What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
Being raised by my parents. They are both in their 80s and still practicing psychiatry. My father always says that he has never worked in his entire life because he enjoys his job so much.
Why did you focus on pain management?
During my PM&R residency’s pain clinic rotations at the West Los Angeles VA, I thought it was fascinating… We knew so little about chronic pain. As I read classics by Gordon Waddell, Wilbert Fordyce, and John Bonica among others, my interest kept on growing. I remember how some of the other residents dreaded working in the pain clinic and I would volunteer to switch assignments with them to spend more time there.
Who were your mentors?
First and foremost my parents. Dr. Francisco Muñiz at the University of Puerto Rico SOM and the San Juan VA; Dr. Peter Moulder at the Tulane SOM; Dr. Richard Riggs at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills; and Dr. Daniel Shin at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey. All taught me hard work, selflessness, and perseverance.
If you weren’t a healthcare provider, what would you be?
I would have been in the space program at NASA, hands down. I studied engineering and had my sights on being an astronaut with the space shuttle program from a very young age.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I believe that I am a good listener. It comes in very handy as a clinician and administrator but also as a friend and person. You do not learn by talking but do learn a lot by listening.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Professionally, I would say that it was in 2000 when I took over as director of the PM&R Residency Training Program at the San Juan VA after it was placed on probation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. In just over a year I was able to turn it around and get it fully accredited. Lots of blood, sweat, tears, and invaluable support from my family and colleagues.
What is your favorite language?
Spanish. It is so rich. There are so many words to describe the simplest of things. The abundance of regionalisms add amazing depth and character to it.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music or art to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
That’s a very tough one, especially when it comes to music. I love all kinds of music and would hope that I could at least be able to take my iPod mini (it’s small and would be easy to sneak in) with some of my favorite playlists. I would have a hard time choosing among the TOTO IV, Sting’s Fields of Gold compilation album, Seal I, and Don Henley’s Actual Miles. I would be remiss if Siembra by Ruben Blades and Willie Colon was not in the mix. Regarding a movie, it would be either Gladiator or Traffic, but preferably both. As far as a book I would have to say The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
What would you like your legacy to be?
It is and has always been to leave a place in better shape than I found it.
What is your motto?
I have several. “Choose your battles” and “Actions speak louder than words.” As I have become more involved in healthcare management, my motto is: “If you are not at the table, you may be on the menu.”