You’ve Got to Have Heart
Introducing Doctora Melissa González Urdaneta
By Teresa Drake
Photographs Courtesy of Dr. Melissa González
There is an old song called “You’ve Got to Have Heart,” and Doctora Melissa González Urdaneta has lots of heart. The cardiovascular/cardiac field is her love. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where her parents still reside and her mother is a medical doctor, too. From the time she was 15, Dra. González knew she wanted to be a surgeon. When she went to medical school and was introduced to cardiac surgery, she found her love and her passion.
Dra. González arrived Cuenca in 2015 from her home country of Venezuela where she received her medical degree from the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 2003. Her experience spans almost seven years to graduate as medical doctor, three years in formation as a general surgeon and three more years to get a cardiovascular surgeon degree. When she finished medical school, Dra. González worked two years in general medicine in the private and public sectors. It was during this time that she learned that she wanted to do more challenging procedures that could make a great impact on the lives of others. In order to achieve her goal, Dra. González decided to get her general surgery degree from Hospital Dr. Domingo Luciani and after that her cardiovascular surgery degree from Hospital Militar Universitario Dr. Carlos Arvelo, both of which are large health centers located in Caracas. Following her last graduation, and for the next four years, she worked as a specialist in Caracas both in the public and private sectors doing procedures like bypass surgeries and valve repairs. Dra. González also worked in the area of cardiac and aortic pathologies about which she was even more passionate.
A friend of Dra. González suggested that Cuenca may have more opportunities for her. After doing some research, Dra. González found that Cuenca would be an excellent place to practice because of the medical support it offers. Besides its excellent weather, Cuenca’s population looked very similar to the people of Venezuela. Once she had all her documents assembled to obtain her permanent professional visa, Dra. González started to practice in Cuenca.
Immediately upon arriving in Cuenca, Dra. González began to work in a public hospital where she continued working in the vascular field using the most advanced technology available. In December 2017, Dra. González earned a position at Hospital Universitario del Río considered by many to be the best private hospital in Azuay. At both of these hospitals she gained experience working with Cuenca’s expat community. Her excellent proficiency in English and French, thanks to time spent as a child living in Colorado and Michigan, made it a natural fit.
After a radio program during which she spoke about deep vein thrombosis and cardiovascular disease, she received a call from Dr. Romo, whom many expats know from his work on musculoskeletal pain management. Dra. González began working with Dr. Romo and attending to patients with vascular and other health problems. In Cuenca, Dra. González has decided to work with patients with vascular issues, such as varicose veins, arterial and vein thrombosis, swollen limbs, aneurysms, among other vascular problems. She has dedicated herself to the peripheral vascular system and to the diagnosis and treatment of arterial, venous, diabetic foot and lymphatic diseases.
Many people arrive in Cuenca with health issues and decide they are going to start doing things differently. They start eating healthier and taking lots of walks. Some notice that they have to stop frequently due to pain in their legs, shortness of breath, or sudden fatigue. They believe it is because they are just out of shape, and it will get better. Trouble with the veins in their legs or with their heart never crosses their minds. With heart disease being the number one killer in North America, Dra. González stated that is very important for people over the age of 50 to have a health checkup at least annually, including a cardiovascular and/or vascular check. If you are a smoker or have diabetes, regular checkups are even more important because these are high risk factors for the cardiovascular system. Diabetes is a major contributor in cardiovascular and vascular problems as well as other health issues. People with diabetes may not be aware that symptoms they are having, such as pain in the lower limbs, swollen legs, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold feet, changes in the color of the feet or leg ulcers could be warning signs of a vascular/cardiovascular problem or the precursor to a heart attack. Therefore, an annual checkup if healthy or every three to six months if other risk factors are present, is of the utmost importance. These checkups will detect any cardiovascular problems and not only take care of them but possibly prevent a stroke or heart attack. Over 80% of people in the world have cardiovascular problems but are not aware.
The important message that Dra. González would like to give to Cuenca’s expat community is this is their time to enjoy life. The best way for them to do that is first to take care of their health and maintain a healthy body. It is very important to have a healthy lifestyle – yearly checkups, proper nutrition, exercise, and no smoking – in order to enjoy a full and healthy life. She is extremely dedicated to providing the very best care to her patients. If you have questions or concerns about your heart or vascular and lymphatic systems, then Dra. González is who you need to ask. She specializes in treatments using advanced medical procedures and is extremely passionate about her chosen field and especially about her patients.