Meet our volunteers: Interview with Dr Guillermo Montes


Trained in Santa Creu i Sant Pau Hospital, Barcelona, Dr. Guillermo Montes combines his work as a neurosurgeon at Instituto Clavel with research and volunteering. He has been a speaker in several neurosurgery and spine surgery congresses has authored several publications on cranial and spinal surgery. He has also been a medical volunteer in India, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Ethiopia.

How was your experience during the latest mission to Ethiopia last November?

After several years of experience as a volunteer, you still arrive anxious and nervous each time. You always leave with mixed feelings, satisfied because of the work we achieved and frustrated by all those things that are yet to be done. 

How can a volunteer neurosurgeon add value in Ethiopia?

Dr. Tewodros is the only neurosurgeon in Adama (capital of the Oromia region) and has the enormous task of attending, daily, the entire population of Oromia (25 M approx). We collaborate with him and help to improve the life quality of some patients. We have saved lives. However, unfortunately, there were also deaths we couldn’t prevent. In the future, we have the objective of tilting the scale in our favor and to prevent the death of this type of patient whenever it’s possible.

Is there any difference between a patient from here and one from Ethiopia?

Patients from Ethiopia are not that different from those from here. They suffer the same pains; some are common, some are more severe. However, any minor setback can become a major health issue. The simple fact that they can’t buy antibiotics has detrimental consequences for the patient and his/her dependents. The lack of a balanced diet can cause fetal neurological malformations that we often cannot completely solve via surgery. The lack of information on when to see a doctor, instead of waiting at home or trying to heal yourself, can change the destiny of an entire family in Africa.

In your opinion, how can the situation be improved?

There is a passivity towards those countries and populations that are vulnerable due to their political, economic or geographical situation which leads to avoidable health problems or birth malformations that real people suffer today. People who are fathers, mothers, siblings and friends of someone. Just like you and me. Not everyone can help in the same capacity, but everyone can help. Thank you for contributing in your own way.