THE POWER OF BELIEF
“Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.”
Over the years, I have gotten to know many special patients who mean the world to me. They search for truth and healing and I hope and pray that my experience, knowledge, and devotion can serve them well. There is no greater honor in life for me than walking alongside you who are suffering and on the road to recovery.
I have always believed that everything in life is possible…that in spite of obstacles and barriers, we can always achieve our goals and our dreams. Born and raised to an immigrant family and being the son of an air force pilot and presidential candidate, forced our family to live and learn in multiple cities and continents. This made me fortunate to have had a diversified education and to see a world filled with many cultural, social, and spiritual beliefs.
I was also blessed with an amazing teacher, “Kika”, the beautiful soul wearing glasses in the photo above. She taught my class of four students for many years and saw the potential in me before many others did. Most importantly, she helped me realize what I can become. This came true for me after serving in the United Nation’s Multinational Force and Observers stationed at the Sinai Peninsula when I was 16 years old and then receiving my degree in medicine at 23 years of age.
While serving with the MFO in Sinai Peninsula, we received the Noble Peace Prize for our peacekeeping work at the border between Egypt and Israel and for helping “conduct the affairs of nations in a more peaceful and just manner.” Due to the remoteness and desolation of the region as well as security concerns, we had little access to internet. I spent many nights sleeping in the desert observing stars in the same area where David defeated Goliath; it is also where I saved a man’s life.
I was waiting at a bus stop in a small village near the city of Be’er Sheva, when I noticed a car and what seemed to be a small fire near its fuel tank. I ran to stop the driver, who was confused initially, grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him out of the car before it burst into flames. The accident nearly took our lives, but always reminds me that our presence on this Earth can make a difference.
After returning home from deployment, I was ready to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. I attended the New Granada Military School of Medicine and was soon providing compulsory medical services in underprivileged rural areas; this is where I observed a miracle and understood medicine was my calling in life.
It was at San José Hospital, located in a rural village situated on the mountains of Colombia, when I attended a 15-year-old patient who was found in labor at only 30 weeks of gestation. The baby was born with underdeveloped lungs as a result of the delivery having many complications; he was unable to breathe. The other attending doctor, who was the Director of the Hospital, believed the baby had no chance of survival and ordered us to not resuscitate. The mother, however, grabbed my arm and pleaded with me to save her child.
Guided by the mother’s wish and my belief in life, I went against the doctor’s orders and took the baby in my arms to the room used for neonatal resuscitation. On the way, my two-day, sleepless nights of work manifested itself through a pain in my chest that radiated throughout my body. In that moment, however, I felt the power, responsibility, and determination to care for this life, and I asked the Almighty for the knowledge and insight to handle the situation. With tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath and started to put into practice all my clinical knowledge. I first performed all the basic neonatal CPR procedures I knew, including the use of a suctioning machine to aspirate the baby’s airway before doing intubation, and administration of fluids, antibiotics, and other medications via umbilical catheter, as well as the use of a CPAP device I constructed from IV tubing and buretrol (I have to admit that this was a medical invention taught to me at another rural hospital by a neonatologist.) After doing everything I could for this baby, what happened next was truly a miracle. I observed the reflection of G*d as He gave the child his first breath of life.
The nurses were in another room with the mother, but when I came back with the baby, they were astonished. They all wanted to know how I was able to use the hospital’s suctioning device, since it had not worked for over eight years. I tried to operate the machine again to show them, but it would not turn on. It was in that moment I recognized the power of infinite possibilities and that my pursuit of knowledge was going to help save lives. I was able to transfer the baby to a higher level of care, NICU, and he survived with no further medical complications. I was told years later that the mother had named him “Andreas”, after me.
Before completing my service at the rural hospital, the patients and residents of the community had collected more than 500 signatures, petitioning the Governor of State to intervene and appoint me as a permanent attendant.
I always had a strong passion for the clinical work that I do, but I also dreamed of contributing to research. I saw myself working in a place where I could have the opportunity to combine the two fields. After years of hard but gratifying work, I was finally recruited by Baylor College of Medicine, the powerhouse for research and disease treatments.
I started working as a research fellow in urologic oncology, studying the use of TGF-β as a plasma biomarker for predicting prognosis in patients undergoing radical prostatectomy. I also studied the expression of TGF-β and its receptors in transitional cell carcinoma, and our experiments were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer. I remember spending many nights in the laboratory along with my best friend and postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Sharokh Shariat, who has been repeatedly recognized as one of the leading uro-oncologists worldwide, and is currently a professor and chairman of the Urology Department at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
Once I completed the fellowship, I became interested in stem cell biology and gene therapy. I joined Dr. David Shine’s lab to work on CNS tumors, where we studied the delivery of vectors carrying immunomodulatory genes in glioblastomas and the uses of gene therapy to produce tumoricidal effects; I also studied the role of neurotrophic factors in CNS degeneration. At that point, I was working with rats and unfortunately, due to flooding and the inclement tropical storm, my rats died, and I lost months of work. I was forced to move into a different area, and I was offered another postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics and Cardiovascular Genetics at the Texas Medical Center, working with Professor Dr. John Belmont and Dr. Jeffrey Towbin, the founders of the first Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic in America. This is where I developed a special interest for patients with chronic conditions, and I decided to do a residency in both internal medicine and pediatrics. It was a very competitive program, where again, I was in a class of just four students.
Sadly, before I would graduate, my father developed some health issues related to his prior diagnosis of prostate cancer from 20 years before. I chose to spend time with him and postpone some of my post-graduation goals.
When my dad was told he would only have a few years to live, my mother and I had to look elsewhere for hope. That’s when we started collaborating with experts outside of traditional medicine and delved into the world of alternative medicine. The approach helped my father enjoy more quality years of life and with dignity, which was very important to our family. This was my greatest motivation for studying integrative medicine, and I was inspired to expand my medical knowledge.
I traveled to Washington, D.C. and completed a four-year doctorate program at the revolutionary Capital University of Integrative Medicine. From 1996 to 2006, Capital University of Integrative Medicine was the only resident institution of higher education in the United States with a curriculum of widely diverse integrative health therapies. There, I studied with renowned alternative medicine experts, like biological dentist, Dr. Mark McClure; Dr. James Gordon, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma; Dr. Doris Rapp, pioneer in environmental health; Dr. Robert Atkins, known for the famous Atkins diet; Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, leader on neural therapy, autonomic response testing and mental field therapy, and natural treatments for Lyme disease; Dr. Robert Bardford, specialist in dark field microscope and founder of American Biologics; and many more!
With years of knowledge and experience, I was ready to build a place of healing for my patients. However, before I opened my integrative practice in Florida, my beautiful mother was diagnosed with dementia.
When the disease began affecting her ability to verbally communicate, my mother discovered an ability to paint (without any formal training or experience). She told us, “it comes to my head without knowing why.” Her work was displayed in museums and published by the Colombian Association of Psychiatry, with her first oil painting used as the cover of their magazine. As her illness progressed, so did her technique, to the point that, as in the painting on the cover, the search for texture through oil was imperative, given the need to recognize what she painted with touch. Her paintings, she would say, “have no title, because that’s what’s in my head above.”
Unfortunately, after my father passed away, my mother’s symptoms worsened as the deterioration of cells in her brain affected her memory and ability to paint. The portrait of her above was taken by our dear friend, Pepito, during this very challenging time in her life. While she has much to overcome on her journey, it’s when she feels beautiful that she understands and recognizes herself the most. This serves as the inspiration behind our meaningful whole beauty treatments from around the world, which are being performed at my clinic today.
Besides being a doctor for my patients, I also wanted to serve in the military, like my father. After intense training and sacrifice, I now serve as a Lieutenant Com