Marika Azzopardi

I meet Dr Pierre Vassallo in his office at the Da Vinci Hospital in Birkirkara. I start the interview by quizzing this distinguished radiologist, artist and successful entrepreneur [these are all facets of the same man]on the reasons which motivated him to choose radiology as profession.

“Back in my days at university there was not really much of a choice as to what one could go for. I studied medicine, but my main interest was technology. When I discovered radiology, I realised that it neatly combined both areas and I was pretty much hooked. The fact that during my fourth year at university (this was in 1982) the first CT scanner started being used at St Luke’s Hospital only served to motivate me further in my decision to specialize in radiology. Before the use of diagnostic apparatus such as scanners, ultrasound and the like, it was common practice for a surgeon to carry out lapartomies to find out what was wrong. Radiology changed all this.”

In this regard Da Vinci Hospital has an avant-garde set-up including a fully equipped radiology department, laboratory and pharmacy plus an operating theatre supported by state-of-the-art equipment. In fact, the hospital which was officially opened in the year 2000 started out as a radiology unit (with the name of Medical Imaging Centre) which slowly but steadily expanded  into a centre incorporating various outpatient clinics as well as inpatient beds.

“We have certainly not yet reached all our goals. We started out with one house and then purchased the adjacent premises. Eventually we also managed to secure an adjacent parking area  . Our next big project promises further physical expansion, that will see an increase of 30 beds. This is possible since we have recently acquired a plot of land close by in order to further expand our ground floor premises; in parallel we are also in the process of adding a new floor on top of Da Vinci Hospital.”

The hospital is pretty busy all year round. Attracting patients from all over the island, it is most popular for the treatment of injuries and sports injuries, as well as for its cancer care in the diagnostic, treatment and monitoring stages. The hospital also shoulders various projects in collaboration with the State Health Department, as well as admitting foreign patients from Eastern Europe and North Africa.

“We have a fully integrated hospital information system which allows our doctors to share all patient data within the hospital; our infrastructure also features direct electronic sharing of image-based data with Mater Dei Hospital. We are also working on a system which will allow our patients to access their personal health records with a view to make them accessible to to other professionals elsewhere, as required by individual care regimens.”

The artist in Dr Vassallo must have strongly influenced his choice of name for his hospital. Dr Vassallo admits that he admires Leonardo da Vinci, not only as an artist, but also as a scientist, a thinker, and the ingenuous creator of machinery. This multi-talented renaissance man  has been highly inspirational to the point that the hospital also supports art and artists by exhibiting paintings and works of arts in its foyer. “I used to love painting in the past, but now I don’t really have time for that now. I painted a lot of landscapes in oils and the great outdoors is still a great inspiration for me. Incidentally, I play the guitar and keyboards; I used to play on a regular basis with my colleagues and friends.”

Even as we speak, I am well aware that I am taking precious time out of the doctor’s daily walking routine. Walking between 7 to 15 kilometers on a daily basis is something which he strives to maintain. On a free day his rambling escapades can even stretch to 5 hours. This love of open spaces led him to take on a climbing expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro where he reached the peak on August 8 2013. This experience, which he shared with his partner and right-hand at the hospital, Kathleen Schembri, had the purpose of raising funds for the construction of a hospital for disabled children in Ethiopia. “We raised a total of €16,000 during the nine months ahead of the expedition itself. We covered the trip from our own pockets, spending nine days in Africa. The first seven days were dedicated to acclimatization and the last two days involved the final climb to the peak of the fifth highest mountain in the world. The philanthropic event was highly successful and a great satisfaction to all those who participated.”

Dr Pierre Vassallo final words: “I use The Synapse because it is written in such a way that both specialists and non-specialists can read it. It offers a small collection of reports of the right size and format that allows pleasant reading. I feel that it helps to connect medical staff with paramedics since it speaks a language understood by both.”

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Page 2223 Machu Picchu Peru

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