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Dr. Ruiz on giving back to his home country of Mexico and developing an innovative bone marrow transplant procedure

Guillermo J. Ruiz Arguelles, MD, MACP

 

Guillermo J. Ruiz Arguelles, MD, MACP
— CURRENT OCCUPATION —
Director General, Centro de Hematologia y Medicina Interna de Puebla, Clinica RUIZ; Director of the Research Division of Laboratorios Ruiz, within the Clinica RUIZ; Professor of Hematology at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla

— MEDICAL SCHOOL —
Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí

— INTERNAL MEDICINE RESIDENCY —
Instituto Nacional de la Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma del Estado de México

— HEMATOLOGY RESIDENCY —
Instituto Nacional de la Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma del Estado de México

— POST-GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP —
Mayo Graduate School of Medicine
 

For Dr. Guillermo Ruiz Arguelles, a career as an internist and hematologist seemed like destiny. Thinking back, Dr. Ruiz amusingly admits that he “did not have very many choices to be anything other than a doctor.”

His grandfather was a general practitioner in Mexico. In 1920, he closed his office and moved to Paris, France, to learn more updated ways of practicing medicine. He stayed for two years before returning to what is now Dr. Ruiz's hometown of Puebla, Mexico.

It was a good chance to travel all over the world with my family.

Dr. Ruiz's father became an internist and hematologist, publishing his own research in 1954 when Dr. Ruiz was only three years old. “I was very young and got an interest in research by seeing how my father's work allowed him to travel to present his results in both domestic and foreign conferences. It was a good chance to travel all over the world with my family.”

Dr. Ruiz would follow in his father's footsteps, becoming an internist and hematologist in Mexico and going on to join the Mayo Clinic for a stint as a research fellow. Today, he is the Founder and Director General at the Clinica RUIZ in Puebla, Mexico, and Chapter Governor of ACP's Mexico chapter. One of his sons fell in line with family tradition and also became an internist and hematologist, joining Dr. Ruiz and his father as part of four generations of doctors at the Clinica RUIZ.

While Dr. Ruiz found his path to medicine within his family, he viewed practicing medicine in Mexico as a duty to his country thanks to the investment made in his education.

Owing a debt to Mexico

To go to medical school in Mexico, Dr. Ruiz explained that he paid “roughly the equivalent of $10. After that, I was granted a scholarship and attended the university for free. So, as it would happen, I only paid $10 to become a doctor.” When it came time to move into the internal medicine and hematology specialties, Mexico actually paid Dr. Ruiz to earn his education.

That investment from his home country convinced Dr. Ruiz where he needed to practice medicine. “I know that my country has invested a lot of money in my education, and this is the reason why, while I finished my training at the Mayo Clinic, I decided to return to Mexico.” Dr. Ruiz found that he wanted to create genuine change at home in Mexico and wanted to “make more affordable the treatments and to return to my country what I have gotten from it.”

When compared to the United States, according to Dr. Ruiz, the practice of internal medicine in Mexico is “totally different. The number of hospitals in Mexico is lower. I have always thought of adapting the practice of internal medicine and hematology to the realities of our country. Since our country has a lot of problems dealing with hospitals, I have been instrumental in developing methods to treat patients with both internal medicine problems and hematology problems without using a hospital. That is critical.”

20 years ago, when we started doing bone marrow transplants on an outpatient basis, everybody thought we were crazy.

When Dr. Ruiz returned home from the Mayo Clinic in 1983, he immediately got to work on developing a bone marrow transplantation procedure that could be performed on an outpatient basis. “That decision,” according to Dr. Ruiz, “absolutely changed my life. My sons, both the physician and two others who are involved in running the business of Clinica RUIZ, have been critical in the development of our method of conducting bone marrow transplants.”

Following his personal charge of driving the cost of medicine down in Mexico, Dr. Ruiz gained international recognition. “As a result of the changes I have made to the bone marrow transplant procedure, I was elected a Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumnus.” He also received a distinguished service award from the American Society of Bone Marrow Transplantation and the Doctorate Honoris Causa in sciences by his Alma Mater, the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí. Looking back, Dr. Ruiz admits that “20 years ago, when we started doing bone marrow transplants on an outpatient basis, everybody thought we were crazy.” Today, Clinica RUIZ has become a respected option for treatment and care for both Mexicans and people from around the world.

A distinguished invitation to join ACP

Dr. Ruiz found a unique route to ACP in the 1980s thanks to the College's President at the time, Dr. Ralph Wallerstein, MACP. Dr. Wallerstein was a well-known hematologist and internist, and he met Dr. Ruiz at a meeting in Panama where they both were speaking. Dr. Ruiz remembers that Dr. Wallerstein “saw my lectures and asked if I was a member of ACP. I said ‘no,’ and he said, ‘Well, looking at what you have done in your country to change the way of practicing internal medicine and hematology, I would like you to become a member of ACP.’”

Dr. Wallerstein admitted Dr. Ruiz into ACP directly as a Fellow. Through his work as a physician and his academic accomplishments, Dr. Ruiz would eventually go on to achieve the status of Master of the College.

Dr. Ruiz considers ACP valuable as a learning tool. He also thinks that “the College should devote some of the academic activities to practicing medicine in developing countries, because it has many chapters around the world. ACP should encourage development programs and activities devoted to facilitate and improve the practice of internal medicine mainly in developing countries in which, nowadays, more than 60% of the world lives.”

Being with family in medicine and vintage cars

Dr. Ruiz not only comes from a family of doctors, but he works with them every day. While his father isn't practicing medicine any longer at age 93, he still makes time to visit Clinica RUIZ on a daily basis to greet its employees. Dr. Ruiz's sons, too, work at the clinic, continuing the longstanding tradition of practicing internal medicine.

When the family leaves work behind for their hobbies, they continue to stick together. While Dr. Ruiz loves reading books on non-medical topics, especially science fiction, his most recent hobby is vintage car restoration. He buys classic cars in poor condition, and then, little by little he tries to get the parts from abroad and brings them to the place that repairs the cars.

Dr. Ruiz travels to vintage car shows, and his sons come along for the ride. The Ruiz family, in everything, stays together, and this trend seems destined to continue.

Back to the June 2018 issue of ACP IMpact

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