Tag Archives: health care

12 Health Tips for Mexico Travel: What NOT to Eat and Drink

  1. Only drink purified bottled water OR ask for un vaso de agua de garafon — a glass of water from the big blue purified water bottle
  2. Only brush your teeth with purified bottled water.
  3. Do not use tap water for drinking. Hand washing with soap is okay.
  4. Keep your mouth shut when taking a shower!
  5. Never believe it if an establishment says the water is filtered.
  6. Never eat anything “on the street” or in market stalls if it is raw. (I rarely eat anything in markets, either, unless it is well cooked.)
  7. Don’t order a lettuce, fruit or raw vegetable salad unless it is in an upscale tourist restaurant and you know they disinfect the food.
  8. Avoid sushi-style fish. Order fish medium or well done and meat cooked to at least medium. Medium-rare will work in upscale restaurants but it will likely arrive more on the raw side.
  9. Use hand-sanitizer liberally.
  10. Look for restaurants that are crowded. That means the food turns quickly and is fresh.
  11. Carry an Rx of Ciprofloxacin with you. Yes, it’s a powerful antibiotic but it works to kill any bacteria in your system.
  12. Find a pulque bar that serves aguamiel. It is a natural digestive that can ease intestinal problems.

If you get sick, it can take 24-52 hours for the infection to pass through your system (it is a strain of food poisoning like ecoli infection). Stay hydrated with a Gatorade-type drink. Your symptoms will be vomiting and diahhrea and fever, Anything longer and you should seek medical advice. Most hotels will have a doctor who will make a call for a reasonable fee.

If you can get to an Ahorra Farmacia there will often be a doctor in an adjacent office who can examine you, diagnose and then prescribe. You can fill the Rx while you wait.


A Prayer for Guadalupe

Many women in Mexico are named Guadalupe in honor of the Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who many say was Aztec high-priestess Tonantzin and Earth Mother, adapted to the religious needs of New Spain.

Our Guadalupe is a woman in her early forties with thick, luscious long black hair that hangs down to her waist. Most of the time she wears it braided with ribbon in the local Zapotec style. Lupe is a widow and mother of three boys. Her youngest is age eight. She has aspirations for all her children to go to and complete university.


Lupe was just diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on biopsy results, the follow-up treatment will be either chemotherapy or radiation. We are waiting to hear.  As I write this, I am waiting for flights that will take me back to Mexico today. As soon as I get to Oaxaca, I will be able to find out more.

Lupe2 Lupe2-4

The cost of the surgeon is 18,000 pesos. That’s about $1,350 USD, a substantial out-of-pocket amount for a weaver who is always working to make ends meet anyway. Then, there will be the cost of treatment. We anticipate that Lupe will not be able to work for a while, so there mayl not be enough to buy food or pay for school tuition and books.

Friends of Guadalupe:

Make Your Gift for Breast Cancer Treatment

Click the PayPal button above to make your gift. It will be deposited into my Oaxaca Cultural Navigator PayPal account and I will convert it to pesos and give your gift to Lupe.  If you want to send along messages or prayers for healing, please include this.  If you just wish to send money from your account to mine, my PayPal account is oaxacaculture@me.com

Breast cancer does not discriminate and affects women of all ages, at all economic levels and in countries throughout the world. I am certain there are many stories like this one.

Lupe-2Several Oaxaca expat women have pledged to help Lupe with her expenses. If many more of us come together to offer a small gift, we can make a big difference for Lupe and her family and share the cost of her treatment and recovery. Will you join us?

Lupe says she wants to pay back what is given to her by weaving rugs and cleaning houses. We think that’s too much to ask for a friend recovering from this diagnosis and treatment.  We believe she needs to concentrate on taking care of herself.

Let us join together to do a small part to repair the world. Thank you, And, can I add your name to the Friends list?

Norma Hawthorne

Friends of Guadalupe

For a complete list of donors, click on the link above!

Best Medical Care in Mexico City and Oaxaca

Where to get the best medical care in Mexico and in Oaxaca, has been foremost on my mind for the last month. Here are recommendations.

We are still reeling from Suzie’s accident on February 20, when the guide/driver of the car she was riding in hit a concrete barricade on the way to Teotihuacan. The UNESCO World Heritage site in the Estado de Mexico, is about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City. On impact, Suzie suffered a traumatic head injury and went into a coma.  The ambulance took her to an public emergency clinic (not hospital) in Coacalco de Berriozobal, located between the pyramids and the city. They were poorly equipped to handle this type of trauma and it took us hours to get her moved to receive proper care.

Best Hospitals in Mexico City

  1. ABC Hospital Observatorio Campus. Telephone for Emergencies, 55-5230 8161. American British Cowdray Hospital is known to have the best medical facilities in the entire country. It is accredited by the Joint Commission International. Doctors and staff are bilingual. Emergency medicine is top-notch. This is where you want to be to get attention you deserve as a human being.
  2. Angeles Hospital, Agrarismo 208, Col. Escandon, Mexico City, Del Miguel Hidalgo C.P. 11800, Tel. 5516 9900. Elena Hanna says she got great treatment here for an emergency and doctors/staff speak English.

Best Medical Care in Oaxaca City, Mexico 

After the accident and in preparation for upcoming workshops, I am now requiring that all Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC workshop participants have health/accident/emergency evacuation insurance coverage. I recommend the same for you.

Then, because it is essential to know, I researched the best emergency and general medical care available in Oaxaca City, asking Oaxaqueños and long-time ex-pat residents. Here is what I found out to share with you.

Best Hospitals in Oaxaca City

  1. Hospital del Valle, Eucaliptos 401, Colonia Reforma, Oaxaca, Oaxaca.  (951) 515-2563

  2. Hospital Reforma, Calle Reforma 613 near Humboldt,, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, (951) 516-0989

  3. Clinica Hospital Carmen, Abasolo 215, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, (951) 516-0027
  4. Clinica Las Rosas for ophthalmology, Las Rosas 308, Colonia Reforma, Oaxaca, (951)513-9030

Best Doctors in Oaxaca City

  1. Javier Guzman, M.D.,  Sabinos 204, Colonia Reforma, Cell: 044 (951) 548-1245, general surgery, diagnostics
  2. Alberto Zamacona, M.D., Libres 610, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, (951) 513-6422 and (951) 130-8730, general practitioner, bilingual
  3. Ramon Mondragon, M.D., on Pino Suarez, (951) 514-2306, (951) 515-7259 and (951) 547-0054, cardiology

Best Dentists in Oaxaca City

  1. Dr. Rafael Medina, Cielo 203, Lomas del Creston, Oaxaca, phone: 52 951 513 9520. His partner is Dr. Edgar Barroso who specializes in crowns and root canals, recommended by Leslie Larson.
  2. Dr. Angel Gomez, recommended by Tom Holloway.
  3. Dr. Daniel Tenorio, Abasolo, recommended by Jo Ann and Tom Feher.


Please contribute to this list by adding  a comment about “the best” from your experience!

I want to add these BESTS: neurosurgeon, dentist, oncologist, dermatologist, and any other fields you think would help people seeking high quality health care and emergency treatment in Oaxaca.  Thank you.

Travelers Note: It may be worthwhile to consider making your own list of best emergency medical facilities and doctors wherever you are traveling to next. Accidents happen and you don’t want to be caught by surprise or without enough time to respond quickly. When I go to Barcelona and Fes next autumn, I intend to do just this!

Suzie Update: Her brother tells me she is being moved to a long-term care facility that helps people with her kind of injury. She is opening her eyes and moving her feet and remains in a semi-coma. Suzie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker employed at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student health services where she worked with students. Talented and loved.


Where, What and When: My Last Three Weeks in Mexico

I haven’t posted much in the last three weeks and I’m sorry.  Some of you may be wondering about that. It began with our Looking for Diego Rivera Art History Tour in Mexico City three weeks ago.

Rivera1 The day we were set to gather for our first dinner together to launch our program, Suzie and Lydia were in a taxi crash.  Suzie has been in a coma ever since.  This has been an extraordinary difficult time for Suzie’s family, as we have reconstructed the accident and follow-up care. In the melee of getting her moved from a small, suburban clinic to a major Mexico City medical center that could handle her head injury, I lost my journal where I recorded every detail of her first clinic stay.


The journal also held my notes about the great Mexican muralists Rivera, Orozco and  Siquieros, and the comprehensive Maya art exhibit at the Palacio Nacional.

Maya1-4 Maya1-3 Maya1-2

Then, as soon as I got back to Oaxaca, our weeklong Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat started. I have always participated in this program in addition to doing the administrative and logistical support. So, I was detoured from writing the blog, but plunged in to write about Suzie and my experience trying to help her get the care she deserved but didn’t get. It was a wonderful retreat and I produced several personal essays that I intend to publish. Add to this a deadline to close on a home mortgage, and I was covered up in details.


The day this retreat ended, a weaving workshop began.  It has just ended, and I feel that now I have breathing space to take a look at the photos, tell you about the extraordinary murals we saw in public spaces, the Mayan art and civilization exhibit at the Palacio Nacional, and delicious food we discovered in elegant restaurants and humble markets.


Suzie was evacuated to Georgetown Hospital. She opened her eyes briefly and we are hopeful. Yet, she remains in a coma. Her family has moved her to long-term care where she can get constant medical attention. When she improves, the next step will be to begin rehabilitation. We all send prayers for that day to come very soon.

Again, I remind all international travelers to please purchase health and accident insurance that includes medical emergency evacuation.  Accidents happen and none of us is immune.



Oaxaca Community Health Clinic is Learning Laboratory for U.S. Physician Assistant Students

When Meagan Parsons and Ben Cook arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, three weeks ago to start their month-long public health clinic externship, they expected that people would be friendly and open since they had traveled before in Latin America.   They didn’t know quite what to expect about Mexico’s health care system.

MethodistPAs72013-11 MethodistPAs72013-19

What the two physician assistant students from Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC, discovered was that

  • local resources were more advanced than they imagined,
  • the federal and state government funding and delivery of health care provides excellent continuity of care,
  • patients are more appreciative of the health care they receive compared with what they see in the United States,
  • there is no poly-pharmacy — meaning that patients are not over-medicated, and there are few if any drug interactions,
  • pharmaceuticals are free with a doctor’s prescription,
  • the types and choices of medicines dispensed are limited
  • there are few resources for state-of-the-art equipment, and
  • people here are hardworking and dedicated to doing things well, taking pride in what they do.

MethodistPAs72013-4 MethodistPAs72013-16

After only a few days “on the job,” Meagan and Ben assisted in a labor and delivery, which was a highlight.  This primary care practice experience compares with a family medicine practice in the U.S. for which they receive academic credit as part of a clinical rotation

Some of the most common medical problems that present at the clinic are diabetes, hypertension, intestinal and respiratory infections.  Dr. Jonas Gutierrez explained that there is no breast or cervical cancer here.  Neither is there Dengue fever or malaria.  

MethodistPAs72013-22 MethodistPAs72013-5

The clinic staff, which includes five primary care doctors (one assigned to each residential section of the village), a pediatrician, psychologist, dentist, nurses, a  social worker, and physician administrator who is also a surgeon, concentrate on preventive medicine through regular check-ups, health education, and administering vaccines.  Complicated labor and delivery cases are referred to the tertiary care hospital, as are critical cases.

MethodistPAs72013-17 MethodistPAs72013-3

The doctors included Ben and Meagan in social activities, inviting them to lunches, sports events and family outings.  There was no relationship hierarchy.  

For a look into Meagan and Ben’s Oaxaca blog click here!

After the first few days, Meagan and Ben’s “ears turned on,” they began to hear the words and their Spanish improved, especially the medical terms that got bandied about.  Meagan says that she developed keener non-verbal skills and could begin to pick up cues given by patients, which will help her immensely when she returns to North Carolina.

Ben says he will take home the language and how to better relate to Hispanic culture.  He saw first-hand how everyone in the family is involved in health care decision-making, and this awareness will benefit him as he moves on in his career after December 2013 graduation.

MethodistPAs72013-21  MethodistPAs72013-18

Academic advisor Deborah Morris, MD, PA-C, who came for a one-week site and supervision visit, talked with Meagan and Ben about developing a Spanish-language diabetes education pamphlet to leave behind for patients, since this is a pressing health care issue for the village. The content will include treatment choices, self-care, diet and nutrition, and exercises.  There will be lots of visuals to make it easy to understand.  The doctors will review the content and provide feedback before the document is ready to print.

Each of the doctors who Meagan and Ben worked with said the students were very helpful, learned a lot and so did they.  This was an excellent “intercambio” —   an opportunity for cultural exchange, mutual sharing, learning, and collaboration.

MethodistPAs72013-24 MethodistPAs72013-23

Medical training in Mexico involves five years of study to become a family practice generalist M.D., plus a one year internship and one year of social service (medical education is paid for by the government and is nominal to students), for a total of seven years of education and service.  To become a specialist, doctors add an additional four years on to their education by doing a hospital residency.

Thank you to the doctors and nurses of the Centro de Salud, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, for welcoming students to the clinic to gain valuable experience, especially Clinic Director Dra. Elizabet Lopez Martinez, Dr. Jonas Gutierrez, Dr. Pablo Aredondo, Dr. Jesus Morales, Dr. Faustido Hernandez, Administradora Mayra Mendez, and Dra. Jessica Lopez. Thanks also to the Public Health Committee of Teotitlan del Valle, and to Deborah Morris, MD, PA-C, for facilitating this collaborative health care exchange.

Note:  All photo subjects gave their permission to be photographed.