200 hearts mended and counting
"My dad was a pediatrician, and he was my hero. My very first year as an intern here, he got sick and passed away. After I finished my training, I went back to Peru, where my parents are from, and talked to one of the doctors in the hospital there," says Dr. Juan Alejos, clinical professor of pediatric cardiology and medical director of the UCLA Pediatric Heart Transplant Program, who has been with Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center since 1987. He continues, "I offered to give a talk or lecture, but she said they'd rather I come back and show how I work. So I did. Three of us - a surgeon and another cardiologist, went and it was impactful. I started a foundation to take volunteer surgeons and cardiologists to developing countries, and we operate on kids with congenital heart disease. As a foundation, we've probably done close to 200 surgeries. It's a kind of life experience that changes you forever. It reinvigorates us to come back here every time we go. It's a great thing."