Alvaro Puig – In the service of others between medicine and piano

What would you think if, in addition to a painkiller prescription, you were also given a dose of traditional Colombian music on the piano? A potion in the style of El Chambu or La Ruana will not cure you, but it will reduce the stress and suffering caused by the disease.

That prescription was added during the pandemic to a hospital in the city of Tappahannock (Virginia) by Dr. Álvaro Puig Rodriguez, a group of loggers and sawmills that employ Mexicans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Colombians.

Puig, a Bogotá-born apprentice, between auscultations, diagnoses and patient visits, injects the passionate rhythms of Colombian folklore when he has time, because he knows when those invisible sweet tones reach the brain. So they have therapeutic power to calm anxiety.

He now does it at a hospital in Reston and in his private practice in Falls Church. ,If you tell me what is the title of this raga, I will not charge you for consultation.”, the challenge they face for their patients without health insurance. Almost none of them get it right, but they still walk away without paying.

He sees about five or six uninsured endocrinology patients weekly in his office, all of whom are transfers from Culmore Community Clinic.

doctor alvaro puig
Columbian has his own private medical practice in Falls Church, Virginia. photo courtesy.

,This is part of my social work, because it is very difficult for them to reach a specialist. I also do teaching work with medical students referred to me by George Washington, Marymount or Pennsylvania Universitiessays Puig, who is president of the Medical Society of Northern Virginia.

Álvaro Puig Rodríguez wanted to be a pianist. “H.Let’s make a deal: complete a degree, hang my diploma on your bedroom wall. Then take your piano and do whatever you want,

More words, less words, this was the advice of his mother, Mary Emma Rodriguez.

Becoming a lawyer was a natural in the Puig household, as were his grandfather, his father, and his mother. After study, the “little boy” chose therapy and looking back he is grateful to have listened to that advice, because “As much as I love the piano with all my soul, it is hard to make a living from art; I didn’t give up my passion for music, I combined it with my profession and saw that that’s how we all win“, They say.

The history of all immigrants is one of crossroads. Puig had a conflict between paramilitaries and Colombian guerrillas that forced him to change direction and leave midway through the first year of his internship as a rural doctor.

It was 2001, Puig was doing his internship as a beginning doctor in a small town in Cundinamarca. One day the mayor called him to say: “There is fighting between the guerrillas and the paramilitaries, in half an hour they will pick you up so that you can go to the camp to treat the wounded, Puig refused and asked to be taken to the dispensary.

During the pandemic, Puig was in charge of the hospital in the city of Tappahannock and there he also soothed the anxiety of his patients with the piano. photo courtesy.

He called his mother and told her that they were demanding that he go to the war zone. ,Mizo, take the car and come to Bogota right now”, This is another great advice for which she thanks her mother. Since then, its history gradually started shaping it here. He came to study English, then returned to Colombia to complete rural studies and from there to work in the United States to validate his degree.

In 2005 he made a final move to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he completed internships in cardiology, oncology and endocrinology. That experience helps her care for insured patients and uninsured diabetes patients referred by Culmore Community Clinic.

Tappahannock Doctor

Last year, Puig became president of the Medical Society of Northern Virginia. The organization, representing 1,600 doctors, marked the first time a Latino was elected to be the voice of doctors before politicians or health insurance.

Experience as a rural doctor in Columbia and Tappahannock developed a skill that is life or death in medicine, especially if there are not enough resources: ingenuity. This means learning to resolve emergency situations quickly.

Before the pandemic, they partnered with the Mexican Consulate and asked it to periodically send a mobile clinic to serve Mexican workers in sawmills. This service is still continuing. The Colombian Consulate was also one of its partners during the health emergency.

Tappahannock was the closest post to DC they gave him because he was a foreigner. He had to stay there for five years, before seeking a transfer to a larger hospital, where he stayed for eight years. They were his domain and with the piano in his pocket he charmed patients, even the most difficult patients.

The experience was unique in that small town. He had an 85-year-old patient who wanted permission to play the piano in church at all costs.

,I thought of telling him ‘We are colleagues, I am also a pianist and I will give you leave only if you play the piano we have in the hospital.’ She asked them to bring their best dress and their sheet music. We played with four hands, it was beautifulPuig recalls.

He took that memory with him when he moved to live closer to McLean, where he lives with his wife, Claudia Ardilla, a Colombian and a dentist who has a private practice in Falls Church.

Before graduating as a doctor, Dr. Puig Rodriguez was already an accomplished pianist and his music has taken him to hospitals and even the Capitol. photo courtesy.

At Reston Hospital, Bambuco and classical music once again fill the hallways. One of his wealthiest patients gave the hospital a Steinway,”perfect piano”, for sound quality. ,It’s at the entrance – says Puig – and with that keyboard that cost all the money in the world, I won the Colombian bamboo competition during the pandemic,

a musical dream

,Stay at home and we will stay in the hospital”Next to the piano was the message he sent to the Colombian people. That video went viral and even the Vice President of his country called him to thank him. ,From that moment on, only good things have come musically. I founded Kolompiano, of which my teacher and great standard-bearer of traditional piano music, Ruth Marulanda, is a part.,

Puig is an incorrigible optimist and for him traditional music is a way of creating opportunities.Those very good and talented pianists from Latin AmericaAnd those who, through Collopiano, would like to see him playing an instrument in hospitals or medical centers, because “Music helps motor and cognitive,

For now, he is working to give the stage to the most respected traditional music pianists Blanca Uribe, Teresita Gómez, Ruth Marulanda and Helvia Mendoza on the stages of Bogotá, Cali and Medellín and, if possible, to present them for Hispanic Heritage Month. Will bring. Drawback?: They are all over 80 years old. As he matures these ideas, he enjoys his free time with his wife, she playing the piano and he the organ and accordion.

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