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The LA PEP Program: the first recipient from Maracaibo starts training in Barcelona

Dr. Rey Varela en Barcelona

The LA PEP program (Latin American Professional Exchange Program) got started a week ago!

This program aims to identify aspiring young health professionals working in the HD communities we serve, and facilitate fellowships for them to get training experience at leading HD institutions and hospitals in Spain, Colombia, and Chile. The goal is to motivate and retain local talent, for the benefits of the communities most affected by HD, and also to foster collaborations between local hospitals and other international HD centers. Factor-H works to promote field work and bring medical programs to the local communities, and the LA PEP program is a key strategy to ensure continuity of care, and to support a new generation of health professionals adequately trained and connected. 

The first recipient of the program’s fellowship is our friend and colleague Dr. Rey Varela, a psychiatrist from Maracaibo who has been working with Factor-H for three years now, seeing patients in San Luis weekly – bringing much needed management of the disease to the entire town.

Rey studied medicine at the University of Zulia where he also completed his psychiatry residency.

The fellowship was made possible by EHDN and we remain grateful for their support. The fellowship was awarded to Rey in 2020, but we had to postpone the start due to the covid pandemic. Rey will spend a 6 week training period at two Barcelona hospitals (the La Merced Hospital and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau), both members of the Enroll-HD network. The fellowship is being coordinated by two of Spain’s Huntington’s disease psychiatry and neuropsychology specialists, Dr. Jesus Ruiz-Iriago and Dr. Saul Martinez-Horta.

I was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona during Rey’s first week there. Below you can find some pictures of Rey’s first day at work and all of us having a celebratory meal. Thank you Rey, Saul and Jesus for making this dream a reality. We hope this is the beginning of a long-lived program where Venezuelan clinicians and other health professionals can advance their education and return with hope and more resources to help their fellow HD families.

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