Expanding Laparoscopic Surgery in Santa Cruz

Written by Jodi Grahl


The San Juan de Dios Hospital in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, is known as “the hospital of the poor,” given its role treating the lowest-income residents of the eastern half of the country. It is also considered one of Bolivia’s foremost public hospitals; its doctors provide an average of 300 medical consultations each day across 21 specialties. Founded in 1834, the hospital has grown from 12 to 240 beds, but it continues to struggle to meet the demands of its patients. Santa Cruz de la Sierra is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and the hospital must serve its urban patients as well as many others who travel great distances from across the department to access complex care unavailable in their home communities. 

In response to the high demands placed on the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the Santa Cruz state government has made significant investments over the past five years. Several units, including the ICU and the cardiac facilities, have been vastly upgraded. The hospital has also taken great strides to improve general surgery capacities, including minimally invasive laparoscopic services. 

This week, Solidarity Bridge returns to the San Juan de Dios Hospital to continue a partnership launched in 2015. We are invited to work in solidarity alongside the hospital’s dedicated O.R. staff to expand laparoscopic training. This trip will focus on advanced procedures including esophageal achalasia, dolichocolon, and hiatal hernia surgeries. In addition to training through mentored surgeries, US missioner Dr. Magued Khouzam will also present a lecture at the “Fourth International Course on Minimally-Invasive Surgery” organized by the hospital in conjunction with the mission trip.

We arrived safely on Saturday. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates from the team in Santa Cruz!

Jodi Grahl is the Director of Gynecology, General Surgery, and Pacemaker Programs at Solidarity Bridge. She is leading our 2019 General Surgery Mission Trip, taking place July 19 to 27.

Throughout the year, our Bolivian partner surgeons perform gall bladder and hernia surgeries for patients identified through our Bolivian partner offices in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Mission trips give Solidarity Bridge the opportunity to deliver vital equipment and supplies and provide ongoing training. Our goal is to continue to advance skills in these procedures and expand competencies in these and other high-complexity surgeries such as megacolon and various oncological surgeries. Learn more about our General Surgery Program.