Dr. Carlos Barba is a general surgeon in Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas. He studied at the University of Montreal and the University of Pennsylvania and then did a fellowship in trauma and critical care. Early in his career he moved to Hartford, Connecticut and began specializing in bariatric surgery since there was no one handling that type of surgery at that time and he was trained to do it. He became a member of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS) and then was involved in creating the first ASMBS Center of Excellence in Connecticut in 2005.
When Dr. Barba relocated to Texas in 2013, he continued to do bariatric surgery and he created the first ASMBS Center of Excellence in Cameron County and in the Rio Grande Valley. To meet this requirement, both the surgeon and the hospital must meet the highest standards in patient care. A center that is certified has the expertise of a good surgeon, and there is a whole team prepared to take care of the patient. Dr. Barba’s practice is about 50% bariatric surgery, but he also does general surgery.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I saw a need for general surgery and bariatric surgery in this area of Texas. Cameron County is one of the poorest counties, and in the Rio Grande Valley there is a need for a lot of doctors. It is a very underserved area. There are not many surgeons and there is a special need for any doctors that are specialists. I saw the opportunity to see my expertise and my experience in the area of weight loss surgery. Our weight loss patients are very grateful for what we can do for them. I grew up in Panama, so this part of Texas is closer to my culture and that attracted me to it. Not too many people want to move here unless they are from the area.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day for me is always busy. I have a partner in my practice. I would also like to add another doctor to the practice as well. I usually do three and a half days of surgery each week and I have two days of being in the office to see patients. I did four surgeries this morning. I had some time in the office this afternoon. Now I am on call to go the hospital this evening when I am needed. I work in Brownsville and Harlingen. They are two towns that are close together, approximately 15 miles apart. I have a physician assistant that works for me and some medical students that rotate to us. I am the chair of surgery at one of the hospitals where I work, so I have to do certain administrative duties and meetings for that responsibility as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am also working on an online program for a Master’s in Business Administration with Healthcare. That has been teaching me about being more efficient in my business. I have been getting a lot of ideas from the courses I have taken over the past two years.
Also, the feedback that I get from patients and my staff is helpful. I am always trying to see how we can do things better.
This has been a time when we have had to change a lot of the ways that we live and the way we work with this pandemic. For example, telemedicine and using communication tools to reach more people in a faster way has been a good change.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Since I have moved here, I have been very excited about doing robotic surgery. It is new, but I believe it is here to stay. There has been some controversy about the implementation of that, and I have encouraged the hospital to get involved because it’s a technological revolution and it will be a benefit to patients in the future. Robotic surgery is something that excites me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am not a person that needs a lot of sleep. I usually work on my online master’s program at night, but I still am ready to work again in the early morning. I really like what I do. I really enjoy my work and being with patients. I always enjoy time with people and interacting with people keeps me happy and more productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to be more patient. When you want to get something, be prepared and try to get to know most of the things related to that project or the goal that you want to attain. When you are you want things right away, but take your time.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The way that hospitals are being run today is focusing too much on the business. Of course, it cannot be free, but a physician should not get into this to make money. We all like money. A physician should be comfortable, but we are not going to be millionaires. I have seen cases where a lot of x-rays, labs and testing were done because a patient has good insurance, not because they needed it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I pray. I want to be close to God. I am a believer. We are only instruments, and God decides. Today, with COVID-19, some people survive, and some people don’t. I was in the hospital for a week with COVID-19. That makes me think more about it. It’s a constant working at trying to be closer to God. Nobody’s perfect. We have our flaws or our sins.
I also try to listen to other people. I try to listen, understand, and use ideas from other people that I respect.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I always treat people like they are family. If you have been a patient and had surgery, you know that it is very important that your surgeon comes to see you the next day. You want patients to feel you respect them. I try to treat people the way I like to be treated. That has given me success in my practice.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Sometimes you trust people to do certain things, but they don’t do it. When you’re very busy, you delegate certain things to people, and then sometimes you find out they are not doing what you asked or they are not doing it the way it is supposed to be done. To overcome that, you have to find better people to rely on. You have to get to know people.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The best way to start a business is with a good foundation. Of course, you have to have a good idea, something that will be useful for people. If you already have a good idea, to have a good foundation means a strategic plan and the right people working for with you. If you don’t, things can fall apart pretty quick.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That would be having dinner with my wife.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Office makes me productive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I am always reading. To entertain myself, my favorite writer is James Patterson. His books are a nice distraction. I also enjoy reading about history.
What is your favorite quote?
My father used to tell me, “Treat people the way you like to be treated.”
● Always be honest in your interactions with people.
● Try to treat others like family.
● Try to listen and help others through my work. I may not have all the answers, but I will get you some help.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.