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The MARC of complementary care
Physicians team to make lives better

September 2009

by Natalie Gutierrez

When José Lopez, M.D., examined his patient, 51-year-old Christopher Orth, in late spring, Orth was recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia. He'd been improving nicely with treatment. So when Orth began to complain of high fevers, swelling in his legs and painful joints, Dr. Lopez became concerned. "The symptoms didn't add up," he said. "I knew something else was wrong."

Dr. Lopez, a family physician at the Castillo Medical Group in San Antonio, immediately referred Orth to cardiology specialists with UT Medicine San Antonio, the practice plan of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Shadi Tolaymat, M.D., assistant professor of cardiology at the Health Science Center, performed an echocardiogram that revealed a large mass on Orth's aortic heart valve. He informed Dr. Lopez that same day. Further tests would be required.

After a heart catheterization test to rule out artery blockages, nurses had a sandwich and cold soft drink ready for Orth as Dr. Tolaymat delivered the news. An infection had damaged Orth's valve, and he would need heart valve replacement surgery as soon as possible.

Dr. Tolaymat called on V. Seenu Reddy, M.D., M.B.A., assistant professor and director of thoracic aortic surgery at the Health Science Center. On June 22, Dr. Reddy, along with Jeffrey McNeil, M.D., assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the Health Science Center, performed the intricate three-hour operation at University Hospital. The minimally invasive procedure required a small four-inch incision on Orth's chest.

"I was up and walking around the same day of my surgery," Orth said. By the fourth day, Orth was recovering at home with his family.

Dr. Lopez said he couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. "The specialists of UT Medicine San Antonio communicated with me directly and were efficient and effective. Mr. Orth is doing well because they acted swiftly and skillfully," he said.

A 2005 graduate of the Health Science Center's School of Medicine, Dr. Lopez said he's witnessed firsthand the university faculty physicians in action.

"It's evidence-based medicine in teaching facilities with the highest levels of technology and resources. Not only that, they emphasize compassionate care. They practice what they teach. I knew my patient would be in good hands."

Dr. Lopez said he looks forward to continuing his partnership with the UT Medicine San Antonio physicians and says the
newly opened Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC) is an added bonus.

"I think the MARC will make things even more efficient and effective for both physicians and patients. We need to continue working together because we can learn much from one another. In the end, patients benefit the most."

Christopher Orth couldn't agree more.

"The doctors listened and knew exactly what to do. They're heroes. When you're sick, it can be traumatic. But when you have good doctors it's a big relief because you can trust in the care you get."

A heavy-equipment operator by trade, Orth said he plans to get back to work soon. "It's great to feel better and to be home with my wife and son. But I'm sending out résumés now. With prayers from my family, I know I can do it."

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