Latino Doctors, Culturally and Intellectually Akin


In the absence of family, friendships are often times formed. In so many ways, the paths of these Latino doctors have crossed and they have become an extended family. Some are hundreds, even thousands of miles away from home, but they all ended up here, together. The likeness in their struggles, language, culture and profession has produced an inherent affinity that permits them to readily give each other support and encouragement but most importantly, a family away from home.

Many of them met through their wives, kids, mutual friends and others through their work. Through these connections the group has continually grown and when they all get together there can be upwards of fifty people that show up to celebrate a birthday, holiday or an important date. Their gatherings are jubilant celebrations filled with laughter, exotic foods and rich traditions from all over Latin America. Everyone brings their own flair to the events that resemble somewhat of a festival of nations and each family takes turns hosting at their home.

All of their stories are different but their challenges are very similar. Attaining a medical degree in another counrty and transferring it to the U.S. is not an easy task as it takes several years to train for and obtain U.S. licensing. The process is very expensive and extremely time-consuming as it requires a series of exams for which extensive preparation is needed, polishing of the English language, as well as a medical residency in addition to the years of medical school they have already invested outside the U.S.

Despite the struggles, their determination to follow their dreams has gotten them where they are today. They have all worked extremely hard to enter and thrive in the U.S. labor market and Las Cruces has welcomed them and offered a place where they are able exercise their medical expertise without giving up their native language and culture. 



Luis Colato, MD

Cardiologist  |  Country: El Salvador

Dr. Colato comes from a family of doctors. Both his father and brother are also cardiologists; his mother practices internal medicine and both of his parents are still living in El Salvador. Dr. Colato, his wife Mercedes and their three children have been living in Las Cruces for 3 years and in the U.S. for 11 years. Currently, Dr. Colato works with Dr. Guido Leon at Southwest Cardiovascular Center.

What is the biggest difference you see in healthcare industry between your county and the U.S.?

No healthcare system is perfect. Back home, health care is free for everyone, but extremely limited to what diagnostic studies or treatments we can offer to patients. Here in the U.S., we have plenty more diagnostic studies and treatment options available to patients, which in turn improves outcomes, but with a much higher price tag.

What do you miss most from home?

I miss my family of course, but I also miss the authentic food and the beaches.

Keeping all your struggles in mind, is there anything you would do differently? Would you do it all over again?

Nothing different, and yes, I would do it again if needed. It is a big struggle, but a great adventure, you have to cherish every moment of it.

What do you enjoy most about Las Cruces?

I really enjoy the weather and the landscape here. We’ve also met some wonderful people that have made us feel very welcomed.

What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

I enjoy time with my family for sure. I also like the extreme sports and the outdoors. Some of my friends and I have recently taken up off-roading. I also enjoy surfing when we can make it out to a beach or enjoy a weekend racing cars and burning rubber at Arroyo Seco Raceway.



Hernan Alvarez, MD

Psychiatry  |  Country: Lima, Peru

Dr. Alvarez and his wife, Patricia, came to the United States in 2001. After being here only few years, Dr. Alvarez decided that if he was to have a shot at passing the exams necessary to get his U.S. licensing, he would have to return to Peru where he was able to put 100% of his efforts to prepare. He was there an entire year, which he dedicated to studying, and in 2005 he passed the exams. Upon his return to the U.S. he settled in the East Coast. He did his adult psychiatric residency in New York and his child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. Today, Dr. Alvarez, his wife and three children have been living in Las Cruces for the past 3 years. He provides psychiatric service to adults and children at the Ben Archer Health Center in Las Cruces. 

What do you miss most from home?

What I miss the most from home is my culture, family and friends.

What is the biggest difference you see in healthcare industry between your county and the U.S.?

The biggest difference I see is in the funding and money spent on health in the U.S., including the Medicare and Medicaid programs not available in Peru.

Keeping all your struggles in mind, is there anything you would do differently? Would you do it all over again?

It has being a very difficult path for me to be able to practice medicine in the U.S. but it is worth the effort to achieve the goal of practicing medicine in this country. The Latino population is getting bigger and they need providers that understand their culture and speak their primary language, especially in psychiatry. And YES I would do all over again!

What do you enjoy most about Las Cruces?

I enjoy the weather, the welcoming people, the opportunity for me to work with a huge Latino population, the outdoors, the many activities that you can join and the richness of the Latino culture that is maintained generation after generation. 

What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

On my spare time, I like to spend time with my three wonderful kids and my lovely wife. I also like off-roading, biking, going to the speed raceway, and soccer and volleyball.



Roberto Duran, III, MD

Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Hospice/Palliative Medicine

Country: Chihuahua, Mexico

Dr. Duran followed in this father’s footsteps when he decided to become a physician. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in El Paso and fellowships in Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Currently, he lives in Las Cruces with his wife Luly and three children where he owns and operates Southwest Center on Aging (SWCOA). The center currently has four Nurse Practitioners and a total staff of 13 employees. Dr. Duran works closely with several nursing homes and hospice where he is Medical Director. Dr. Duran is also Regional Medical Director of two nursing home companies for New Mexico and Arizona. SWCOA recently open SeniorCare@Home, a specialized practice that provides state of the art home care for geriatric patients.

What do you miss most from home?

My family; we have always been very close. They live in Chihuahua, but that’s one of the reason we moved from Houston to be close to the border and be able to see them more frequently.

What is the biggest difference you see in healthcare industry between your county and the U.S.?

In Mexico we do have very good health care. Unfortunately, only few people have access to it and those that don’t will usually go to government affiliated hospitals where the care is not optimal. 

Keeping all your struggles in mind, is there anything you would do differently? Would you do it all over again?

I would definitely do it all over again. It has been a great journey and I’ve enjoyed every step of it. I am very grateful to this country for giving me the opportunity to do what I love, practice medicine and take care of geriatric patients.

What do you enjoy most about Las Cruces?

You cannot beat the weather! We have made good friends and my children enjoy everything this community has to offer. 

What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

I love to play golf. It relaxes me when I need to recharge. Unfortunately, sometimes it becomes pretty stressful when you have a bad round.



Alejandro Arzabala, Jr., MD

Pulmonary Critical Care  |  Country: USA, Texas

Dr. Alejandro Arzabala was born in El Paso, TX where he attended high school at Eastwood and where both his parents are engineers. He recieved a medical degree from Universidad Autonoma de Cd. Juarez in 2004. He specializes in the field of Pulmonary Critical Care. Dr. Arzabala is affiliated with MountainView Regional Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center. Last year Dr. Arzabala and his partner, Dr. Orellana opened Lung Specialists of Las Cruces.  There are currently three physicians in their practice and seven staff members. He and his wife Adriana have three children.

What do you enjoy the most about your profession?

What I enjoy most about my profession is improving my patients' quality of life.

Keeping all your struggles in mind, is there anything you would do differently? Would you do it all over again?

I would not change a thing.  All the struggles and sacrifices I encountered along the way, have helped me more than hindered me. They have helped me keep things in perspective and never forget what a privilege it is to practice medicine.  I would definitely do it all over.

Have you or will you ever considered moving back Texas to practice medicine?

No, in the short time I have been in Las Cruces, I have become too attached. 

What do you enjoy most about Las Cruces?

I enjoy the tight knit community and small town feel. 

What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

My family and I enjoy horses. We are all very familiar with them and we enjoy riding and racing them.



Jose Rivera Guerrero, MD

Cristina Perez Gomez, MD

Internal Medicine  |  Country: Dominican Republic

Dr. Jose Rivera comes from a family of professionals. His father is an engineer and his mother is a clinical laboratory bioanalyst. His is an internal medicine physician who completed his training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is the eldest of four siblings and most of his family lives in his home country of the Dominican Republic.  

Dr. Cristina Perez is also from the Dominican Republic and, like her husband, is an internal medicine physician. She completed her training at Mount Sinai school of Medicine as well.  Dr. Perez has a background in psychiatry.  She is the eldest of three siblings and after losing her mother at an early age, she has been the cornerstone of her family. 

The couple has been married for eight years and they have a daughter, one year-old Isabela. In 2006, they lived in the New York area while they did their residency. They have both been associated with New Mexico Primary Care Group here in Las Cruces since 2011.

What is the biggest difference you see in healthcare industry between your country and the U.S.?

It is hard to compare. Obviously the resources are very limited in our country. Patients do not have access to what we consider in the U.S. standard of care. However, the Dominican Republic has good characteristics. For example, time with the patients is less regulated compared to the U.S. 

What do you miss most from home?

We both miss the beautiful beaches. 

Keeping all your struggles in mind, is there anything you would do differently? Would you do it all over again?

No regrets.  I can’t think of anything more rewarding than saving someone life.

What do you enjoy most about Las Cruces?

We enjoy the outdoors and the peacefulness of the area.

What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

We enjoy spending time together as a family. We usually relax at home or go on road trips. We also enjoy spending time with our friends.

Winter 2015


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