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Dr. Victor Navarro from Einstein Medical Center talks about the liver. Photo: Nigel Thompson
Dr. Victor Navarro receives the AL DIA Doctors 2020 award. Photo: Nigel Thompson

Dr. Victor Navarro and the power of a Latin background in medicine

Dr. Victor Navarro is a gastroenterologist in the Einstein Health Network.

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Hidden in the jungle

May 26th, 2022

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Dr. Victor Navarro is a Pennsylvania native, raised by a Mexican father and an American mother. As the son and grandson of immigrants, he grew up watching his father and maternal grandfather work hard in the steel mills at Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, while his mother and grandmother worked as hairdressers.

Over time his family efforts paid off: Navarro´s father started his own construction business, and through it, he was able to help many people move from Mexico with their families to the United States. Likewise, his mother and grandmother went on to build a chain of beauty salons in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  

“That really was a drive [for me] to contribute as much as my parents did in their fields,” Navarro said, adding it also “got [him] interested in medicine.” 

He received his medical degree from Penn State College of Medicine and continued with his residency in Internal Medicine at Temple University.

Navarro’s effort paid off when he was admitted to a Yale-New Haven Hospital Fellowship in the gastroenterology field, where he learned to be a transplant doctor and discovered his passion for a much more “multidisciplinary” organ, the liver. 

“It was certainly intellectually challenging,” he said. “ It has also allowed me to look at care from many different perspectives, working with surgeons, social workers, nurses, anesthesiologists and people throughout the medical field, which really raises one’s sensitivity.”

After eight years in Connecticut, he moved to Philadelphia to work at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery and Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. 

It was an opportunity that allowed him to “ run large transplant programs...and also participate in education and research.”

Twenty-five years later, he does not regret choosing “the path of the liver.”

“I don't think I could ever change. I think the one I chose is the right one. It's given me the chance to help patients from the point of very devastating illness to complete health and a long, long life,” said Navarro.

His years in practice and his multicultural upbringing allowed him to expand the care for his patients through different barriers.

“I may not be perfectly fluent in Spanish, but I can communicate with patients,” he explained. “I think that having a Latin background allows me to open people's perspectives and be more open to hearing about their diseases.”

At the end of the day, for him, listening to what patients have to say and making them feel cared for is the best way to “assemble the facts into a story that is relevant to the patient.”

But even the ones who spend their lives taking care of others need a support system. 

“It's important that any physician has family support who understands what the demands are on their time and other emotions. It's really my family, especially my wife, a nurse, who has been patient and sympathetic to what I do. That has really been the most important thing.”

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