WINTER PARK - For Ricardo Ogando, the medicine matters, but it is the bond with patients that makes it meaningful.
“I believe that few areas in medicine are as rewarding as wound care,” said Ogando, one of three physicians and three ARNPs at Florida Wound Care Doctors, “the only practice in Central Florida that is solely dedicated to full-time outpatient wound care.”
The impact in a patient's life “is almost immediate and very objective. It's something we all can appreciate,” said Ogando. But it is the investment of time that distinguishes this specialty from what he did previously as a hospitalist, he said. “Since we see our patients on a regular basis, we also have the chance to connect with them and create that patient-physician relationship that is the core of medicine. In our field we get the best two things that medicine has to offer as a career,” he said.
As a hospitalist, Ogando said, the patients “don’t really know you until they meet you in the hospital, and it could be one of the worst times of their lives. There is really not much time to establish a relationship. The goal is to get them better and get them out,” explained Ogando, who worked at Orlando Regional Medical Center before becoming a full-time wound care physician.
“Once you get into an environment like this (outpatient wound care) you get to see patients on a weekly basis usually. You get to know them, their habits, what they like and what they don’t like,” he said. “You have to, because sometimes they may be doing something at home they aren’t even aware is keeping the wound open. So, you get to know them more personally, and because you are sharing this wound (healing) and they can see it, they get to appreciate it,” he said.
Ogando compared it to “the relationship you have with your primary care doctor for many years, but in an intense course. When you see someone every week for 16 weeks, it’s a condensed, long-term relationship. You get that connection and that reward, as well as the reward of seeing a finished product — the healed wound. It is one of the best things about wound care,” said Ogando. And it is one of the reasons he did not hesitate to join Florida Wound Care Doctors in 2012, an opportunity that presented itself coincidentally.
At Orlando Regional, there was “another hospitalist who went to work for Dr, Conlan (Walter Conlan III, MD, founder of Florida Wound Care Doctors). When she told me what she was doing I asked ‘Do you guys need a doctor? I want to do wound care,’” he remembered. About three months later that physician called and told him she was leaving to join her husband, who was in the armed forces, in California. “She asked ‘Do you want my job?’ And that was it.”
These days, Ogando distributes his time “fairly evenly” among several locations where Florida Wound Care Doctors is established, including Health Central Hospital in Ocoee, Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, South Seminole Hospital in Longwood, Orlando Regional Medical Center’s Lucerne Annex, and a few nursing care facilities. The schedule allows him to stay for an entire day in one location, where most of the patients he treats have diabetic foot ulcers and venous ulcers. “I don’t have to drive around so much (and) it is refreshing to go to a different center every day and get a different view of things,” he said, adding that about 5 percent of patients require hyperbaric therapy.
Ogando said his interest in wound care emerged during his internal medicine residency at Seton Hall University School of Medicine in New Jersey. “I was attracted to it right away. But I was just getting started in residency and I had a long way to go until I could think about practicing and making that transition,” he said.
It had not been so very long since Ogando had made a much more substantial transition: Moving to the United States after completing medical school and practicing for a couple of years in his native Dominican Republic. Ogando recalls “leaving everything I knew behind” as one of the most challenging in his life. “Luckily, I wasn’t alone; I had the support of my wife. She’s kept me going, and now as a family we’ve created our home here,” he said, referring to Yaritza, also a physician. They met in medical school in the Dominican Republic in 1997 and married in 2005.
“The process of getting here is easy once you get all of your exams and licenses,” said Ogando. “But you get here and you realize how different everything is … Other than my wife I had no social support, especially when we were in Michigan,” where he was a hospitalist for three years at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital in rural — and wintry — Petoskey. “It was just us. There was no one to relate to in terms of our culture. It gets lonely, especially when you are in training and you are doing 30-hour shifts without sleeping,” he said. In the middle of the night sometimes you ask yourself ‘What am I doing here?’…. It takes a while to adjust, but you move forward and create your own families,” which is what the couple has done in Orlando with their children, 7-year-old Ricardo and Sophia, 4.
Ogando is creating more than a family in his home in Ocoee. He also is honing a hobby: Home-brewing beer. “I’ve been playing around with it. It’s fun and does not take much time. The yeast does most of the work; just keep it clean and happy. My latest brew was an oatmeal potter. It didn't end well, so I am taking a step back before moving forward with the next,” he said. “It is something to distract yourself with. You can share with others and have some conversation (about the process),” he said.
Ogando also has a strategy to burn the calories from the beer. He runs every other day.
“I'd love to do an Ironman triathlon, but keeping up with the training has been difficult. I've managed to do some marathons and half-marathons,” he said, including his first one, which ended in the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field. “That was pretty cool,” he said.