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In Alberta, Canada: Honduran developed lenses that detect nervous ‘tics’

With only 35 years, Alex Medina Escobar is a clinical investigator at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Alberta, Canada.

The Honduran doctor graduated as a general practitioner from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). He then studied Neurology, where he specialized in abnormal movements of the human body. Two years ago, he left his home country and now resides abroad. Ruta5 interviewed him, and this are some of the things he told us.

R5: Thank you for granting us this interview Alex. How did the opportunity to work and live in Alberta, Canada present to you?

AM: The opportunity arose after my specialization in Argentina. Upon returning to Honduras, I began a patient registry to study the epidemiology and characteristics of the patients I cared for, primarily those with Parkinson’s Disease. After a year, I managed to treat a significant number of patients, to the point that I decided to publish my findings in an International Journal of Abnormal Movements. This caught the attention of a geneticist at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, who invited me to collaborate with him and study the genetics of the Parkinson’s Disease in Honduras. Consequently, we were able to send a good number of samples to carry out genetic studies. After presenting these results at an international symposium, I met the Head of the Neurology Department at Hotchkiss Brain Institute, who offered me more training.

R5: What are your work activities at Hotchkiss Brain Institute?

AM: My major task is evaluating and treating patients in the Pediatric Clinic of Tourette Syndrome. We also evaluate other abnormal movements and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism and attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In addition to this, I evaluate and treat patients in the adult clinic for abnormal movements in multidisciplinary clinics, dedicated to advanced stages of Parkinson’s with neurostimulation and infusions therapies, refractory essential tremor, Huntington’s Chorea, other neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases.

R5: Did you work in Honduras before leaving to Canada?

AM: Yes, after graduating from my specialty I worked at the ‘Hospital Escuela Universitario’ for approximately 18 months.  Despite working in resource-limited settings, it is important to highlight the dedication of many of the physicians. They have managed to navigate in a system conditioned by external factors and promote different areas of medicine. Having worked in Honduras motivates me to return and try to innovate or promote areas.

R5: What are some of the satisfactions or achievements you have had so far?

AM: Some of the most rewarding moments have been participating and winning a neuroscience research grant from the Mental Health Institute, Canada; to develop lenses capable of detecting the magnitude and frequencies of tics with a group of researchers; to evaluate different voluntary motor components of children with Autism, Tremor and Tourette syndrome using robotic exoedletician. I have also published a dozen of articles in international journals (including studies in Honduras); wrote two editorials of the International Magazine of Abnormal.

R5: Do you think you have achieved your childhood goals?

AM: Absolutely NOT. I firmly believe that the goal would be met if I worked at a Honduran center dedicated to neurological diseases.  To work with international collaborations in research and clinic and, with a group of talented people who have exceptional abilities that live in my home country.

R5: In what way, would you like your story to impact other hopeless young people living in Honduras who one day yearn to overcome the barriers of money, time and space to shine on their own and succeed in life.

AM: Limitations are generated by fear. Many times, we do not leave our personal, social or professional comfort zone. Money and space are not limiting; however, time is. It is important to determine what we are passionate about, in order to be curious and seek answers. If this cycle is maintained, we can achieve any objective that we set ourselves.

R5: Was there something or someone in particular who inspired you to get where you are?

AM: My biggest motivation is my daughter and my grandfather. My grandfather had impressive intellectual ability. He lived in a remote town of Olancho, he moved to Tegucigalpa risking everything, seeking to expand his education.  During those days, many people had inaccessibility to and education due to economic, social, cultural and distance terms. Subsequently, he succeeded and graduated as a lawyer despite several barriers.

R5: What do you miss from Honduras? Do you plan to come back someday?

AM: What I miss the most are the ‘baleadas sencillas’ and drinking the coffee my mother made; habit that I adopted in Argentina, ironically where the qualities and fineness of the coffee are undoubtedly inferior to ours. I miss my office and my patients. Which, to my delight, many communicate with me by email or social platforms.

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