I am grateful for the attention given in Hoy Los Angeles. My training is 100% Venezuelan. I share a free translation from the published interview:
By Selena Rivera
During his teenage years, René Sotelo was laughed at by his classmates because he was always wearing his lab coat. Back then, young Sotelo felt the calling to medicine as he began to take an interest in the body’s functions and its healing.
Decades later, the native of Venezuela became a pioneer in the handling of the robot in prostate and other diseases surgeries, thus being the first urologist to use this technique in Venezuela. This process was already being practiced in Mexico; however, it ceased after some surgical interventions because of “administrative issues”, Dr. Sotelo explains.
Since then, Venezuela took the lead with Sotelo at the forefront who took the leading position as regards the number of robotic surgeries performed in Latin America.
Then, his skills and futuristic methods have brought him to the renowned Hospital of the University of Southern California (USC) thanks to a job offer, through which he also obtained an extraordinary ability visa and a five year visa.
“I’ve been working at the USC for six months. I think that I was chosen because of my curriculum and my experience”, Dr. Sotelo says.
Just a quick look at the doctor’s resume is enough to notice it. His expertise in advanced robotic and laparoscopic surgery surpasses 2,300 cases which makes him one of the world’s most experienced professionals in this field. In addition, Dr. Sotelo has published more than 50 scientific articles, three textbooks and 28 book chapters about urology.
In recognition of his work, Dr. Sotelo has been invited as a lecturer to more than 35 universities, and he has shared his techniques in 19 countries. So far, he has trained more than 64 colleagues from 14 countries in the art and science of minimally invasive urology and robotic surgery.
He points out that he never thought he would get that far, since he studied in Venezuela and because of his humble startup.
“Mi mother was a school teacher and my father, a Mexican national, was a lithographer… from an early age they taught me to work hard; I witnessed how my parents worked overtime and at nights to pay for my studies”, he reveals.
Some time after, Dr. Sotelo worked for a clinic where he was more than welcomed and where he developed his talent. In 1992, young Sotelo graduated from the Central University of Venezuela, Hospital General del Este.
“I had no choice. I couldn’t afford to buy my own clinic. Over the years, I saw how the parents of some of my colleagues bought them their own clinics even when they didn’t graduate. However, it wasn’t my case”, he adds.
Nevertheless, he refined his techniques exceeding the medical community’s expectations. For this reason, he started to teach his skills abroad.
Based on laparoscopic surgery, robotic or minimally invasive surgery broadens its reach trough a four-armed robot and its 3D vision system.
This robot allows, therefore, the doctor to do the surgery with more precise movements as well as the possibility of preserving and restoring the patient’s anatomy.
Five years ago, it was imperative to remove the kidney affected by cancer. Nowadays, with this intervention only the tumor is removed, preserving the organ.
Dr. Sotelo adds that “these kinds of interventions are applied in the field of Urology, especially with regard to prostate, bladder and gynecological issues; it is also employed in cardiovascular, thoracic and valve replacement surgeries, and in general in surgeries requiring tissue reconstruction.”
For the young immigrant, living in a country that is new for him and his family is a challenge. Nevertheless, Dr. Sotelo is glad to represent the Latinos, to have the opportunity to use the advanced technology that is available in the United Stated, and to show the new generation of postgraduate medical students that with dedication and tenacity everything is possible.