|Vol. 22, No. 4||March 1, 2000|
Exploring Initiatives Around the WorldWarren Whitehead, assistant vice president of international services at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, says the hospital's recent donation of a catheterization lab to Aruba is just a first step for the hospital. "We're exploring other potential initiatives around the world," he explains. "Our partnership with Aruba will serve as the prototype for additional constructive strategic partnerships in locations and under conditions that make good sense for all involved."
While not all future partnerships will be modeled on the one in Aruba, Whitehead insists that St. Luke's will bring enhanced medical services, research capacities and educational exchange to the partnering nations' medical communities. One of the ultimate goals for the hospital's interaction, he said, "is to improve the communities' health status." Whitehead is currently investigating opportunities in Mexico, Italy, Brazil, and Central America.
"The key," he says, "is being involved in places where St. Luke's is invited and has a long history of training physicians or providing care to patients in a particular region for a long period of time. We go as partners, not as a unilateral force to extract patients.
"Another component is the active participation of our medical staff partners. Much of what we do, both here in Houston and internationally, is physician driven and will remain so."
Technology will also facilitate future partnerships. Telemedicine - that will take advantage of the Internet, fiber optics, and ISDN lines - will allow doctors, patients, and others to share information across international boundaries. Chief among Whitehead's ideas for using technology is an interactive symposium with medical societies from around the world.
"There are countless opportunities to expand and share our technical and medical knowledge, as well as learn from the global medical community," says Whitehead. "Our goal is to have several virtual extensions of St. Luke's in some format throughout the world. These extensions would serve as educational, investigative, and clinical resources for the global community, ultimately enhancing the health status of our constituents, whether from Houston or parts beyond."
St. Luke's is also working to help establish the Raul Velasco Endowment for Liver Disease. For 29 years, Raul Velasco hosted the widely popular Latin American weekly variety show, Siempre En Domingo, broadcast worldwide. But in early 1998, Mr. Velasco's deteriorating health, due to hepatitis C, brought him to St Luke's where he received a liver transplant. Mr. Velasco and his partners at St. Luke's hope to raise $20 million to fund research and education about liver disease. The money will go toward research and physician and patient education, both in Texas and Mexico.
These activities will build upon St. Luke's focus on delivering personalized, culturally sensitive care to its international patients. This emphasis on making patients feel comfortable and at ease, combined with St. Luke's high-tech, comprehensive, patient-centered medical care, has encouraged patients from more than 80 countries to seek care at the hospital over the last three decades.
- CHRIS FERRIS
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