Gynecology Oncology is not a typical specialty for urology clinics, but J. Salvador Saldivar, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.O.G., F.A.C.S., knew from his first interactions with Rio Grande Urology that it would be an excellent match for him and his patients.
“When I began talking to Dr. Jeff Spier earlier on,” explains Dr. Saldivar, “he asked, ‘Why don’t you consider joining our group? We have radiation oncology.’ Something went off in my head: I can get radiation oncology and get them to treat reproductive tract cancers. The plan is to make available, at least for gynecological cancers, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and the complex surgical aspect – all under one roof.”
It just so happened that Jeffrey M. Spier, M.D., Managing Partner at Rio Grande Urology, had also been envisioning a multidisciplinary cancer center, so Dr. Saldivar arrived into the practice at the perfect time.
“The confusion might be that Dr. Saldivar is a gynecologist and we are a urology clinic,” says Dr. Spier. “But he will be able to treat patients with the best technology, CT scans, and radiology, and it will be just across the parking lot.”
Dr. Saldivar’s oncology patients will have access to the clinic’s medical and radiation oncology. In addition, the clinic can offer anything they need in the urology practice. Surgical services can also be shared across the practice. The partnership makes sense for patients, but it also means the doctors can work closely together on each case. This is the vision Dr. Spier had when he invited Dr. Saldivar to partner with RGU.
Returning to El Paso Brings This Physician Back to His Roots
As a first-generation native El Pasoan, Dr. Saldivar knows the community and feels at home here.
“Professionally, I came back because El Paso is an underserved area,” he says, “and there is a need for cancer care here in El Paso, specifically in gynecology oncology. The other reason is my immediate family is here as well.”
From a young age, Dr. Saldivar knew that he wanted to be a doctor. In his early years as a boy scout, first aid tasks typically captured his interest.
“My dad was a mechanic,” he says. “We used to help him as kids at the shop, but I was always drawn to blood and cuts all the time.” He also volunteered in the emergency room at University Medical Center, then known as RE Thomason Hospital.
By the time he was in high school, he knew medicine would be his career path.
Filling a Void for Cancer Patients in the El Paso Area
After graduating from the University of Texas in El Paso, Dr. Saldivar attended medical school at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Residency brought him back to El Paso at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He then attended M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for his research fellowship and received his Master of Public Health degree in genetic epidemiology and disease control.
“Then I went off to the University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver. I did my clinical fellowship before returning to El Paso,” says Dr. Saldivar. “The Provincial Health Ministry centralizes all the cancer care there, and it’s a goldmine for comprehensive cancer surgery and research.”
Throughout his journeys, Dr. Saldivar combined all the pieces that created his current specialty.
“It was kind of serendipity,” he explains. “I did some cancer research in college, then I did a year of general surgery at Texas Tech. After that I went into obstetrics and gynecology.”
“After my resident rotation in gynecology oncology, I was sold on the specialty. A mini-fellowship during residency, called a Galloway Fellowship, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, solidified my career decision.”
Bringing It All Together at RGU Cancer Center
Dr. Saldivar hopes that his specialty, combined with RGU’s similar goals, will fill a critical need in our community.
“My vision is to create a gynecology cancer center here in El Paso,” he says. “They have one in San Antonio, and in Houston, but we don’t have a comprehensive cancer center here in El Paso.” In addition, many gynecologic oncology patients have a need for urology and radiation oncology services, so the team can work together to meet the needs of those patients.
Dr. Spier envisions an integrated collaborative-type setting within a private practice where physicians can confer and share patients.
“Dr. Saldivar is operating in the pelvis and the bladder and ureters are in the pelvis. We collaborate intra-operatively,” Dr. Spier explains.
Patient care and communication will also be enhanced.
“We are there to collaborate, and also to support,” says Dr. Spier. “Instead of Dr. Saldivar having to schedule a consult, we are able to organize those cases more easily because of proximity. Because we have access to the same imaging studies, we can plan and organize the cases in a fashion that benefits the patient.”
In the future Dr. Spier would also like to implement a clinical research model where outcomes are continually tracked and monitored. The goal is to have access to data to ensure that outcomes continue to improve.
Patient Care is the Priority
“I have a professional respect for Dr. Saldivar and for as his capabilities,” says Dr. Spier. “We both like the idea of collaboration and partnership, outstanding patient care, and accessibility to care for our patients. At the same time, we like the private practice model that gives freedom to make your own path without restrictions and give patient care in a private practice setting.” Dr. Saldivar says, “All the people in this group are really great to work with. They are forward thinkers and share a similar vision. We work well together; hopefully we will create a cancer center that El Paso will be proud of.”
Seamless clinic time, collaboration between specialties, and, most of all, excellent care for patients. RGU is working hard to make a cancer center a reality in El Paso.