By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Mega Doctor News in its newsprint edition November 2014
Dr. Abdias Etienne comes to the Valley from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He is a committed and compassionate physician trained in the fields of Palliative medicine. He works with an expert medical team, which he personally trains in symptom control and pain management. As the senior medical director at Pax Villa Hospice and palliative care, he oversees and directs the care of any patient admitted to Pax Villa Hospice. Providing physical, emotional, and spiritual support to the patient and their families is always at the core of the care plan set by Dr. Etienne and his team.
Dr. Etienne told Mega Doctor News that Pax Villa Hospice seeks to be a model in hospice care in the Rio Grande Valley. While at the helm of Pax Villa, he wants to debunk the myth about hospice care, educate the community, and afford the families of his patients a first-rated team of palliative personnel who truly understands the concept of hospice and promotes the compassion and dignity that are the essence of palliative care.
It is important to note that the services offered by Pax Villa Hospice are available to patients who have a chronic or debilitating illness not responding to conventional curative treatments. In such cases, many patients usually feel abandoned or left to care for themselves. “I have seen the fear in the eyes of those patients and their families” Dr. Etienne said, when they are told that there is not much more that can be done for them. Hence that mantra, “Pax Villa Hospice, Where Care Continues.”
The doctor relates that the care that Pax Villa provides emphasizes alleviating the symptom burdens of their patients and providing emotional, spiritual and psychosocial support to the family. “We rely on the combined knowledge and skills of our interdisciplinary team of professionals to treat our patients. We do not only treat the disease, he added.
Dr. Etienne was born in Haiti; he explains that his parents immigrated to the United States when he was still a child. “I got to New York when I was a teenager and that’s where I did my high school and college studies. He remembers that his parents always instilled in him and his siblings the principle of hard work. “I owe a lot to my parents” He said.
Before he became a medical doctor, Dr. Etienne started his career in the financial sector. “I graduated from Pace University in New York where I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and management.” He said, “I’ve always wanted to be a physician. I studied medicine at the Universidad Mexico Americana del Norte in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where I graduated with my medical degree in 1995.”
After his medical studies, Dr. Etienne decided to go back to New York where he did his internship in family medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center at State University of New York. He said, “After I graduated in 2007, I did my residency at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.”
He did his specialty in hospice and palliative medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He said that he became aware of the Rio Grande Valley when he studied in Mexico, so he already knew about the needs of this area. He relates that it was only fitting for him to settle in the Valley and provide his expertise that is sorely needed.
He attributes his personality as the reason he chose this profession. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.” Dr. Etienne believes that there is no time when people are most vulnerable than when they or a family member are dealing with a serious illness. “What better time to be of help to them” he asked pensively.
Even though technology has become an indispensable tool in almost every profession and industry, at Pax Villa Hospice, we rely more on family meetings, interdisciplinary team meetings, face-to-face visits done on a daily basis while admitted to our inpatient facility, and strict symptom control. “In my field, high tech equipment plays a minor role in caring for our patients, since the human touch is possibly best and most effective when explaining to a patient what is going on with them.”
Dr. Etienne says that his profession is filled with challenges, “Especially the acceptance of the fact that somebody is terminally ill.” He continued, “We have to find a way to reassure them that a special care is available to them and how we’ll go about providing that care to them.
“What concerns me the most is when the care that the patient needs is not what the family thinks the patients needs at that time.” He said, “For example, you may have a breast cancer patient with bone metastasis suffering with severe pain that you are trying to manage with morphine and the family feels that their mom does not need morphine at this time.”
He says that people associate morphine with people that are dying. They would rather have the person stay in pain than to give the medication that the person needs. “I think that worries me when the person is not getting the care because of somebody else’s misunderstanding of the care that should be provided.”
The satisfaction Dr. Etienne gets from his profession is that he is able to help the patient and the family during the most vulnerable and difficult time in their lives. “When you have a loved one who is really sick it affects not just the patient but it also makes a big impact on the spouse or the children because everything goes crazy at that time.”
Dr. Etienne believes that people are not so much afraid of death, but people are afraid of the process of dying. “What we do here at Pax Villa Hospice is to control and manage the process so that people can maintain their dignity all the way towards the end. It is to me a major source of satisfaction when I’m able to do that,” he said.
Pax Villa Hospice is recognized for their compassionate and excellent service. Dr. Etienne believes that what sets them apart is that they are now able to admit their patient to their own in-patient unit in McAllen. The unit is staffed with nurses and personnel with a particular set of skills geared towards symptom control and pain management. Dr. Etienne boasts a 100% customer satisfaction from surveys collected from family members and from patients prior to discharge.
The immediate and long-range future for Pax Villa Hospice aims to be the role model for Hospice care in the Rio Grande Valley. “I think that so far we have been doing that.” He said, “We just opened our continuous care in-patient unit and thus we can extend the service that we are already providing at home. Our new hospice facilities are located at 4513 W. Business Highway 83 in McAllen, Texas.”
Pax Villa Hospice in the Valley Rio Grande is a national model of palliative care. “We offer the highest quality and innovative care, so as to allow our patients to be alert, pain and symptom-free at the end of life through the proper care of their individual needs and pain management. We ensure continuity of care when our patients need more specialized and intensive assistance.”
Pax Villa Hospice is chartered as a corporation in Texas; their corporate/administrative offices are now located at 4513 W. Business Highway 83 in McAllen, Texas. For more information, check out their Ad on page 2 in this issue. MDN