In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
Panajachel, Lake Atitlan,
Free Healthcare! Celebrating their 1 year
Interview with Dr. Louis De
Everywhere we travel we see
the local Expat community getting involved in helping those who are less fortunate.
Below is the story of how Expats are working with locals to fund and run a health clinic
for affordable prices and with good care. Monetary donations are accepted for
services received, and you can
find out how to donate medicine, funding, your time, expertise or more on their
Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic, Panajachel,
Lifestyle: Dr. De Pena, could you tell us a little about
Dr. Louis De Pena: I am an
American Citizen born of
American parents while they lived in Caracas, Venezuela in 1954. This provided me with dual
nationality. My mother was born in Chicago, Illinois, my father was born in San Francisco,
California. My folks retired in Guatemala where I arrived as a teenager in
1967. I went to Guatemala schools all the way until I graduated as a physician in medicine and
surgery in 1980. I arrived to specialize in the U.S. While working full time as a
surgery technician for 2 years I simultaneously studied part time with the
purpose of acquiring my medical license in the USA.
While working as a surgery
technician and studying in the U.S., my father sent me some Guatemalan handcrafts
which I then offered to a local retailer. That day I made more money than what I made in
several months working as a surgery technician. This distracted me from my
medical studies as I suddenly had a very successful import business that started
with a boom and lasted 9 years. The recession of the early 90s put an end to
this otherwise joyful and exciting enterprise. This coincided with my folks
suffering poor health and I decided to come back to Guatemala as they
needed my presence.
REL: How long have you been practicing
DLDP: I have been a physician for 35 years,
and have practiced for 24.
REL: Where did you study and where did
you receive your medical degree?
DLDP: I received my Medical degree in Guatemala
in 1980 and immediately went to the US to incorporate as a physician there.
Brand new shipment of medicines donated by
the local LDS Church
REL: Just recently
(and celebrating your first year of operation) you opened a clinic
catering mostly to the local Mayan population. Why did you take on this
challenge? Can you give us the address, location and hours of operation?
DLDP: This challenge was taken on as the
result of working with local NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) that provided healthcare as a secondary
focus. I've seen the high demand and life threatening circumstances that the
local indigenous faced and the few resources provided by these establishments. I decided to
move forward in providing a more accessible and more tailored medical service to
locals and foreigners alike.
The address of Lake Atitlan
Wellness Clinic is 3-34 Calle Monterrey, Panajachel, Guatemala, CA, 07010
Dr. Luis De Pena,
President and Medical Director with a young Maya child
REL: How does the fee schedule work?
What do you charge for a visit?
DLDP: The Lake Atitlan
Wellness Clinic is subsidized free medical care based on donations by those who
are compelled to help alleviate pain and
suffering of individuals and families who cannot provide for their own
healthcare. Many of the patients who arrive at this noble and unique clinic have life-threatening
conditions or suffer from crippling illnesses.
Fortunately, medicines are
inexpensive through the contacts of our Clinic. These
otherwise cost approximately 80% more. This allows us to apply donations
efficiently to buy medicines for many. Currently including all the overhead, the
cost per patient is less than $5.00 which includes the medical consultation,
medicines, labs and ultrasound and lease of the building it operates out of. That gives this life-saving and pain relieving establishment the best value of
any other establishment I am aware of including the free Government health care center whose overhead is enormous and which is corrupted by higher government. As a
consequence, the Government health care center usually lacks medicines and is often on strike for lack of payment
to its personnel and so therefore is unable to provide to the people who seek its
REL: Do Mayans and Expats all go to your
DLDP: More locals take advantage of the
service we offer and often mention that they get treated well and better than in other
places. More foreigners are arriving every day at Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic
as they see that the clinic can provide for them as well and they are able to be
understood in fluent English. Foreigners like being able to come to a place
where they get some, if not all, of their needs fulfilled and they gladly donate for
the purchase of medicines that are in turn provided to them and others who are
not able to buy them.
The constant comment of locals and
foreigners alike is that this Clinic is a ďgreat placeĒ and ďa blessing.Ē This establishment is still in diapers as it opened
just a year ago. We are looking forward to getting help to purchase a building
of its own to greatly reduce overhead that could otherwise be utilized for
better medical service, as the amount for lease of the dwelling can purchase
great amount of medicines every month and allow this great place to become
independent of its greatest liability after the purchase of medicines. Yes! Lake
Atitlan Wellness Clinic has real value that is without any question, and worth
your donation. Its bookkeeping is available by request to anyone who is serious
about donating or wanting to investigate its legality.
Dr. Luis De Pena giving medical service to
a Maya family
At Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic we
are striving to expand services to provide them in a more well-rounded manner 24
hours a day. Eventually the dream is to provide services in the form of a full
blown hospital to help locals, Expats and tourists. We want the facility to be
adopted and utilized by a medical school from abroad to teach tropical medicine and Spanish
to nursing and medical students with the help and supervision of their own school
instructors whereby they can get credits from their medical school. We hope
that such a place would get international recognition to assist folks from all
walks of life, while also providing medical tourism.
REL: We understand that you have
received some new equipment donated from the Church of Latter Day Saints here in Pana. Can you
tell us about that?
DLDP: On behalf of the LDS
congregation, the clinic has a new state-of-the-art colour ultrasound, examining
table and sterilization equipment for surgical instruments. They have also provided
a few thousand Dollars in medicines. This has allowed us to not worry so much
about having to pay the rent for the building which was kindly provided free of
charge for 7 months. At Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic we are very grateful for
all our supporters who, little by little, are increasing steadily. To this date
the Mormon congregation has been our largest supporter with approximately
$16,000 donated in the form of equipment and medicines.
REL: How do you receive the funds to
operate your clinic? Do you take donations? How does one get their donation to
Brand new donated ultra sound machine
DLDP: Funding for the clinic
comes in different forms, a minor amount acquired by direct cash donations
deposited via PayPal in the
Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic. Donations also come in the form of
medicines brought by travelers who come down in medical missions, by supportive
friends, and by donations provided by organizations like the Mormon
Congregations. Despite the support provided to this clinic, it continues to be
lacking sufficient funding for all medicines and services needed.
REL: Do you draw a salary or is your
work at the clinic volunteer?
DLDP: At this point I am an investor at
the clinic in the form of providing free time as a physician, and investing
small amounts of cash to keep it floating while secured sources of funding
become available to earn a modest salary and keep the doors open. This has been
possible so far only by a modest source of income that I have thatís unrelated
to the clinic. I have help from friends and one time donations from
establishments that have realized the importance this service provides to the
population in general. Approximately 25% of patients have life threatening
conditions such as pneumonia, which is the number one killer of children in Guatemala.
REL: How many patients do you see in a
week or month?
DLDP: This varies greatly, depending on
the season as different morbidity takes place in different times of the year. In the rainy season, water gets tainted and there is more gastro intestinal
illness, during the dry season, particularly when the wind blows and it gets
dusty, there is more respiratory illness. Sometimes itís a busy week with over
180 patients, and others under 90.
Location of Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic in Panajachel, Guatemala
REL: What happens if a patient requires
complicated care or has a longstanding illness?
acquiring new equipment as often as possible and its funding allows to expand
its services. This helps patients avoid having to go elsewhere to get certain lab
tests or medicines. We'd like to provide a one stop more complete service.
At this moment I am the sole
physician and I am looking forward to associating with a dentist, and other
clinical specialists like a psychologist or psychiatrist, a female special care
licensee, a chiropractor, as well as technicians to work the microbiology lab,
ultrasound, EKG machine and so on. I am doing all of that right now, and need help. There
isnít any funding for hiring at this moment.
In the event that there is a
longstanding illness, the patient can receive care as an outpatient just like
everyone else. If the condition requires other treatment than what can be provided at Lake
Atitlan Wellness Clinic, the patient gets referred to the proper treatment
center or specialist.
REL: At this time what is your biggest
DLDP: The biggest challenge is to get the
Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic funded sufficiently to purchase more medicines,
equipment and specialized knowledge in order to provide better service and avoid
closing the doors as the amount of funding that I can invest is limited. Fortunately the risk that Iíve taken in the economic sense seems to slowly be
diminishing as more generous folks who personally arrive and receive services
here at the clinic realize its modus operandi and want to help. This noble and unique
subsidized free healthcare initiative is taken on by my friend Linda DeBlanco
and myself to become successful in all areas.
French, Secretary and Director of Legal Services
This clinic is currently in need
of approximately $1,800 a month to stay afloat and this is without hiring any help. The
only overhead at this moment is the cleaning lady, the rent, electric bill, the
labs and medicines which is clearly a substantial value for all the pain
relieving and life-saving provisions we offer. The administrator, Linda De
Blanco, her daughter, Jeri French, who is the legal advisor and I are currently not paid
We are very grateful to be
providing this fantastic service. Even though it doesnít provide economic
compensation to ourselves, it provides great fulfilment and a positive
mind-set in knowing that we contribute to the wellness of the people in the
communities of the area and beyond. Their appreciation to us for helping them is
Linda De Blanco,
Vice President and Administrator
like to thank Dr. Luis De Pena, Linda De Blanco and Jeri French for their time
in answering our questions and for the work they do for the Lake Atitlan
Find out more about this clinic, donate your time (retired doctors?), have your
organization, church, synagogue or medical school get involved! Have ideas or funding
for this worthy cause? Please visit their
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person Ė the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesnít
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.