Dr. Sergio Lema, associate medical director of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Inpatient Medicine, is a hospitalist, a physician who provides medical care to patients while they are in the hospital. He is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Lema came to work here after serving six years as a hospitalist and Medical Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, Maine. He completed his medical residency at Woodhull Medical and Mental Center in New York City. Dr. Lema’s wife, Veronica, is a physician assistant in Saratoga Hospital’s emergency department. They have two sons, ages 3 and 4.
Q. Why did you choose a career in medicine, and why this specialty?
A. I was always attracted to medicine ever since I was a kid. My dad wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t for various reasons. He ended up with a good career as a banker, but he’d always talk about how fantastic it would be to have a human career. Practicing medicine is an opportunity to have direct contact with someone who is suffering, to provide compassion and healing, to impact the life of that person for the better.
Q. How did you come to decide to join us at Saratoga Hospital?
A. Saratoga Springs is a city with good schools and a lot of culture. We were drawn to the hospital’s atmosphere, the collegial and cozy relationship between peers and patients that you find in a community hospital as well as the services of a big hospital. Coming here was a unique career opportunity for both my wife and me.
Q. What is the personal or professional philosophy that most guides your work?
A. I have the skill and experience to help people for a reason, and that is not only to do my part as a physician, but to ease their suffering and offer companionship along the way. My strength is in high acuity cases, because of my experience working in intensive care. I have provided care in some very difficult cases, and I have learned that although we’ll never get rid of disease or death, what we can do is to help everyone while they are on their journey. Whether or not a patient can be cured, we can make it easier for them by giving patients the best possible quality of life.
Q. What is the biggest change you have seen over the years in terms of treatments or equipment in your specialty?
A. The quality of technology in patient care has increased exponentially. The fact that I can order a test in a computer, it can be drawn in the next two minutes, and then I can get the results in the next five minutes is a fantastic advancement. Of course, that’s not true for all testing, but it is much faster than even just five years ago. While the patient should always be our main source of information, a quicker response leads to a quicker ability to begin treatment.
Q. What helpful words of advice for patients would you most like to share about your specialty?
A. You are the owner of your health. Everything you put in your mouth, every step you take in a park, every relationship you begin, is going to affect your health in a positive or negative way. As physicians, we will help advise you toward a meaningful, healthy life, but ultimately the patient can only achieve their best health when they take ownership of it themselves. I encourage everyone to know why you develop a condition. Know what medications you are taking and what they are doing for you. Ask your physicians the tough questions and ask for different options of care. We can advise and treat you, but you are the one in control.
Q. What might patients be surprised to learn about you?
A. I was the lead singer in a band in Bolivia called Sergio Martín. There were six of us singing and playing Bolivian folk music with native instruments, including acoustic guitar, drums, and saxophone. We made a CD called Ideas Azules while I was in medical school at Universidad Nuestra Señora de La Paz in Bolivia. Since I was 9 years old, I have sung in school choirs, church, and tourist attraction areas. Now I sing at home, serenading my wife and teaching my kids on their tiny guitars. We enjoy music very much in my family.