Story updates: Be care my friends, and Mexicali

It may have been a while since my last post, but I haven’t been idle.  In the last few weeks, I’ve traveled to Mexicali to check in, have some dental work done as well as attending professional conferences and working on my next locum tenens assignment.

Mexicali sign

First – some updates on Mexicali:

I don’t have photos to accompany these updates, but the new emergency department at Hospital General de Mexicali is big, beautiful and open for business.

I also met with both Carlo Bonfante and Dr. Carlos Ochoa to talk about some of the upcoming improvements to the Hospital de la Familia.  Nothing has been completed yet, but they have some big plans to improve services for local residents and medical tourists alike.  I’ll write more when I have the rest of the details.

I also had a chance to catch up with Dr. Horatio Ham (Bariatric surgeon) and Alejandro Ballestereos (Anesthesia).  Dr. Ham reports that Dr. Abril’s radio show has been revived as an internet radio program.

Sadly, Dr. Alberto Aceves, a well-known Mexicali bariatric surgeon died in a private plane crash back in June.


My Mexicali dentist: Dr. Luis Israel Quintana


Dr. Israel Quintana with one of his American patients

I don’t have dental insurance but I have a history of bruxism (grinding my teeth) so I am pretty fanatical about taking care of my teeth.  I’ve written before about the difficulties in reporting on dental tourism, as well as my previous experiences with Dr. Quintana, so when my dentist at my last locum assignment gave me a work estimate for almost eight thousand dollars!*,  I knew I needed to plan a trip to Mexicali before my next assignment.

photo (12)

I ended up having 12 fillings (no cavities but plenty of damage from grinding), as well as a root canal and a partial crown.  He also made me a new night guard since my old one obviously wasn’t preventing ongoing damage.  While several days in the dentist’s chair was no picnic, I had minimal discomfort and little damage to my wallet.  All told, the bill was less than 1300.  I still need some additional work, but the majority of my teeth are now taken care of.  I don’t have to worry about having a dental emergency while I am working a contract.

Dr. Quintana also reminded me that his office accepts most American insurance plans – with no co-pays or other payment required.

* My initial estimate in Dallas only covered work on four teeth.  The additional surface fillings were not included.


Story Update: Please be careful my friends!


Baby making and Planet Hospital: Lots of money and no baby

Some readers may remember the sad story that I received from a childless couple last year.  The couple had contracted with Planet Hospital for surrogacy services after receiving devastating news on the birth of their only child.  The child had been born with a terminal disease (the child later died).  The couple also learned that due to a rare (and previously undetected) genetic condition, it was likely that any future children would also contract this disease.   The couple had started a blog to document their journey into surrogacy, but after several months, it devolved into a story of deception, with the couple being defrauded of thousands and thousands of dollars by one of Planet Hospital’s contracted facilities.

Recently, Planet Hospital and their surrogacy scams made the front page of the print edition of The New York Times.  The story by Tamar Lewin rips the mask off of Rudy Rupak, the shyster I told you about previously.  (I also wrote about his shady transplant tourism practices at the back in 2012).

Surprisingly, the “Medical Travel Quality Alliance,” a branch of the MTA that advocates for “self-regulation” of the medical tourism industry only seems to partially condemn the practice of tourism surrogacy and Rudy Rupak in their latest publications and newsletter.  Of course, anyone with even a few years experience covering medical tourism remembers that Rudy Rupak was the poster child for the medical tourism industry for many years, even after the first rumors of shady business practices emerged in 2010.  Mr. Rupak has since filed for bankrupcy, but knowing of some of the deals Planet Hospital was involved in, I think he should be in prison.

Dental Departures, Carlos Vigil and my Mexicali dentist

My apologies to readers – this post is way overdue.  In fact, I had completely forgotten about it – until I received a couple of email inquiries yesterday about dental services in the Mexicali area.

I originally interviewed Carlos Vigil back in October 2013.  We met at the Mexicali Summit, while I was promoting my book.

Carlos Vigil

Carlos Vigil

Mr. Vigil works with an American company called Dental Departures that specializes in dental tourism. Mr. Vigil is part of the sales team for the Baja California area that recruits dentists to participate in Dental

Dental evaluation versus surgical evaluation

If you’ve read any of my books, then you’ll remember that dental evaluation is quite  a bit different that any of the other services (like surgery).   Surgical evaluation requires background research, interviews and observation.  

Dentistry requires more active participation.  In the past, in the name of research and quality evaluation, I (along with a group of volunteers) have undergone extensive dental procedures without the aid of anesthesia.  

One of my colleagues field tests dentistry services with Dr. Quintana and his associates

One of my colleagues field tests dentistry services with Dr. Quintana and his associates

Dental evaluation can be slow, painful work

But this is slow, tedious work and it doesn’t really add anything to the knowledge base that couldn’t be obtained by more traditional routes such as patient feedback. It also requires a longer time commitment – since an important component of quality dentistry is durability.  If six months afterwards, a crown breaks, a patient develops a serious abscess or all your veneers fall off – that’s important information for prospective patients to have.  But – as you can imagine, that makes for very slow writing – and would delay my books significantly.

But  Dental Departures hopes to provide that feedback.  But Dental Departures is more than the International “Angie’s List” of dentistry.  It’s a comprehensive dental clearinghouse that includes 2900 dentists in 29 countries.

So while I am happy to recommend my personal dentist in Mexicali  (contact information below), Carlos Vigil and Dental Departures may be a good alternative for people looking for dentists across the globe.

Now, while I certainly can’t vouch for Dental Departures, (for reasons detailed above), it certainly sounds like a great idea.  Hopefully, readers can give me some feedback as to the quality of goods and services provided using this service.

For a more informal recommendation –

My Mexicali Dentist:

Dr. Luis Israel Quintana Burgos

His address is in central Mexicali – and may be difficult to find for a visitor, but a cab should be able to find it fine…

The address is Blvd Lazaro Cardenas y Anahuac #862, Jardines de Lago, Mexicali, B.C.  

Telephone  557 9151. 

Go down Lazaro Cardenas, then on the left a the corner of (Anahuac), just past the intersection there is an Oxxo. Turn after the Oxxo and enter in the parking lot.  Drive through the parking lot.  Behind the Oxxo is a group of offices – on the right is going to be the Dental Place..

  He is excellent and affordable, and can usually find time to squeeze in patients fairly quickly.   I’ve seen him several times for dental cleanings as well as some fillings.  

First impressions aren’t always correct

Now, the first time I saw him – I wasn’t overly impressed.  There was a very young receptionist who spent most of her time looking at herself in the mirror.  She also acted as if she was annoyed that our arrival to the office had disturbed her beauty routine.  This would have been a non-issue since I was seen quickly and brought back to the dentist’s chair – except that she flounced on back down the hallway to the dental chair with me.


And she stayed – with one hand (and all her attention) on an old-fashion style round hand mirror.  She was ostensibly, “assisting” the dentist, but since she couldn’t drag her attention away from her own reflection for more than a few seconds at a time, the dentist ended up having to get up and move around the room to get everything himself.  It was an awkward situation, made more awkward by the fact that as the patient, I was sitting there as an unwanted voyeur with my mouth propped open, listening to her cooing, using baby talk and practically purring at the doctor.

It was all I could do to sit there, then pay the dentist and get the heck out of there.   I promised I’d never go back to such an unprofessional and uncomfortable situation again.  Except – during a return visit to Mexicali – a member of the Latin American surgery team had a dental emergency, and by default called Dr. Quintana for help.  He got him in right away and I accompanied him to the appointment.

What a difference a few months makes!  The baby sexpot receptionist was replaced by an attractive but professional assistant who was polite, friendly and attentive.

The fumbling in the dentist’s chair was gone.  Instead of an assistant, the dentist has re-organized the office, so all of his needed materials were within reach.  The whole atmosphere of the office had changed – into a professional medical office.

Since that second visit, Dr. Quintana has become my ‘regular’ dentist.  Sure, when I’m traveling – I’ll stop in for cleanings in other cities, but I plan to return to Mexicali and Dr. Quintana for all future work.

sizing the crown

sizing the crown

One of my colleagues has also had several fillings, a root canal and a crown performed in his office.   It’s been several months since the work was performed and there have been no issues.

Dr. Quintana speaks only Spanish but he is in practice with two other dentists that speak some English.