As our General Surgery Team submitted their final blog post yesterday, our attention now returns to our Founding/New Initiatives Director, Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa, who has been in Bolivia for the past three weeks. We're quite excited to hear of his progress in launching three new projects and eager to share his latest blog post. Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa, Ph.D. - Solidarity Bridge's Founding / New Initiatives Director

We began this February journey with hopes that we could move forward the possibility of establishing three joint ventures: a neurosurgical institute, a children's open heart surgery center and an epilepsy center.

Neurosurgical Institute: We met with a committee from the Santa Cruz Society of Neurosurgeons as well as the president of the Bolivia Society of Neurosurgeons and we will be proceeding with the establishment of the institute. After much discussion, it was decided to have the functions of the institute be the training of residents and new neurosurgeons, research, the diffusion of best practices and as the repository for the lending of expensive equipment and instruments that can be borrowed by the neurosurgical community. The first academic course under the umbrella of the institute will be a transnasal endoscopic pituitary tumor surgery course. The participants will receive a certificate from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Is there a possibility that the steps we continue to take might not work? Yes, it is a possibility, but I am hopeful and starting activities are underway. 

Children's Open Heart Surgery Center: Every year in Bolivia, over 2,000 children are born with congenital heart problems requiring surgery. Less than 10% currently receive the surgeries they need. We hope to have our first surgery by late 2014. Our principal partner in Bolivia for this effort is the public Children's Hospital of Santa Cruz. We were surprised to learn that the director of the hospital had been replaced and thought we would be starting from scratch, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that the new administrative director was a young, competent public health doctor who was more than ready to proceed. We have the support of the Santa Cruz State government and we’re looking forward to a follow up meeting soon. In the meantime we are collecting pediatric cardiology instruments for the surgeries. We will need to partner with a pediatric heart surgery service at a pediatric hospital in the Chicago area in order to help train the personnel, but there is already in place much of the medical expertise needed. 

Epilepsy Center: Approximately 12% of the Bolivian population have epileptic conditions at some point in their lives. That would mean that approximately 1,000,000 Bolivians have some experience of epilepsy. The great majority have little access to medical treatment. Bolivia is the only country in South America without a comprehensive epilepsy center - one that provides diagnostics, medical treatment and surgery. Los Olivos, a private hospital in Cochabamba, is the principal partner of this joint venture. We chose a private hospital for this venture because the doctors prepared for the medical treatment worked at this facility and they have the operating room conditions to be able to eventually do the surgeries. Initially, our progress in forging an agreement was painfully slow but we experienced a breakthrough in our last meeting. We now have been assigned space in the hospital for the diagnostic room, the video monitoring station, and the outpatient consultation room. We have received a very important equipment donation from the Epilepsy Center of Rush Medical Center in Chicago. Los Olivos has gathered two neurologists trained in epilepsy treatment and a technician and they also have an excellent neurosurgeon. Much still needs to be done: finalizing the agreement, shipping the equipment to Bolivia, sending training physicians and technicians to resource the center, fundraising, etc. We hope to see epilepsy patients by the fall of 2014.

We always face the possibility of unforeseen obstacles but we're grateful to see these three efforts advancing for now. They are expressive of a deepened level of collaboration with Bolivian public and private hospitals, the government, and medical societies as well as with U.S. medical societies, companies, physicians, and hospitals.

Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa will continue sharing updates from Bolivia for one more week.

Now he has joined the Neurosurgery Mission Trip, which began Sunday, February 23 with an introduction to the trans-nasal endoscopy surgery course. Included in the course are four days of surgery and a presentation at the Bolivian Neurosurgical Society in Cochabamba. The trans-nasal endoscopy surgery course is the first course connected to the new Neurosurgical Institute, and it offers certificates to participants through the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Our missioners include Drs. Art DiPatri and Roberta Glick, who are engaged in pediatric neurosurgery, as well as in the planning and part of the presentation of the course. A Spanish-speaking endocrinologist from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, John Mordes, is on hand to provide a number of talks to the Endocrinology Society of Santa Cruz and in Cochabamba. After several productive weeks in Bolivia, Solidarity Bridge is wrapping up with an equally productive final week!

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