A physician for UT Health made a notable impression during a recent trip to a poverty-stricken city in Honduras.Dr. Samer Khouri, director of non-invasive cardiology at UT Health, earned the distinction of becoming the first cardiologist to treat patients in La Ceiba, a city of 250,000 people.
Khouri, along with Dr. Eddie Kakish, Dr. Jean-Paul Amegee and registered nurse Julia Benfield, went on the UT Health-funded mission trip May 3-9. Including heart patients, they treated about 80 others a day at the local medical clinic.
Residents flocked to the clinic where UT Health’s team had set up. Many of the patients had questions about heart pain and palpitations. One woman had been out of breath for the past eight years. She thought it was a heart problem, but Khouri diagnosed her as asthmatic and prescribed her an inhaler.
“The nearest hospital with a cardiologist is two and half hours away,” Khouri said. “Hardly anyone has health insurance and it would cost a month’s salary for any type of heart treatment. These people were so appreciative of the help and care that we brought to their city.”
The UT Health relationship with Honduras was forged with the help of the Toledo area church, CedarCreek, which founded the medical clinic in La Ceiba. The clinic is primarily an outpatient facility that treats routine illnesses and injuries; it does not offer cardiac treatment.
“It was huge for a cardiologist to visit the city,” said Bill Trout, executive pastor who oversees international missions. “Dr. Khouri was able to bring some technology to the small clinic, including a handheld echocardiogram.
“Dr. Khouri was teaching the entire time as well. He was imparting his knowledge and experience to a fourth-year medical student in Honduras. It was so amazing to watch,” Trout said.
Khouri put this community’s plight into perspective by comparing it to the Toledo area, which is a region of similar size. While the Toledo area has nine hospitals for its residents, La Ceiba only has a small clinic that offers limited services, he said.
“These people barely had the basic necessities for life, let alone adequate health care,” Khouri said. “We performed procedures that included tag and mole removal, which was greatly appreciated. We take many of these procedures for granted in America.”
This trip helps fulfill part of Dr. Kris Brickman’s global initiative to bring health care to impoverished parts of the world. Brickman, who is the founder and director of the UT Office of Global Health, wants to establish ongoing relationships with cities like La Ceiba. He appreciates that the medical clinic in La Ceiba can sustain the work started by UT Health physicians and staff.
“I like the idea of us integrating in with a local community,” Brickman, professor and chair of the Emergency Medicine Department at UT Medical Center, said. “By sending medical teams to this community every few months, we provide better continuity and education for the local medical staff including specialty care more than a once-a-year mission.”
This was Khouri’s first mission trip, which he described as enlightening.
“We live in a society where we are privileged with our health care and resources,” Khouri said. “You don’t know how other people live until you see it for yourself. Some of them live in homes that don’t even have doors.”