In 1980, a teenager obtained refugee status in the U.S. after departing his homeland in what became known as the Mariel boatlift. In a period of just over five months, approximately 130,000 Cuban nationals were allowed to exit Cuba on overcrowded watercraft of all kinds from the port of Mariel to cross the dangerous waters of the Florida Straits. They sought a chance at a better life. Raimundo Pastor, D.O., general and trauma surgeon at Botsford Hospital, answers a few questions about his journey from refugee to surgeon.
Question? You came to the United States from Cuba, correct?
Answer: Yes, I came on June 4, 1980. I left my family behind and traveled by boat to Key West. I was 18 years old, and I didn’t speak English.
Question? How did you manage to become a doctor?
Answer: I had already completed my undergraduate education and a year of medical school in Cuba, but I had to start over in the U.S. I spent the next 12 years juggling a full-time job with full-time schooling. It was extremely difficult, and sometimes I got discouraged, but I held on to my dream of being a doctor.
Question? Were there people who helped you?
Answer: Along my way, there were many people who helped and supported me. For example, the entire four years I was an undergrad, my work supervisor, Pam Thompson, scheduled my shifts as a hemodialysis technician around my classes. She really helped me keep going.
Question? Why did you choose to practice at Botsford?
Answer: I came to Botsford to further my surgical training. I fell in love with everything about the hospital and the location. I especially liked the way that patients were treated and the care they received. The hospital’s mission is to provide each patient with the highest-quality personalized care possible. It's my goal as well, and that is why Botsford is my home.
Question? How would you describe your approach to patients?
Answer: The patients I encounter are undergoing serious medical issues, so I always try to approach them with compassion and honesty. I believe medicine is a mix of art and science. We want to give the highest-quality care but do it with kindness and a desire to alleviate their suffering.
Question? What is it like to be a trauma surgeon?
Answer: When you’re on call, you have to be ready to deal with whatever comes through the door. It can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding to know you’re really making a difference in someone’s life.
Dr. Pastor and his wife, Ana, recently gave a generous gift to fund the Basic Medical Skills Lab at Botsford Hospital. Dr. Pastor believes that education was the key to his success in the U.S., and he wants to provide educational opportunities for others. The Skills Lab offers students, nurses, residents, and practicing physicians an opportunity to refine their skills on procedures such as starting IVs and suturing. It’s all part of Botsford’s commitment to excellence and Dr. Pastor’s devotion to medicine.
“It means a lot to me to give back to the organization that has given me so much, while at the same time facilitating learning for others,” he says.
If you are looking for a doctor, give us a call. Our physician referral line is (877) 477-Doc1 (3621).