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Medical Epicenter: A Collection of Short Stories About Texas Doctors

Medical Epicenter: A Collection of Short Stories About Texas Doctors

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Medical Epicenter: A Collection of Short Stories About Texas Doctors

130 página
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Lançado em:
Aug 4, 2017


This collection of short stories is dedicated to all the foreign physicians who immigrated to the USA, in search of the American Dream. Many have chosen to run away from the socialized medicine, prevalent in their country of birth. Others came to join in the enormous medical progress, which made Houston, Texas a much desired destination. The powerful magnet created by the advancements in cardiovascular surgery, neurology and cancer research attracted thousands of foreign medical professionals to Texas Medical Center. They have all arrived filled with hope and enthusiasm in the American healthcare environment, unmatched by any other country in the world. The vast majority of their solo practices soon became very successful, as a result of the prevailing free enterprise and patients’ freedom of choice.
While the rest of the western world went through a process of government controlled healthcare, USA has kept its medical market free of any state control. At the core of this trend was none other than the famous Medical Epicenter, the nickname given to the huge urban cluster of private hospitals and clinics. Through the financial support from wealthy donors and large charitable foundations, it became a much-desired destination for millions of patients from around the world. Among the annual visitors were foreign dignitaries, showbiz celebrities, royalties and the super wealthy. In the end, they all have found a cure for their illnesses. Meanwhile, a few moments of truth make the six short stories a touch of Texas reality.
Lançado em:
Aug 4, 2017

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Medical Epicenter - Aurel Emilian Mircea


Pink Lady

On a sunny Monday morning in early January, when Texas weather kept its reputation of a subtropical paradise, the main lobby of Warwick Hotel in Houston teemed with the newly arrived doctors. A day before, a chartered jet sponsored by Cooper & Partners Ltd., a reputed international recruiting organization, had flown in a group of handpicked physicians, directly from South Africa. For the next two weeks, the new immigrants would interview with local sponsors to sign up for lucrative practices. Their most-desired target was the Texas Medical Center, reputed to be the world’s Medical Epicenter. And the nickname was properly deserved for the giant complex of healthcare facilities, stretching on more than one-thousand acres.

With its fifteen teaching hospitals, fifty specialty clinics, three medical schools, many scientific and medical research institutions it was a city within a city. It employed one-hundred-thousand medical professionals and cared for many millions of patients annually, traveling there from all over the world for the best care available.

Without exception, Mr. Cooper’s organization had guaranteed for every recruited South African physician, a solid professional placement in that medical complex. Notwithstanding their bright financial futures, the doctors and their families were looking forward to a more tranquil lifestyle. Back in their home country, daily antigovernment riots in the black townships and the political turmoil generated by the Apartheid made their livelihoods very insecure.

By midmorning, with spouses at their side they have all gathered in front of the conference room on the first floor. Mr. Cooper’s arrival was eagerly anticipated. He supposed to bring a much anticipated list of sponsors and new professional opportunities, but above all the American Dream. Meanwhile, the gathering was chatting about the fascinating history of Warwick Hotel and its French connection. The famous landmark had officially become their first Texas residence. As for the city itself, the fourth largest in the USA within one-hundred years, from a huge marshland, Houston turned into the petrochemical and medical capital of the world. Located at the northern end of the Medical Epicenter, the Warwick Hotel was one of the city’s most storied and elegant guesthouses.

Before their departure from the old country, every one of them had to go through a tedious process to fully qualify for the immigration visa. First, to comply with the State Department rules, they had to pass a medical and English language test, known as ECFMG. Second, everyone had to produce evidence of income-making capabilities or proof of a full-time employment in the USA. Here, Mr. Cooper and his reputable organization came into play. He had provided a written guarantee to the immigration authorities that every recruited physician will receive a financial sponsorship in the first year, or a permanent job. The third precondition required that before the entry visa would be issued by the US Consulate in Johannesburg, every applicant had to have a physical address in the USA. Once again, Mr. Cooper’s organization came into play, by providing the address of Warwick Hotel in Houston as the new immigrants’ residence in Texas. By then, his organization had already prepaid a deposit for their recruited physicians’ room and board.

With those three major preconditions behind them, the newly immigrated doctors were now proud holders of a Green Card. Within the next five years, that initial symbol of permanent residence would translate into a permanent American citizenship certificate. With it, would come all the rights and privileges provided by the American Constitution.


In that eagerly anticipating gathering of physicians, Dr. Herbert Vorkel and his wife Cecilia mingled with their expatriates. Every participant in that group of new immigrants was confident about their future prospects in Texas. Internationally reputed for their superior training, English fluency and excellent practical skills, the South African physicians became a prize commodity. They were arriving annually by the hundreds, instantly being adopted by most private hospitals and clinics in the Medical Epicenter. The Lone Star State was experiencing a serious shortage of physicians, because of the large influx of people relocating from other states. The boom in the petrochemical industry, as well as the expanding real-estate market had created a powerful magnet for millions of new Texans.

Soon, the midmorning gathering of South African immigrants has changed the chatter from Texas migration, to Warwick Hotel’s past history. The highly reputed guesthouse had grown in its popularity, as a mirror image of Houston’s prosperity. Dr. Vorkel and his wife Cecilia had chosen a luxury suite on the eighth floor to become their official address in Houston. They always wanted to live in style. Back in Johannesburg, a very wealthy friend of theirs had told them about this luxurious hotel. Its fame and glory went back to the postwar era, when the original owner went to France and acquired antique artifacts from the Louis XV period. All those priceless acquisitions were later integrated with the external architecture and the interior decoration of the final reconstruction. The landmark became so popular with many Texas oil tycoons and bankers, a few had chosen to live there permanently.

One such luxurious suite, the Pink Lady’s permanent residence, became the talk of the town. Widowed for the last two decades of her life, she had regularly indulged in communication with spirits from the past, haunting the Warwick Hotel. According to the believers in ghosts and paranormal, many old phantoms have been imported across the Atlantic, inside the French artifacts. After her husband’s death, the Pink Lady had organized regular séance sessions to communicate with her departed spouse. After her passing, her living quarters were left intact at the request of the living relatives. Decorated exclusively in pink, from drapes to furniture, to carpets, the elegant suite became a family memorial in her homage.

Herbert, you need to talk to someone at the front desk, Cecilia said. That apparition last night was not right to my liking …

It did not frighten me at all, Dr. Vorkel replied. "The Pink Lady seemed to smile and waved her hand, before she crossed the wall into the next suite."

Then, all I’ve read about this elegant hotel is true, Cecilia continued. The artifacts from France brought along not only an elegant architecture, but also the ghosts from the old Parisian catacombs.

When Mr. Cooper is finished with the morning presentation, I’ll ask him for a better explanation, my dear. Let’s enter the conference room.

The crowd awaiting Mr. Cooper’s arrival, for their first orientation meeting started to walk inside the conference room. When the recruiter arrived on schedule, with two assistants in tow, they were greeted by the South African recruits with cheers. A large movie screen came down from the ceiling and one of the agents went in the back of the room to roll the camera. The other helper handed out a list to every participant, with all the doctors’ sponsoring facilities in the Medical Epicenter. The first part of the presentation described Houston, its industrial surroundings and all the affiliated medical facilities within the Harris County.

Mr. Cooper’s presentation lasted an hour and the participants paid attention to every detail. He mentioned a few healthcare facilities by their names, the likes of Herman, St. Luke’s and Methodist Hospitals and their bustling departments of scientific research. With a confident tone in his voice, he reassured the audience that every one of those facilities would absorb all the immigrated South African physicians.

In all fairness, he further explained, every doctor is expected to admit most of his patients at the sponsoring hospital, as a sign of allegiance and professional cooperation.

No problem! the chorus of doctors responded.

They are expecting you on the job, no later than within three months, he concluded.

It will be done! the audience said in unison.

On a closing note, he warned everybody to look out for the Pink Lady, a paranormal apparition that mostly haunts the upper floors of the hotel, looking for a good doctor.

If she comes to say hello to you, don’t chase her away and never call the room service to bring the garlic spray. She is a very sweet and harmless ghost.

We’ve already seen her in our suite last night! Cecilia said to everyone’s surprise.

Quiet, my dear, Dr. Vorkel rebuffed his wife. It’s not the right moment …

How about that? one of the participants said, amid general laughter. "The Pink Lady had already chosen Dr. Vorkel, for her family doctor …"

He is well versed in African voodoo! another doctor said, while the giggling continued.

Cecilia looked at her husband with a confused expression of her face. Aren’t you going to say anything about the last night pink ghost?

I told you, I’m going to deal with it in a more discreet way, when the moment is more appropriate! he whispered.


After the Pink Lady diversion, every participant stood up ready to leave the conference room. On their way out, every physician handed over the filled-in papers with the selection of their future practice and the preferred hospital in the Medical Epicenter. From that moment onward, they had a two-week deadline to conclude future interviews with hospital owners and accept a place to work and live in the Harris County area.

Discussing the pros and cons with his wife Cecilia, Dr. Vorkel had already selected a smaller hospital complex located on the eastside of Houston. Run by a handful of family physicians, Doctors Hospital thrived in a vibrant industrial municipality, along the Houston Ship Channel. The decision to choose that particular facility was based on their personal family needs. They both wanted to live in a smaller urban community, for their two small daughters’ benefits, with a

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