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Houston Heart Surgeon Elected Vice President of Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- World-renowned heart surgeon Dr. Rafael Espada has made history by becoming the first physician elected Vice President of Guatemala. President-elect Alvaro Colom, with Dr. Espada as his running mate, won yesterday's presidential run-off after earning more than 52.8 percent of the country's votes. The two will take office January 14, 2008.

A native of Guatemala, Dr. Espada has practiced for more than 30 years as a heart surgeon in Houston. He most recently was Deputy Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center at The Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Espada's decision to return to Guatemala stems from his continued relationship with the country during his time in the United States. While in Houston, he established Guatemala's first cardiac hospital, Unidad Cardiovascular, which has become the premier heart hospital in Central America.

He also has traveled to Guatemala nearly every month over the last two decades to perform free surgeries for numerous Guatemalan citizens. He routinely has advised Guatemalan officials on a variety of healthcare and economic issues, including successfully mediating a strike between the government and the country's medical professionals.

Dr. Espada says his position of vice president will allow him to build on the economic development and healthcare improvements he has been working on during his time in the United States.

"A great number of Guatemalans are living in poverty, and a great number are sick and dying," says Dr. Espada. "The two problems are not mutually exclusive, and solutions go hand-in-hand. If we can create jobs and spur the economy, more people will be able to afford healthcare."

Dr. Espada's economic development plan involves creating a strong, diversified economy by creating jobs within the country and attracting more international business and investors.

"A safer, better educated country is the key to Guatemala's economic success," says the new Vice President. "We hope to put an end to the violence and corruption that has plagued our country, which will make Guatemala more attractive to foreign business."

To tackle healthcare in Guatemala, Dr. Espada seeks to improve access to preventive medicine and clean drinking water.

"The leading causes of death in Guatemala are not cancer, heart disease, or other similar conditions," the doctor says. "The illnesses killing this country are entirely preventable, and I want to make sure Guatemalans have access to the treatment, medicine and water that can save their lives."

Guatemala also suffers from one of the worst malnutrition rates in the world, affecting more than 50 percent of the country's children. Dr. Espada hopes to gain international support through the United Nations and other health organizations to help combat the problem.

Dr. Espada earned his medical degree at the Universidad San Carlos in Guatemala City, and trained as a heart surgeon under the famed Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston.

For more information, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 (office), 713-553-3358 (mobile) or

SOURCE Dr. Rafael Espada
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