Jesus Esquivel, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist and Medical Director, International Oncology Initiatives, and National Director for HIPEC Research for Cancer Treatment Centers of America®. Since 2007 Dr. Esquivel has been volunteering his time annually to travel to Mexico to educate the oncology community on cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)— a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy treatment that is delivered directly to the abdomen during surgery—and to provide the treatment to patients who would otherwise not have access to that therapy.
What initially inspired your decision to travel to Mexico to share your expertise and treat patients?
My mentor, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, had an extra machine to deliver HIPEC, and he told me that he would like to donate it to Mexico. I discussed this with Dr. Rolando Garcia-Matus, a surgical oncologist interested in HIPEC who practices at a regional hospital in Oaxaca, Mexico. In December 2007, Dr. Garcia-Matus scheduled two HIPEC cases for my first visit, and that is how the program was born. Both of the patients I treated on my initial visit are doing well today.
Can you describe a “typical” excursion and what you might experience?
Each year at the conclusion of the workshop, we choose the next location. Ideally, we travel to a different place every year; however, there are limited hospitals in Mexico that can sustain peritoneal surface malignancy and HIPEC programs. Consequently, we have gone twice to Oaxaca, and next year will be again in Guadalajara. We typically arrive in Mexico on a Wednesday, do surgery on Thursday, give talks on Friday and fly back on Saturday. Our hosts typically also try to include a social program on Friday night so that we learn about the town that we are visiting.
What inspires you in your work with patients and providers in Mexico?
Giving back is contagious. Our trips to Mexico have been met with great enthusiasm, passion and dedication from Mexican surgical oncologists who are interested in developing HIPEC programs. So far we have helped create five HIPEC programs that provide an excellent service to their communities.
How is your work in Mexico an extension of your overall commitment to patients and your passion for what you do?
In my opinion, even more important than the treatment we are providing is the opportunity to teach and motivate other physicians to take on this difficult problem of peritoneal surface malignancies. Life and careers are short; each of us can do only so many operations, and we have to train young surgeons so that they can teach future generations in due time—ideally providing ever-better care and posing newer questions as our understanding of this disease process improves.