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Surgeon Spotlight: Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD

Jan 26, 2023, 18:00 PM by Anna Shults
Surgical powerhouse, Dr. Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD, discusses his professional influences, his greatest achievements, and shares the best advice he received in his career.

Stanford Medicine

Who was your earliest professional influence?

Dr. Carlos EsquivelHis name was Dr. Hernandez Ash. I think I was in first or second grade, when I got measles or “sarampion," in Spanish. Sarampion sounds more dreadful than measles. Measles sounds like a Mickey Mouse disease, but Sarampion sounds more like something that it is going to kill you! I was very sick. High fevers, hallucinations, and yes, I was convinced I was not going to make it. My parents called Hernandez Ash and he came to the house. This was a time when home visits were common. Hernandez Ash looked at me with a serious, a face of concern, almost like a scowl. Was he mad at me or my parents? Years later, when I was in medical school, he was one of my professors, and he always had that face, like he was pissed off of everyone! He was a brilliant physician, a no-nonsense type of person who was highly respected by everyone, colleagues, mentees, patients, and the like. At any rate, he saw me, and immediately he instructed my parents to immerse me in iced cold water. I don’t remember anything else. The fever broke, and very quickly, I was on the way to recovery. Right then, I said to myself, I want to be a doctor, and nothing was going to derail me. And that was exactly what I did!

What are you most proud of personally/professionally? 

Becoming a transplant surgeon was an afterthought for me. I was finishing the residency, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. Dr. Blaisdell, Chair of Surgery at Stanford, mentor and almost like a surrogate dad, convinced me to go into transplantation. I followed his advice, and I am so happy I did. There is a long story around this, but suffice it to say, transplantation has been an amazing enriching experience to this date. Patients become your family, but just as important, I have a broad community of friends from all corners of the world. When I think that I grew up in Costa Rica, a tiny country, almost like a village, and to become a member of such an amazing international community, and to contribute to it, albeit modestly, it is such an incredible honor!

What is your favorite pastime/hobby? 

Photography has been my hobby since I was a kid, and this was the result of the influence of my older brother. I used to develop my own photographs. One time, I got the second place in a national photography contest with a photograph of a 3-toe sloth!! I got a whole bunch of film cartridges and a certificate! I used to make photography calendars for my staff, but life has gotten so much busier. I still read a photography magazine here and there, but I do like many other things: dancing, reading, sports, and weird stuff like billiards, petanque or bocce, even curling…! Haha! 

If not transplant surgery, then what? 

Easy! A farmer! As a kid, I spent quite a bit of time on my uncle’s farm, and I loved to go horseback riding, fishing, swimming in rivers, etc. I still love outdoors activities more than anything else in the world. Maybe, it is one of the reasons why I like mountain biking so much. I did mountain biking before mountain biking was even invented!!  

What was the best piece of advice you have received? 


My mentor (and almost like my surrogate dad), and Chair of Surgery at UC Davis, Bill Blaisdell, said to me: “Carlos, when you are going to do surgery, you have to be convinced that you are the best surgeon for that operation, because if not, it will be a conflict of interest if you proceed with the surgery”. To this date, I often hear Blaisdell’s voice when I am about to operate on someone! His advice had a pronounced influence in who I became as a surgeon.  

What is your favorite drink? 

My favorite drink is graded carrots in orange juice. It is delicious. I don’t like soda pops, but I do like Squirt. For whatever reason, Latinos love Squirt, particularly if it is laced with vodka. Haha! Just kidding 

What’s your favorite movie? 


Braking away!  The movie about a young kid who dreams of competing in the Giro d’Italia, and he rides his bicycle in his neighborhood saying Italian phrases such as ciao bella, etc. He competes in a high school race and of course, he wins the race and the girl!  I did my social service in San Vito, an Italian village in Costa Rica, close to the Panamanian border, so I have always enjoyed their language and culture. 

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