Medical Mission Update #2 – How Is Dr. Ricardo Lazala Preparing Mount Sinai For The Mission?

As I prepare to join the Mount Sinai team for a Medical Mission to the Dominican Republic, I wanted to learn more about this philanthropic effort to treat patients with heart valve disease. For that reason, I contacted Dr. Ricardo Lazala, the Mission Director and Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai. Below, you will find the highlights from our conversation.

 Dr. Ricardo Lazala With Patient
Dr. Ricardo Lazala, Mission Director, with Patient in Dominican Republic (2011)

Adam: Thanks so much for connecting with me today. I’m very excited to join your team in the Dominican Republic on March 13-17. I’m curious… How long has this mission been in the planing process?

Dr. Ricardo Lazala: The relationship that formed the Mount Sinai – Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud (HGPS) partnership began in 2011 and is a result of a shared vision to further innovations and therapeutic responses to the needs of Dominican patients with cardiovascular disease.  This program is spearheaded by Dr. David Adams, myself and the Mitral Foundation.  We completed two missions in 2011 in which we performed a CABG surgery, three mitral valve repairs and mitral valve re-replacement.

Adam: How many people will travel to Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, for this mission?

Dr. Lazala: The team for this mission will have nine participants including Dr. David Adams (cardiac surgeon), Dr. Federico Milla (cardiac surgeon), Dr. Gregory Fischer (anesthesiologist), Dr. Fouad Lajam (thoracic surgeon), Gideon Sims (Administrative Director of the Mitral Foundation), Mary Joy Santillan, RN (operating room nurse), Juan Oband, CCP (perfusionist) and Dr. John Gott (cardiac surgeon).

Donated Equipment Sent To HGPS For The Medical Mission
Medical Mission Equipment Sent from Mount Sinai to Dominican Republic

Adam: Do you fly down any equipment to the Dominican Republic prior to the mission?

Dr. Lazala: Yes. Open heart surgeries require complex technology as well as adequate instrumentation and materials. To date, the Mount Sinai team has brought to the Dominican Republic two heart-lung machines, one intra-aortic balloon pump, one heater/cooler (warms and cools the patient), two cell saver machines (collects and processes the patient’s own blood to minimize blood transfusion), one echocardiographic machine with two adult and one pediatric echo probes, and other surgical equipment which are necessary to ensure quality of care and patient safety during open heart procedures. Other equipment includes:

  • The intra-aortic balloon pump, echocardiographic machine and three echo probes were donated by Mount Sinai.
  • The two heart-lung machines, two cell savers, one heater-cooler were donated by Sorin Group.
  • Repair products were donated by Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic.

Adam: How many procedures will be performed during the mission?

Dr. Lazala: The mission team arrives on March 13 — when we will meet and do a final assessment of the selected patients. The target number of surgeries is two procedures on March 14 and two procedures on March 15. These patients suffer from conditions including regurgitation, prolapse, potential rheumatic fever, dilated ventricles, torn chordae, atrium dilation and stenosis. Post-operative care and follow-up will occur on March 16 and March 17.

Adam: On behalf of the patients and caregivers, thank you for coordinating this effort. Considering you were born in the Dominican Republic, I can sense how passionate you are about the success of this project.

Dr. Lazala: Thank you Adam!

I hope this interview helped all of us learn more about this unique mission. To get live updates from the Medical Mission, you can click:

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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