|Dr. Javier Zuniga
San Pedro Town is a busy town and world-renowned tourist destination. As such, medical assistance is required at all times. However, finding a doctor after business hours can prove to be a challenge at times. The San Pedro Lions Clinic is proud to offer residents and visitors of "La Isla Bonita" new extended hours. Dr. Javier Zuniga, a general practitioner and professor for the Medical University of the Americas Belize, will be available for consultation at the San Pedro Lions Clinic from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
Dr. Zuniga was born and raised in San Ignacio in the Cayo District. He attended Sacred Heart Elementary and College and furthered his studies at Saint John's College Junior College in Belize City. After successfully completing his junior college studies he received a scholarship to study medicine in the country of Cuba at the Superior Institute of Medical Studies Dr. Serafin Ruiz de Zerate Ruiz located in the city of Santa Clara. For six years, he studied to become a medical practitioner, and graduated in July of 2003. Coming from a class of 130 students, Dr. Zuniga had the distinction of being the only foreign student to graduate with honors. With all his accomplishments he received El Diploma de Oro, The Golden Diploma, one of the highest recognitions offered by the medical institution. After being recognized for his endeavors, Dr. Zuniga received a scholarship to extend his studies in the medical field to become a cardiologist. He was scheduled to return to medical school in November of 2003.
Dr. Zuniga opted to work while he waited for his time to return to school. He returned to Belize and applied to be registered as a doctor by the Belize Medical Council (BMC). To his surprise, Dr. Zuniga discovered that according to the BMC he was not qualified to work as a doctor in Belize. He started the long, arduous fight for his right to be a doctor in this country, and decided to put his scholarship on hold until the matter could be resolved. "I am not one to back down from a fight," he told The San Pedro Sun. The BMC stated that Dr. Zuniga was missing a course in Family Medicine and did not have the sufficient hours needed to practice medicine. The doctor did not back down and kept on fighting, which spurred BMC to send a small group of doctors to Cuba, where they would assess the program Dr. Zuniga had underwent.
While the small contingency of doctors was in Cuba, Dr. Zuniga applied for a position at the Medical University of the Americas Belize to work as a professor. In January 2004, Dr. Zuniga began working in San Pedro as the professor of Immunology and Microbiology. In his spare time, Dr. Zuniga visited the San Pedro Health Center and assisted the doctor and nurses in the cases presented before them.
After comparing the medical program offered by the university in Cuba with other universities in the Caribbean and Central America, BMC was satisfied with Dr. Zuniga's qualifications and registered him as a Full Medical Practitioner in July 2004, one year after culminating his studies.
Now as a registered doctor, Dr. Zuniga offers services at the San Pedro Health Center from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. "It is funny. The diploma I received when I graduated from medical school had a wonderful saying, There are men who fight one day, but there are others that fight everyday. Those are the important men. I never thought that I would have to live by it so early in my career. One thing I can say to everybody is not to give up. Good things come to those who wait!" he exclaimed.
Dr. Zuniga and his wife, Yaneisy, have made their life here in "La Isla Bonita." "I love it here and my wife teaches aerobics classes every afternoon at the Lions Den, we could not be happier. I will further my education in due time. Right now I want to help as many people as I can, that is why I became a doctor," he ended.
For further information on the service available at the San Pedro Lions Clinic, please call 226-4052 or 605-8755.
Editor's Note: There are approximately 50 Belizeans studying Medicine in the country of Cuba under scholarships offered by the Government of Belize. It is hoped that these students may someday return to Belize and be rewarded for their efforts by being able to practice in the country, thanks to Dr. Zuniga's efforts.