doing my
nursing assistant’s course, the same teacher– now, I don’t
remember her name anymore. But she told me that I
should become a nurse. And from there, I took
a little side way, and I went to seminary. Well, I have an associate
degree, obviously, from college and then
a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the California
State University Los Angeles. And then I have
a master’s degree from the University of
Arizona and a master’s in divinity from the seminary. And then I have
my doctorate also from the University of
Arizona, which is in nursing. I always loved the
University of Arizona, even when I was in college. I heard about it. I’d never been to the
University of Arizona. When I saw my
professors, what they were doing with the
research, what they’re doing with their
community interventions, how they have created new
health care systems, new health delivery systems,
I thought, oh, this is something that I could
do in the place where I am, which is the US-Mexico border. As a nurse practitioner,
Dr. Valenzuela maintains two
clinics, both of which he helped found on each side of
the border, the clinic in San Luis, Arizona, which is now
managed by the Yuma Regional Medical Center, where
he sees patients, and the clinic of Santa Maria
de Guadalupe, where he now has become the CEO and
chief administrator, and which is sponsored by the
Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles, the religious institute
to which Father Rudy belongs. In addition to his
work with each clinic, he also maintains
his priestly duties with his parish in
San Luis Rio Colorado. He will cross the border to
work with both communities several times over his
average 13-hour day. It looks hectic, but it’s
not really that hectic. I get up about 6:00
in the morning. By 6:30, I do my prayers. 7:30, I usually have breakfast. And then I leave after
that to the clinic in San Luis, Arizona. And then from about 8
to about 3 or 4 o’clock, I’m at the clinic. And then I come home, have
lunch, if I have time for that. And then I go to the church,
either to the clinic here in San Luis, Mexico
or to the church, depending on what I’m doing. And then there I
usually check whatever we’re doing in the clinic,
if they need anything. And then after that I
usually have holy hour, and then we have mass. I usually have meetings that
go on, depending on the day, 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock. Then I come home, usually rest
a little bit, do my prayers, and then go to bed. I’m usually in bed by 10:00. The Clinica Santa
Maria de Guadalupe started as an agreement
between the Friars of the Sick Poor and the local
Catholic bishop to help the poorest individuals
in San Luis Rio Colorado obtain access to
quality health care. But once Dr. Valenzuela
began working on it, the need became evident. So we came down, and
we opened the clinic. We opened doors. There was a doctor there
for four hours every day from Monday to Friday. We saw about 2,000
patients the first year. Next year we saw about 5,000. So it started
increasing a little bit as we became better known. And I think that one
of the keys to success on the increments of people that
we were seeing, first of all, was that we provided quality
care to the poor, which it may be an unknown concept
because people tend to believe that the poor do not deserve
the best quality of health care. But we were providing that. And we were providing
low-cost health care, and it was comprehensive,
everything from medical service to lab to pharmacy
to psychology. We had a dentist. We still have a dentist. And all of a sudden, we boomed. We started seeing 13,000,
20,000, 30,000 people a year. We expanded to a new building
that is probably three– no, probably five times
larger than the one that we had for 10 years. So we overgrown the needs
of the old building. We built the new one
within, like, three years. I can’t call it a clinic. It’s a hospital. And the number of patients they
treat and for what they charge, it’s just amazing. It’s just they charge nothing
and provide the great service. And now we see about
50,000 patients a year. But we have incremented
our hours and our services. We’re open from 8 o’clock
in the morning to 9 o’clock at night every day of the
week, including Sundays. We have a low-cost
access, which is 50 pesos. Right now the rate would be
about $2.75 to see a doctor. I think that one of
the main concerns is that the population
has grown so fast. It has outgrown health care
systems and infrastructures. So both governments,
either government, both in the United
States and in Mexico, are not prepared to
deal with the health of growing populations at the
pace that they’re growing. Poverty is another big issue. People who do not
reach a certain level of economic independence are not
going to look for health care first because they’re
busy making a living. So you have people who
are really poor who may be diabetic, but they
haven’t seen a health care provider. So we’re going to find
diabetes at a later stage. Same with cancer, of
many different kinds. We’re going to find– and this is
statistically proven, that we find cancers on
poorer people at a later stage than people who are
economically independent or who have insurance
because they don’t have that kind of
early access to health care where they can do
preventive care. While he’s careful to keep
his priestly duties separated from his nursing duties, being
able to see his parishioners on a regular basis allows him
to check in on their health. When I’m a nurse practitioner,
I’m a nurse practitioner. And I think that it
is implied by the way that I talk to
them or by the way that I counsel them, about
the way that I care for them that I’m also a priest. It’s the same when I’m a priest. I mean, when I’m a
priest, I’m a priest. But intuition tells them
that I care for them in a different way. That it’s probably more
holistic than just spiritual. I do care about
their well-being, their physical well-being. And my parishioners,
I ask them, how’s the treatment for
your diabetes going and at least give them advice or
turn them back to their doctors and say, you need
to follow up on this because this is important. And I would encourage
people to join nursing, first of all,
because I think it’s one of the most noble
professions that there are. And we’re versatile. We can do so many things. We can work with patients
in a hospital setting. We can do community health. We can affect the health
of one single person, or we can affect the health
of entire communities, of the whole country, if we
want and set ourselves to it. We can dream as big as we
want, and we can accomplish those dreams being nurses. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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