Partnering in Patient Care

Written by Catherine Flanagan

Dermatologist, Dr. Jay Hermann has been to Bolivia on 15 mission trips with Solidarity Bridge, and he has visited many more times on his own. He has a great love for this country and its people. This was readily apparent in his work in the dermatology clinic at the Municipal Hospital in Cliza last week. One of the things he loves about his mission trips is the working relationships he develops with Bolivian doctors. “I’ve always appreciated the exchange and the relationships we’ve made over the years.”

On this trip, the partner with whom he worked most closely was Dr. G.Ricela Torrico Saavedra. They have spent every morning together in the clinic. Dr. Torrico has practiced medicine for 27 years, with a specialty in general medicine. Last year, she was promoted to the head of general medicine for the municipality. Before being elevated to this role, Dr. Torrico could frequently be found serving patients in the clinic, which she loved. But, for the past year her work has been mostly administrative. The Cliza hospital is close to reaching Level 2 accreditation and Dr. Torrico has an important role in the process to reach that goal. 

Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Torrico, and their interpreter, Carlin

Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Torrico, and their interpreter, Carlin

Dr. Torrico assists during a dermotology procedure

Dr. Torrico assists during a dermotology procedure

Last week though, she shifted her focus from those responsibilities to be with our mission team. She told us that when the hospital decided to host the mission, she and others in the administration agreed that it was integral that their doctors from all levels be present and take part in the exchange of medical knowledge.

Dr. Hermann emphasized that all of the doctors learn a lot from each other. He explained that each learns how the other handles similar problems in their own contexts and, “it’s always a respectful and mutually beneficial exchange.”

Dr. Torrico was a very willing and enthusiastic partner. When I visited the clinic, she told me that she was learning a lot from Dr. Herrmann and that she will put what she’s learned to use in her own practice. 

One of the patients they evaluated together was a middle aged woman who had come in for the removal of a mole. Though it was benign, it was quite large on her chin and she felt that it negatively affected her appearance and her confidence. Dr. Herrmann performed the procedure with a local anesthetic and Dr. Torrico assisted. “This is her face, so we want it to be as close to perfect as we can get it,” he said as he decided to redo a suture. As Dr. Herrmann worked, Dr. Torrico asked him questions about such things as the equipment he was using and his choice in suture size. She also asked about the cost of the supplies. Dr. Herrmann says that this is what makes a good doctor, “we always like to learn.” 

Drs. Hermann and Torrico worked together treating scores of patients during our mission week including those with scarce economic resources, hospital workers, and members of the community’s most prestigious families. They saw numerous skin problems and treated each patient—sometimes performing a procedure, or prescribing medication, and always recommending sunscreen. In a true spirit of partnership, Dr. Torrico has taken on the responsibility of follow-up care for patients who need it. This will be in addition to her usual responsibilities, as she is typically only in Cliza two days a week.

As he looks back on his time in the clinic with Dr. Torrico, the other medical professionals from Cliza, and the patients, Dr. Hermann says, “It’s been a great trip. One of the better ones I’ve had in terms of the relationships with the hospital staff and the patient mix.” He smiles, and again says, “It’s been a great trip!”