Culture

This Argentine Doctor Saved Millions Of Lives With A Groundbreaking Surgery And Now He Has His Own Google Doodle

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Google has become well known for it’s regularly tributed to some of the most famed people in history. Unsurprisingly, Latinos make up a massive bundle of Google’s over 900 doodles.

And today, Google is honoring an Argentine doctor who contributed one of the most commonly used medical procedures to the world – saving millions of lives in the process.

The legacy of Argentine surgeon Rene Favaloro is being remembered by a Google Doodle today on what would have been his 96th birthday.

Credit: @CleClinicNews / Twitter

René Favaloro, a pioneering Argentine heart surgeon, is being remembered with a Google Doodle for his contributions to coronary bypass surgery on what would have been his 96th birthday.

Born in La Plata, Argentina, in 1923, Favaloro started his career as a doctor in the farming community of Jacinto Arauz, where he built his own operating room, trained nurses and set up a local blood bank.

In 1962 he moved to the United States where he pioneered coronary bypass surgery, a technique used to restore blood flow to the heart when the vessel supplying it is blocked.

René Favaloro was a pioneer in cardiac surgery and his discovery has saved countless lives.

Credit: @American_Heart / Twitter

Favaloro developed a method using a vein from the leg, implanting it to bypass the blockage in the coronary artery. He performed the first operation of this kind on a 51 year-old woman at the Cleveland Clinic in 1967. The historic operation was a success and the procedure has saved countless lives since then.

Today, coronary artery bypass surgery is one of the most common operations. Doctors performed 213,700 in the U.S. in 2011.

But who was René Favaloro?

Credit: @newscientist / Twitter

Rene Favaloro was born in 1923 in La Plata, Argentina and went on to earn a degree in medicine from the National University of La Plata in 1948.

He worked as a doctor in his home country for a time before moving to the US to study thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Cleveland Clinic

Favaloro returned to Argentina in 1972, where he would later found his own medical institution, the Favaloro Foundation.

While Favaloro himself was reluctant to be known as the “father” of coronary bypass surgery, his work played a fundamental role in introducing the procedure into the clinical arena.

Of his legacy, Favaloro wrote: “’We’ is more important than ‘I.’ In medicine, the advances are always the result of many efforts accumulated over the years.”

Today, the Favaloro Foundation serves patients based on their medical needs rather than their ability to pay and tecaches Dr Favaloro’s innovative techniques to doctors all over Latin America.

Sadly, his clinic pushed him into debt and he took his own life in 2000.

Credit: @Bravp_MD / Twitter

He took his own life on July 29, 2000 at the age of 77. The day before his death he sent a letter to then-Argentine President Fernando de la Rúa (who died three days ago) asking him for help to secure funding for his foundation, which had become mired in debt as a result of a national economic crisis.

Many took to Twitter to share in their Argentine pride.

Credit: @CleClinicNews / Twitter

Many were excited to see such an important Argentine figure getting global recognition for this contributions to the world.

While other doctors expressed how much they owe to Dr. Favaloro.

Credit: @TIME / Twitter

Without the work of Dr. Favaloro, many doctors pointed out that we could be living in a world where there are a lot more preventable deaths because of heart disease.

READ: 25 Times Latinos Have Graced The Google Doodle

Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

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Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

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Justice may soon be on the horizon for as many as 20 victims who say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, between 2004 and 2016. Priests Nicola Corradi, 83, Horacio Corbacho, 59 and a former gardener Armando Gomez, 49, are all facing charges of sexually abusing deaf children in their care. The shocking case has sent shock waves through Argentina’s society and the Catholic church. The terrible acts occurred at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, a Catholic school for deaf children that was founded in 1995 and in which Corradi headed until his arrest in November 2016.

People in Argentina are looking for answers and are asking how this horrendous crime could have happened?

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The two priests and gardener appeared in court Monday to face their long-awaited charges of sexual abuse. The three men face prison sentences of up to 20 years in some cases, up to 50 years in others. The trial, which is expected to last two months, will hear testimony from 13 victims who suffered negligence and abuse between the ages of four and 17, relating to 43 offenses.

News of the abuse at the school broke at the end of 2016 and created a huge scandal. The scandal grew when it became clear that Rev. Corradi was behind the charges. It has been reported that Corradi was accused of similar allegations at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy. Pope Francis, an Argentine, has since been notified that Corradi was behind both allegations but has yet to comment publicly despite on the matter despite his close affiliation. 

There has already been one sentencing in wake of the scandal. Jorge Bordón, an institute employee, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year on charges of rape, sexual touching, and corrupting minors.

One of the victims has spoken up about his emotions going into the trial and his search for justice. 

Credit: @news1130 / Twitter

Ezequiel Villalonga,18, is one of the victims of the pedophile priests, says that he was preyed upon at the school as a minor. Villalonga is deaf which makes the case even more heartbreaking. Now, he’s getting the chance to tell his story as the trial goes to court.

“I think that everything in the Church is fake. Everything they made us read, recite, the way (they said) people should live,” Villalonga told the AP in sign language right before the start of the priests’ trial on Monday. “I think they lie and that they’re demonic.”

Villalonga was sent to the school when he was 4 years old after his mother found out her son was deaf when he was only seven months old. For many of those years at Provo, he was only allowed to go home on weekends and spent the majority of his days there inside a massive building with little to no contact. Despite the school’s specialized mission in helping deaf children, he didn’t teach him how to speak during his time there. It was until he was an adult he learned sign language. 

“Life there was terrible. We didn’t learn anything, we couldn’t speak to each other because we didn’t know sign language,” he said. “We would write without knowing what it said, and when we asked other classmates, no one understood anything.”

Things haven’t been easier for his mom, Natalia, who says her family has had to pause their lives due to the case and the horrors that have happened to her son. 

“I am super-nervous, anxious and I hope for justice; that this ends soon so my son can move on to a new stage because this is very hard,” said Natalia Villalonga told the Washington Post.

While the trial is just getting started, the trauma and disbelief for many of the young victims have gone on for too long.

Credit: @Crux / Twitter

Paola Gonzalez’s daughter, Milagros, who is now 16 years old, had been one of those 20 abused while attending the Institute. Gonzalez was shocked and angry when she found out what had happened to her daughter at what she considered at one point, a prestigious institution. 

“You should have seen her little body when she went into (the Provolo). She was so small,” Gonzalez told the AP. “I don’t understand, I can’t imagine such evil. How could they do so much harm to such a fragile creature?” 

READ: A Brazilian Gang Leader Thought He Could Use A ‘Scooby-Doo’ Tactic To Escape Prison

Doctors Are Failing To Diagnose Black Women With PCOS

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Doctors Are Failing To Diagnose Black Women With PCOS

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“I could barely stand, it was like my whole body had shut down”, said 22-year-old Courtney Boateng.  “I had to change pads every 45 minutes, I was bleeding through my clothes at home, and I could feel all these massive clots coming out of me. I could have filled buckets [with my blood]. It was the worst period of my life.”  This was the traumatic menstrual experience that ended up lasting for over two weeks and prompted Boateng to seek help with a medical professional. At the emergency appointment, the doctor told her that her symptoms were just related to her stress and her weight and sent her home with ibuprofen. It took her five gynecologist appointments over nine months for her to finally be referred for an ultrasound and ultimately diagnosed with PCOS. This experience is a common reality many Black women have in the healthcare system.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects from either 2% to 20% of women aged 18 to 44–depending on how one defines the criteria. PCOS is a set of symptoms caused by an elevated level of androgens (male hormones like testosterone) in a woman’s body that cause an abnormal amount of cysts or sacs on a woman’s ovaries. These hormones cause everything from prolonged menstruation cycles to no menstruation, to premature balding, to the appearance of hair in unusual places on a woman’s body, to excessive and sudden weight gain. It also often comes with painful, heavy-flow periods that can be extremely disruptive to a woman’s everyday life.

Not only that, but PCOS is the leading cause of infertility among women, causing over 75% of cases having to do with ovulation disruption.

An estimated 50% of annual PCOS cases go undiagnosed in the U.S., with many placing the blame on the ignorance of primary care physicians.

The reason that this disorder is so under- and misdiagnosed by doctors is that, often, many of PCOS’s symptoms (like abnormal periods, weight gain, and mood fluctuations) are mistaken for symptoms of stress, puberty, or sometimes, just chalked up to a bad diet. And perhaps above all, PCOS is a disorder that occurs only in women, a class of people that doctors notoriously don’t take as seriously.

Many patients also suspect that PCOS isn’t taken as seriously by doctors because it’s most likely to occur in overweight patients, with up to 80% of women suffering from PCOS also falling to the “obese” category. However, obesity is a symptom of PCOS, not a cause; the elevated levels of androgen hormones in a woman’s body make her blood sugar more resistant to insulin, making her more prone to weight gain. This also makes a woman with PCOS more prone to coming down with Type 2 Diabetes–a common condition associated with the disorder.

Many people believe that doctors’ responses to women’s health complaints are rooted in internalized, out-dated beliefs about “hysterical women”, a historical catchall mental disorder diagnosis that women were commonly diagnosed with starting in the 17th century. Still, these outdated beliefs about the fragility of female mental health persist today, with women being more likely to be prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications than men are (as opposed to pain medication or further testing) when they visit the doctor with pain.

To make matters worse, black patients are often (erroneously) thought by doctors to be more tolerant to pain than their white peers, as is exemplified in a 2012 study that found that black patients were 22% less likely than white patients to be prescribed pain medication by their doctors.

This theory about doctors’ beliefs was further proven when a study was conducted on 200 white medical students and residents. The students were quizzed on multiple old wives’ tales about different races, like the old one: “black people have ‘thicker skin’ than white people”. Half of the medical students thought one or more of the false statements were true, which gives weight to the theory that doctors don’t take black pain as seriously.

The one-two punch of being a woman and being black makes the doctor’s office an especially stressful place for an Afro-Latina to be.

This flippancy towards women’s health problems is exasperated in health care professionals’ treatment of women of color. PCOS is no more common in white women than black women, but black women are vastly less likely to be accurately diagnosed and treated for the disorder (as with many other health disorders).

So, unfortunately, like many health issues, black women are less likely to be taken seriously by doctors when it comes to PCOS. This is a particularly frustrating reality seeing as PCOS is treatable, with symptoms greatly improving through largely inexpensive lifestyle fixes such as adding diet and exercise programs into their daily regimens or simply taking hormonal birth control pills.

But as more and more studies bring to light the widespread reality of implicit bias among doctors, many black women are becoming frustrated at how they seem to be the ones getting the brunt of their doctors’ indifference. Although ovarian cysts can be detected via ultrasound, it’s often difficult for black women to be referred to ultrasounds by their doctors who aren’t taking their pain seriously.

Many experts blame doctors’ failure of black women on their implicit bias.

Implicit bias is defined by PubMed as “a negative evaluation of a person on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race or gender” caused by “ associations outside conscious awareness”. That means that some doctors may misdiagnose or under-diagnosed patients based on racist or sexist conclusions that they’re not even aware they’re making.

This problem of implicit bias among the medical community is exasperated by the lack of diversity among doctors, with only 5% being Latino (regardless of the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S.), and only 4% of doctors in the U.S. being black.

Linda Blount, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, is very matter-of-fact when describing the realities that implicit bias has at the doctor’s office: “We want to think that physicians just view us as a patient, and they’ll treat everyone the same, but they don’t,” she says. “Their bias absolutely makes its way into the exam room.”

Somewhat surprisingly, this bias transcends social and economic factors and has little to do with class. “When you look at inequalities in healthcare, you see a lot of studies tying the problems to race and poverty, but there’s not a lot about educated, insured black women who are not poor”, says Bette Parks Sacks, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC BerkeleySacks. “Yet infant mortality rates for black women with a college degree are higher than those for white women with just a high school education.”

The under-diagnosis of PCOS in black women is just another example of the way the American healthcare system is letting down black women.

Because of the structural racism within the healthcare community, black women are often told that their very real symptoms are “all in their heads” or simply stress-related.

The most dangerous facet of this pattern is that once physicians decide that a patient’s symptoms are simply stress-related, they stop searching for another diagnosis. This leaves many Afro-Latinas struggling with their PCOS alone, believing that their long and intense periods, hair loss, weight gain, insulin resistance, and often, mood-related disorders, are simply a symptom of self-induced stress.

It’s time that women of color stop being told that all they need is an Advil and a yoga regimen to improve the sometimes debilitating symptoms of PCOS. What they need instead is doctors to get real to the internalized racism they may enacting, and start taking black women’s pain seriously.

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