News & Press: eConnections

Book Review: Mis Tropiezos Hasta La Sala 6

Friday, August 28, 2020  
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In his autobiography “Mis tropiezos hasta la sala 6” (Translation: "My stumbling blocks/setbacks to OR #6") Dr. Raúl García Rinaldi candidly shares the story of his life from the moment he was born to the many setbacks he would face in his journey to become a cardiovascular surgeon. It is a story of life’s challenges at every stage of one’s formation and how, if it’s what we want, we can make things happen.  

Dr. García Rinaldi starts his book reminiscing about his childhood and, in a way, letting us into his home.  Upon his birth, a little note accompanied his baby book “The doctor has arrived”. Dr Rinaldi in a jovial manner states “maybe it was destiny but without working hard it would never come true”. He shares the day-to-day of his youth, his friends and family. Even his first love and the ironies of life.  However, in every part of his story, fun or sad, he reflects his takeaways from times distant past. He explains how every part of his story makes him who he is today.  

Interestingly, whenever he addresses his education, Dr. García Rinaldi openly describes his difficulties with Math and Organic Chemistry. (A common foe for many students!) However, he acknowledges his personal lack of discipline and how his initial college years could have cost him his dream of becoming a doctor. While he turned around his grades and behavior, he still faced the uncertainty of having only one interview and the pressure of waiting for a late admission as he was in the alternate list.  

Despite his setbacks as an undergraduate, he tells the story of how he transitioned into medical school determined to succeed. His interest in surgery lead him to meet his mentor Dr. Soltero Harrington with whom he formed a great bond that lasted until old age. Furthermore, he describes his experiences meeting and learning from the great cardiovascular surgeons of these times (Dr. Cooley, Dr. DeBakey, Dr. Wangesteen, Dr. Lillihei, among many others). However, from the first time he read about Dr. DeBakey on a Time magazine, his heart became set upon having Dr. Debakey as his teacher and, after some mishaps, he would end up training with him.  

Dr. García Rinaldi shares many stories of his obstacles and triumphs as he became a physician- scientist, collaborated in many countries and, most of all, showed his commitment to his patients and the people of Puerto Rico. As a successful cardiovascular surgeon in Houston, Dr. García Rinaldi continuously advocated for patient care and accessibility to it. He even spearheaded a program called “A Bridge of Hope” where patients would fly from Puerto Rico to receive surgery in Houston. However, he still longed to return and help the people in Puerto Rico.  

After 24 years serving in Houston, Texas, Dr. García Rinaldi’s last stories focus on his return home. The challenges of a changing health system, the bureaucracy faced to make his mission and vision come true and how, despite all of it, he succeeded at great deeds. He was able to lead the Cardiovascular Center in Mayagüez and, for more than 20 years now, has led the Dr. García Rinaldi Foundation to serve as a pipeline program for students interested in medicine and allied health careers.  

The book ends with Dr. García Rinaldi disclosing that his OR, both in Houston and Puerto Rico, was OR #6. He reflects “It is in OR #6 that gives me peace and, to a certain extent, individuality. It is where I recover to continue advocating for my patients and Puerto Rico”. Furthermore, he reminds readers that for him “being a surgeon never was or will be a matter of prestige or money but a matter of service to those in need”. Lastly, he ends his memoirs honoring those who have impacted his life, from the day he was born until today.  

It may cross our minds that to become a physician we must be “perfect”. Thankfully, more and more we hear the stories of those who made it happen despite every possible tribulation in life. Personally, I found myself reading Dr García Rinaldi’s book at a time where I faced cross-roads in my life: “to be or not to be a doctor?”; that was my question. I was a non-traditional student, faced many challenges and, not hearing back from medical schools to which I had applied, I felt inadequate and hopeless. Listening to Dr. García Rinaldi, a renowned surgeon in my country, present his book and speak openly about his imperfections, perseverance, accomplishments and call for service to his people meant a lot to me. I hope his story encourages others as it has inspired me to continue going forward no matter the challenges and to remember that a life of service is worth every second.  

I leave you with a message from Dr. García Rinaldi whose book is dedicated to all students who aspire to become physicians:  

“My greatest wish is that more young people can read my story and realize that they are not alone and that they too can accomplish what they want. They just need to organize themselves, work hard and not give up. If I could do it, so can you! 

In my book, “Mis tropiezos hasta la sala 6”, I share how I was able to overcome each and every one of the setbacks I faced as a student and as a surgeon (including being horrible at math) and how I turned every one of them into a learning opportunity. Don’t leave your dreams behind, no matter what they are.” Dr. Raúl García Rinaldi, MD, PhD, FACS, FACC.

Image used with permission from Dr. Raúl García Rinaldi.

Dr. Raúl García Rinaldi is a cardiovascular surgeon based in Puerto Rico. He received his medical training at the University of Puerto Medical Sciences Campus.  His surgical residency began at the University of Minnesota and he completed his training at Baylor University. He holds a PhD in microbiology and immunology. After 24 years working in the states he returned to Puerto Rico and has since lead the work at the Cardiovascular at Mayagüez. He has received many awards and has published over 200 articles.  

Dr. García Rinaldi has spent more than 20 years mentoring students interested in medicine and allied health careers through his foundation Fundación Dr. García Rinaldi.  

Danilea M. Carmona Matos is a third-year medical student at San Juan Bautista School of Medicine in Caguas, PR. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biology and Italian Language and Culture at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus and her master’s degree in science at the Ponce Health Sciences University. Her research interests are in neuroendocrine cancers and experimental therapeutics. She feels strongly about mentorship and frequently organizes events at her school and collaborates with associations on this. Currently, Danilea is part of the AWS National Medical Student Committee serving as the Latin America Liaison. In her free time, she loves to take walks with her dog Luna and spending time with family. Danilea can be found on Twitter @danileacm.