Local doctor named Everyday Hero

A local doctor received a surprise recently to help him celebrate his 70th birthday and 40 years of medical practice in the United States.

Dr. Eduardo Rueda Vasquez, a physician who practices telepsychiatry in Williamsport and Lancaster, was named an Everyday Hero by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED).

It is a “once in a lifetime event — a landmark — and it was quite a surprise,” Vasquez said who provides outpatient telepsychiatry services to children and adults through the Community Services Group. “It has been quite a journey for me and I don’t want it to end,” Vasquez said of psychiatry. “I want to continue until nature takes its course. I enjoy working with the 21st century generation.”

“The award is for doctors from around the state who have done amazing things,” Dr. Ted Christopher said, former president of the PAMED and professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “These physicians go above and beyond the call of duty to help out their patients. The PAMED is the largest non-profit organization representing physicians and patients in the commonwealth, Christopher said.

“He is such an inspiration to all the children that he sees here,” said Lisa Engel, a colleague of Vasquez’s who recommended him for the award.

“Here I am somebody born, raised and trained in Columbia and I’m doing telepsychiatry in different towns in the state of Pennsylvania,” Vasquez said. “That is what technology has created. That somebody like me is able to do this kind of thing.”

Vasquez grew up in a medical environment and is the third generation of medical technicians, he said.

“My maternal grandmother was the first to graduate in pharmacy from the University of Caravena, Columbia and she established one of the first pharmacies in Barranquilla, a seaport in Columbia,” he said. “Her brother, Israel Vasquez, my great uncle, attended medical school in Caravena, also studying internal medicine in Paris, and was the local physician in Barranquilla. Some of the nieces and nephews in the second generation then became physicians continuing the tradition.”

Vasquez attended the National University in the capitol of Bogota. His specialty is psychiatry and he worked with military personnel for 25 years seeing all branches of soldiers from seven wars.

“I started my internship at a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1975 and I saw veterans from World War I,” he said. “I treated men who were in a war 100 years ago. Through the VA (Veterans Affairs) I saw veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, Korean War, and because at the time I was commissioned in the reserves I was called and participated in Gulf War I and (saw veterans from) Gulf War II and the Global War III. So in my seven decades of life I saw and treated men from seven wars.”

“I learned about the 20th century through them and their experiences from the different wars from men in all different branches of service. I was not a combatant in Gulf War I but I did psychiatry and covered all the units. After 25 years of service I retired from the Army and the VA. I enjoy the child psychiatry I am doing now — it is not as intense. It is more relaxing. I also have the experience of being a father and grandfather.”

Though his son didn’t follow in his footsteps — choosing journalism instead — he is hoping his grandson might.

“I hope to live and see him grow up,” Vasquez said of the 2-year-old. “I bought him a doctor kit with a stethoscope that is quite sophisticated with batteries.”

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