Dr. Diego Serrano
Cuenca’s Specialist in Pacemakers and Defibrillators
By Henry Noel - Photographs Courtesy of Dr. Serrano
Over the past several years, Ecuador's world ranking for quality and cost-effectiveness of its medical services has steadily climbed. What does this mean to us? What it means is we are getting some of the best medical services and care in the world right here in Ecuador. We have been introducing you to many of the doctors Cuenca’s medical community has to offer, and this month is no different. Meet Doctor Diego Serrano.
As a boy, Dr. Serrano watched his father break a generations-long tradition of studying law when he decided to become a medical doctor and then specialize in cardiology. Dr. Serrano is the oldest of four children. He and one of his brothers are doctors; another brother is a dentist; and his youngest brother is in medical school.
His introduction to medicine came at an early age. "When I was growing, up my father used to take me on his appointments. I used to wear his doctor’s coat, and I watched how he dedicated himself to his patients. I saw how he treated them, and I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up,” he stated emotionally. “When I was 10 or 11, a funny thing happened. My dad was in Argentina doing his post-graduate studies. A memory triggered; I remembered being in the hospital with my dad and the smell of the hospitals came to me. I associated that smell of the hospitals with my dad while he was away at school. These experiences with my father altered the course of my life, and Medicine became my passion,” he concluded.
A passion was born out of the desire to help others, and Dr. Serrano took in all the childhood sounds, smells, and essences of what it is to be a doctor. He assimilated them into what has become a man committed to understanding how humans function and discovered how the health of a person is expressed through a simple EKG. He says, “I can get a clear picture of the patient's heart condition, his emotions, and his mental state simply by reading an electro cardio scan.”
Dr. Serrano is Vice President of the Ecuadorian Association of Cardiology, President of the Emurgen Center for Training in Emergency Medicine and is associated with the American Heart Association. Dr. Serrano points out, “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a serious issue in Ecuador, and there is very little in the way of statistics because 50% of the victims die outside a hospital.” Dr. Serrano, together with the municipality, developed a program called “Cuenca—A Protected Cardio City.” He explains, “we want to place external defibrillators in several of the most crowded places and train people to use them to avoid sudden cardiac death fatalities. We are the only ones authorized by the American Heart Association to perform the training.
Dr. Serrano is a cardiologist with a specialty in Electrophysiology Studies. For edification, Electrophysiology Studies (EPS) are tests that help cardiologists understand the nature of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). According to Dr. Serrano, “Electrophysiology Studies is a new specialty, having started just 20 years ago. Dr. Serrano explains, “We use EPS to cure cardiac arrhythmia. Arrhythmias occur when electrical signals to the heart do not work properly. The heart may beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. We can introduce a catheter intravenously and target the exact location of the arrhythmia and correct it.”
Dr. Serrano says, “I have a huge passion for my profession and specialty. It makes my heart rejoice when I see a big smile on a patient’s face because we corrected a long-standing heart.”
Dr. Serrano graduated from the University of Cuenca in 2005 as a medical doctor. He attended the University of São Paolo, Brazil, and graduated from Dante Pazanezze Institute of Cardiology in 2009 as a cardiologist. He attended and graduated in 2011 with a certification in Electrophysiology Studies from Instituto do Coração da Universidade de São Paulo (Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo). Moreover in 2013, he received his specialty certification in Cardiac Pacemaker Stimulators.
I asked Dr. Serrano of what, in his professional career, he was proudest. His reply, “I am very proud of my profession and what makes me continue to do this work is the gratitude of the patients. One particular case is very close to my heart. A baby girl from Spain named Neila; she was born (SCD). I implanted a pacemaker when she was one day old. She is now five years old, and as a token of their gratitude, Neila’s parents gifted me with a statue of a doctor holding a baby girl in his arms that represented Neila and me. I have so many stories just like Neila’s, and I have a box full of appreciated gifts.”
When asked of what, in his personal life, he was most proud, his reply was immediate. “I am most proud of my son. He is my pride and joy.”
Here’s a list of some of the procedures Dr. Serrano performs:
Electrophysiology Studies: Covered earlier.
Pacemaker implants: Single and Dual-chamber, Biventricular, and Defibrillator
Cardiac ablation: The scarring or destroying tissue in your heart responsible for creating or triggering arrhythmias. In some cases, cardiac ablation prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart and, thus, stops the arrhythmia.
Loop recorder: An implantable loop recorder is a long-term heart-monitoring device that records your heart rhythm continuously for up to three years. It records the electrical signals of your heart and allows for remote monitoring. This device can provide answers about your heart that other heart-monitoring devices can’t offer because some heart rhythm abnormalities occur infrequently.
Cardiac sympathetic denervation: This is a surgical procedure to disconnect part of the nerve to the heart causing fainting or sudden death in young people suffering from a heart rhythm disorder called long QT syndrome (LQTS).
Heart transplants: According to Dr. Serrano, "I have been authorized by the Ecuadorian government to perform heart transplant surgery, and Cuenca is the only city in Ecuador having the technology to accomplish this surgery. However," Dr. Serrano continues, "Heart transplant surgery requires much more than just technology. It requires the infrastructure and education built around this procedure. This is why I am pressuring the government to supply all the infrastructure required to perform heart transplant surgery successfully. Until that happens, we will continue to use a biventricular pacemaker. This pacemaker is an excellent alternative and produces excellent improvements in patients.”
Dr. Serrano is a cardiologist with heart, passion, and drive focused on his patients. He would love nothing more than to provide every person the opportunity to live a healthy life, and he instills these ideals in the students he coaches. He proudly declares, "I advise many students, including two of my brothers, that the first thing they need to consider is having a passion and a love for this career. I teach at the University of Cuenca, and I have students who are already in Brazil and Spain studying Medicine. I invite my students to come to my office so they can experience the same sights and smells I experienced, watch me in action, and decide for themselves if they like it.”
Hospital Monte Sinai, 2nd floor, office 204 (tower 2)
Appointments: 072814813 Ext 1200