Perspective comes when you least expect it. It makes the grass on your side of the fence as green – or greener – than your neighbor’s. It kicks gratitude into high gear, and it gives you a chance to look at your life, determine what you really want, what stands in your way of getting there and how much you want to achieve that desire.
Dr. Martha Rueda, a family practice physician with CHI St. Vincent in Little Rock, is a living example of this.
Q: Are you from Arkansas originally? Why did you decide to practice in Arkansas?
A: I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and I studied medicine and specialized in obstetrics and gynecology there. I’d built a full and happy live there with my husband and our three beautiful children; however, things took an abrupt turn when we started receiving kidnapping threats. We were forced to flee the country in less than 15 days and move to this country in December 2000. We arrived with the hope and dream to continue practicing medicine and doing what we love. We first lived in Chicago, and after overcoming numerous obstacles, my family and I moved to Arkansas where my husband started his residence at UAMS and I began to study for my medical exams. I studied medicine and specialized in obstetrics and gynecology at La Universidad del Bosque in Colombia then I specialized in family medicine at UAMS.
Q: What made you decide to pursue family practice?
A: Family medicine is a medical specialty that allows me to continue to apply my OB-GYN background and work with medical topics I had not been able to apply since my early years of studying medicine. When I was in Colombia, I had the opportunity to work in family medicine for three years, and I remember loving how I could work with a wide array of patients and diagnoses. Then and now, I have the opportunity to help families, parents and their children, and it is wonderful to see how I can become part of their family. Additionally, a few medical fields are as proficient in preventive care as family medicine is. I believe preventative care is very important, and my job allows me to not only provide immediate assistance, but provide recommendations for a better and healthier life in the future.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your career?
A: My biggest challenge was fighting to continue my career. Overcoming the obstacles in order to be a practicing physician in the U.S. was difficult with a new language, but when adding three little children and starting your life completely over, it seemed nearly impossible some days. However, my husband and I never allowed ourselves to think in that manner. It was our dream to be practicing physicians again, and this dream and passion are what gave us the courage and strength to work hard to be U.S. licensed physicians.
Q: What is the one most helpful thing a patient can provide you when he or she comes into your clinic?
A: When a patient comes in with an open mind, ready and willing to make a change. He or she must be ready to fight for better health and be prepared to give his or her best effort. He or she must be ready and willing to listen to all recommendations and have a positive attitude. I always tell my patients, “We are a team. If you give your best, and I, as your physician, give my best, then we will succeed as a team and see positive results. This is the only way we can improve your health.”
Q: What is one piece of advice would you give regarding a person’s health?
A: Health consists of both physical and mental health. My advice for my patients is to do their best – follow recommendations, whether it is dieting, exercising, taking medications and/or reporting back for follow ups and annual exams. Most importantly, always have a positive attitude because the mental aspect is half of the battle. If you believe your health can improve, and you work towards it, your physical and mental health can improve. I also encourage patients to have faith that they can get well and to never forget that God is with us every step of the journey.
Life has difficult moments, but the most important thing is to strive for one’s dreams and to do everything possible to overcome all obstacles.