AA Medical Store serves healthcare professionals all around the world. To put it into perspective, last year, AA Medical Store sold medical devices and equipment to 136 different countries outside the United States. Tens of thousands of doctors/surgeons use this equipment in thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities. With this equipment, these doctors/surgeons all around the world will end up operating on hundreds of thousands of patients—the real customers in the end. Helping to improve healthcare worldwide is a very satisfying occupation. You are doing great things every day for people all over the world. Every day you are changing lives, making the world a better and healthier place.
It is even more gratifying when you get the chance to interview one of the doctors who personally use the equipment which you provide. Dr. Raúl Santamaría Villacís is a world-renowned physician in Ecuador and hospital owner. He has been a valued customer of AA Medical Store for many years. Dr. Raúl was kind enough to do an exclusive interview with AA Medical Store communications staff. Dr. Raúl touched upon his practice, relationship with his patients, the reasons he became a doctor, his successes, and his relationship with AA Medical Store!
AA Medical: Can you tell me a little about yourself? Why did you choose to become a doctor?
Dr. Raúl: From a very young age I had an interest in medical sciences; for the way a person, a human being, can help other human beings. It was a great choice to use the talents that God blessed me with to go out and improve society by serving others in the healthcare industry.
AA: What is your primary specialty? Secondary specialty? Why did you choose these?
DR: After finishing my primary and secondary studies in a town near Guayaquil, Ecuador, I studied at the University of Guayaquil. I graduated as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, then I did my specialty in digestive surgery. Later, I specialized in laparoscopy and then had a subspecialty in bariatric surgery. I saw that bariatric surgery conjugated with my desire to help obese and diabetic people. This was a field that very few entered. In July of 2002, I began doing bariatric surgeries, being the first to carry out the simplified bypass in Ecuador.
AA: What do you like most about being a physician in Ecuador? What do you like least about it?
DR: In Ecuador, I like that it is easy to connect with the different medical facilities. The environment is small, and those of us who studied in the 1990s trained under the people who now hold the managerial positions in the hospitals, government, or special positions that can refer a certain facility to practice medicine. What is difficult about practicing in Ecuador is the ability to get access to medical equipment. Importing the equipment is expensive, and there is not a lot of post-sale service, such as repairs if necessary. Very few people specialize in repairing medical equipment in Ecuador. If the equipment purchased loses functionality, it can only be repaired if you know someone. Otherwise, you must buy new equipment or import spare parts, which is also expensive. Therefore, you must find a company that is reliable and provides some sort of post-sale service.
AA: What is your best experience as a practicing physician?
DR: I have had many pleasant experiences. There have been instances when I have left the operating room after a procedure satisfied with my job, and people (family members) have told me, “Doctor, God Bless you! You have our prayers.” I have even received calls from patients that I do not even remember. These people have a lot of gratitude and are so thankful, not only for me, but for the large group of operating room staff members behind me. I am thankful for them as well. They work to do their best and it is their vocation to serve the people of Ecuador as well. They do not treat them just like any patient, but like family.
AA: What was your most difficult case? How did you handle it?
DR: Probably the most difficult case was a bariatric surgery with a gastric fistula in a gastric sleep. There was a leak and we had to place endoprosthesis by endoscopic route and wait for the results. After, there was a total recession of the stomach, and we had to make the esophagus and jejunum a stricture. One of the most complex and it is important to have an excellent image.
AA: What type of relationship do you establish with your patients?
DR: I have a very personal relationship with my patients. I listen to them. I hear them. Because of this, I learn so much about them and see the good in each one. This type of relationship is essential. My daughter is also a doctor, and I have asked her questions like, “what color were your patient’s eyes that you operated on today,” and “what was their name?” Knowing the answers to these types of questions implies that you have that “personal” relationship, which makes the work mean that much more.
AA: What has your experience with AA Medical Store been like?
DR: AA Medical Store has been my source for equipment for many years now. I first discovered them on their website and saw the great service that they were able to give. I took a risk in having commercial relations via the internet and by phone. Even receiving the equipment was a risk. After that first time, I continued to choose AA Medical Store because that first experience was a good one. They gave great services and continue to give great services today. I was first turned on to AA Medical Store and Stryker products when I did my specialty at the Gastro Center of Brazil with Dr. Almino Ramos, who has a Stryker operating room. When I started operating in that OR, I fell in love with Stryker and their image quality. They were using the 1288, and, later, I bought the 1188 from AA Medical Store. I have used them to upgrade my systems since then and I only can say good things!
AA: How has the equipment that you have purchased from AA Medical Store helped your practice?
DR: In the many years we have been working with AA Medical Store, the refurbished equipment that we have purchased has been great. There is a level of credibility and trust that we have with the equipment we have purchased. It does not give us problems in the operating room, there is a warranty and guarantee from their sale representatives, and the equipment quality is great! I have had no problems with working with AA Medical Store, and more importantly, the equipment image quality is fantastic! Because of this, the level of complications in my hospital is the lowest that exists in Ecuador, and one of the lowest in all Latin America. This has led to the AIMIS, the American Institute of Minimally Invasive Surgery, certification of our hospital. We have also been certified by IFSO, the International Federal for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorder. These accolades and the other successes we have had are partly due to using a great company like AA Medical Store.
AA: What is your impression of AA Medical Store and the employees that you have dealt with when purchasing equipment?
DR: The employees I have had contact with at AA Medical Store, both in Chicago and Miami, have been excellent! I trust them with personal financial information, passwords, access to accounts, and more. They are reasonable, understanding, and send quality equipment that help both myself and patients in our operating rooms.
AA: Is there anything else you would like to say about yourself, your practice, or your experience with AA Medical Store?
DR: I am very proud of my medical institution in Ecuador. To be able to say that surgeons from all over the world have operated in my institution is fantastic. Especially surgeons that I have referenced like Dr. Almino Cardoso Ramos, the President of the IFSO. Then to receive the best compliments from surgeons like Dr. Almino is an even greater feeling! To hear our institution has the best image quality for laparoscopy throughout Ecuador and even throughout most of Latin America has been a great satisfaction. Local doctors tell me all the time that my equipment at Hospital Santamaría has the best image quality in Guayaquil. That praise is so gratifying and great to personally see during all my operations.