Interview with Dr. Anja Widmann
¡Viva Puerto!: Let’s cut to the chase, you graduated from medical school in Germany and you did your pediatric residency at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York, but you chose to open a practice in Puerto Escondido. What’s with that?
Anja Widmann: I went to high school in Mexico City. (My father worked for an international company, and we lived in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and various parts of Germany.) I first came to Puerto on a school trip in 1999, and I totally fell in love with the place. I decided that once I became a doctor I would open a small practice in Puerto. I moved here the day after I finished my residency in 2011. Puerto is my home.
VP: I imagine you had to face a lot of hurdles before you could start practicing in Mexico.
AW: It took over a year and a half for the paper work to be approved. I used the time to study for U.S. Board Certification in Pediatrics. Then, to get a Mexican medical license, I had to do six months of social service, which I was able to do at the Hospital General de Puerto Escondido. It was a good and eye opening experience which allowed me to learn about local patients’ needs and the health care system in general.
VP: Please elaborate.
AW: In Germany and the U.S. you have all sorts of lab tests and treatments readily available. That is not the case here, nor are there any subspecialists. I can, however, consult with my colleagues in the U.S. via the Internet. Another problem is that lots of children have no medical records, so you don’t have an accurate picture of their medical history. I keep computer records for all my patients.
It´s been difficult and challenging to convince parents that giving their children medication, especially antibiotics and cold medications, is not always necessary and can even be dangerous. Most viral illnesses will just get better on their own. Often patients expect prescription even if there is no treatment available or necessary; they seem disappointed.
The biggest problem in Puerto, however, is the lack of preventive care. Sometimes I see children when they are already ill with diseases or conditions that could have been detected during regular check-up. Although most of my patients have common pediatric ailments like colds, diarrhea, asthma and a variety of infections, I also have seen vaccine preventable diseases - like whooping cough, hepatitis A, chicken pox, and measles – some of which I only knew from textbooks. Once I saw an 18-month baby in heart failure from a condition that should have been detected and treated shortly after birth. A very generous couple contacted a foundation in Mexico City, and three weeks later she underwent surgery. Now she is in good health.
VP: What are the advantages to practicing medicine in Puerto?
AW: I love that I can spend as much time as I need with my patients, time that I would have to spend filling out insurance reports in the U.S. Since I speak Spanish, English and German, I get to have an international practice, and I don’t just treat children. My oldest patient is 83. I also get patients from as far away as Río Grande, Mazunte and Zipolite. In fact, a growing number of my patients are ex-pats and tourists. My fees are on a sliding scale so I can attend to the needs of a wide range of people.
VP: What about your relationship with the local medical community?
AW: I like being involved with public health issues. I’ve recently given talks in schools on healthy nutrition and first aid. I was invited by the health department to address general practitioners on common pediatric illnesses and the use and misuse of antibiotics.
VP: Any plans for the future?
AW: Right now I am all by myself, but there is room for four more doctors to practice with me. I am very interested in maternal health care, and the dream is for the clinic to eventually become an integrative center for maternal and child health care, including a Birthing Center.
VP: Any last words for our readers?
AW: Thank you, Puerto Escondido, for allowing me to realize my dream of living and working here. And, do not take antibiotics for viral infections!
Dr. Anja Widmann´s practice Oasis del Pacífico is located along
the Carretera Costera KM 146 in La Barra 1° Sección, Puerto Escondido
(between the Pemex and the Colotepec bridge). She can be
reached at 954-128-7661 or at