Educational Mission to Dominican Republic

by Blanca Vazquez, MD and Howard Weiner, MD


In June, the third medical education mission was held in Santiago, Dominican Republic in an effort to increase awareness of new developments in the treatment of epilepsy and the specific syndromes. The Theme of the Mission was Tuberous Sclerosis Care: Future Direction in Patient Management.  The legacy of this project was to educate physicians and health care providers in the newest surgical and medical management of Tuberous Sclerosis (TS). 

Representing FACES and NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center (CEC) were Dr. Blanca Vazquez and Dr. Howard Weiner. On behalf of the National Society of Neurologists and Neurosurgeons of Dominican Republic (NSNNDR), Dr. Lourdes Genao and her husband warmly welcomed Drs. Vazquez and Weiner with a reception upon their arrival in Santiago – sweetly decorated with a personal touch of home-baked pastries. The reception provided an opportunity for members of the neurology field to extend their appreciation to Dr. Vazquez and Dr. Weiner, in a more informal setting to enjoy one another’s company and also celebrate the future of neurology with the following day’s graduation.

The audience comprised of about 110 Neurosurgeons, Senior Neurologists and Training Program Directors as members of the NSNNDR. The range of this audience extended to neurology residents, health care providers and representatives from pharmaceutical companies.

The format of the Medical Mission was a general session:

The surgical presentation by Dr. Weiner focused on New Advances in the Surgical Treatment of Tuberous Sclerosis: The Evolution of the Clinical Approach at NYU CEC.  He presented his research founded in part by FACES, in addition to the collaboration with epileptologists to change the approach to this very difficult surgical dilemma. With a concentration on epilepsy surgery for children with TS, Dr. Weiner spoke about basic and technical aspects of neurosurgery. Currently, epilepsy surgery is not often performed in the Dominican Republic, and specifically surgeries pertaining to TS are not done at all in the region, emphasizing the very real importance of this year’s Mission.

Dr. Vazquez presented an overview of the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome with special attention to a diagnosis of TS, medical management, and new development in the medical treatment of Subependymal Giant Cell Astrocytomas (SEGAs.)

The Patient Empowerment Lecture was done by Mr. Felix Daley Sterling, a summer student at the CEC. Mr. Daley Sterling presented patient resources on the Internet such as the global approach to managing the family as an active member of the medical team, and education to be an advocate for the patient with Tuberous Sclerosis usingavailable resources like the Lennox-Gastaut foundation, TS alliance, FACES,, Epilepsy Foundation, Seizure Tracker, and others. 

During the Mission a full-page article on Epilepsy was published in the national newspaper, and a live television interview was conducted for the general public. 

On a lighter note, Dr. Vazquez received an award at the neurology residents’ graduation on behalf of the Epilepsy faculty at NYULMC in recognition for our participation in training the two graduating residents in neurology.  In the past year, these residents visited the CEC and had the opportunity to interact with our faculty and participated in our clinical conferences. Dr. Weiner was also presented a certificate of appreciation for sharing his expertise in pediatric neurosurgery and TS. These awards were complemented by a gift of Rum spirits, accompanied by a book on the city of Santiago, with an inscription by Dr. Genao.

The benevolence and gratitude of the hosts was eminent as it glistened the atmosphere throughout the weekend, and before saying their goodbyes, the group had already begun brainstorming ways to reunite for next year’s Mission.