Olga Arguedas: she wanted to be a journalist or an actress, but medicine stole her heart

Olga Arguedas Arguedas, the famous director of the National Children’s Hospital (HNN), did not always imagine herself with a white corner and a stethoscope; there were years when he imagined himself with a microphone and a pen or on the theater stage. Yes, when she was young she thought about being a journalist or an actress.

“When people say ‘I was sure about medicine from birth’, how lucky, but I wasn’t. I had an affinity for other things as well – said the doctor.

Acting was more of a passion from college, but it marked her quite a bit.

“I always loved letters, philosophy. I really, really liked the theater. At school I liked to participate in plays and comedies. We had a drama club and I was very active,” she recalled.

When it came time to choose a university career, medicine was thought of, but it was not the first option. The first on the list was Collective Communication, because she wanted to be a journalist. A passion that started at a very young age, with her love of reading.

“When I was four years old, I knew how to read, I loved reading newspapers. I learned to read with the help of newspapers Nation. He was taking syllables and hitting,” he recalled.

That’s when he started writing and that’s why he thought about journalism. She wanted to work in print media, but her mother, worried about the war situation in Central America, feared that her daughter was in danger. He told him to try Medicine for a year, and if he didn’t like it, he should switch to Communications.

“I never wanted to change again. Medicine was the right decision,” he said.


Although she grew up surrounded by children that she took care of, being the oldest daughter, this was not decisive in the path that led her to specialize in child health. She fell in love with the hospital she runs today.

She wanted to be an internist and treat adults, but when she joined the rotation at HNN, in her fourth year of study, her decision changed drastically.

“I fell in love with the hospital more than pediatrics. It was always clean, spotless. The treatment of patients, parents, was what made me turn the page”, he emphasizes.

Immunology came soon after. Thanks to a contract with a Swedish agency that promotes master’s and doctorate degrees for people in developing countries, she applied for a scholarship and earned both degrees at the University of Gothenburg.


What we are today is the construction that started when we were very young. Arguedas is the oldest of three sisters, but she grew up with many relatives and neighbors, she says. He spent his childhood in Barva de Heredia, where both his parents are from. His house was next to his grandmother’s and they shared a terrace which he describes as very large, and several children came to share it there.

“I’ve always been very restless. I climbed trees, rollerbladed, rode a bike. He knew how to spin, jaxxes. Of course, always conscious of taking care of my younger sisters and younger cousins,” he recalled.

He grew up in an educational family. It was there that she began to cultivate a passion for teaching, which led her to teach at the University of Costa Rica’s (UCR) School of Medicine, a role in which she continues beyond retirement age.

That family of educators also encouraged her to learn to read and do basic math from an early age. She started writing as a child and was never scolded for writing with her left hand, “proudly left-handed”, she jokes.

And that’s exactly what led her to her main hobby: reading. He considers himself a “difficult reader” hobby which he combines with one he considers very Latin American: dance.


As a child, she was always ready to dance. And as a teenager. As an adult, she still is, and she has no doubt that she will be as an older adult (which is still five years away).

“I like to dance everything, everything. Paso doble, reggaeton, disco, salsa. Whatever,” he admits.

“It doesn’t mean that I do it well, I say that I am a beginner with a lot of scruples”, she laughs.

Remember that when she was young and went to a party, she danced the night away, even during breaks she didn’t sit down for a minute. In the beginning, there was this custom, which was considered archaic, that one must always have a male partner, but not long after, the fashion of group dancing on the floor arrived.

“I even danced alone. I keep doing it,” he says.

Although her days are filled with work, household and academic activities, she tries to devote some time to dancing and reading.

“My days are oversold,” he says between laughs.


Between dancing, her most dynamic aspect, and reading, her most relaxed aspect, Arguedas admits to taking “drastic measures” to avoid suffering every time she finishes a book. These consist of having four books at the same time, so that when you finish one, you have three left and you can start a new one without suffering (as much) for the one you just finished. And so

“If I don’t do that, I feel empty, like I’m homeless. A book is like a house in which one hides,” he admits.

What are the four now? One is called Viral, Spanish researcher from the United States, Juan Fuey, who talks about the impact of the virus on the Earth. It’s the one he reads before bed on days when he’s in a “scientific mood.”

You also read CatharsisRussian Andrzej Szceklik, an artistic analysis of the origin of Medicine and a book by an American doctor called Children first and foremostwhich are short stories about his experience as a surgeon.

A novel should not be missing from the list, to draw your attention. And his favorite ones are the Latin American ones. Now enjoy Saint AvoidArgentine Tomás Eloy Martínez.


You have little time in the middle of your duties. Even on Sunday mornings, he dedicates himself to studying. But try to find time to spend in the kitchen.

“It’s a way of giving love, but it’s also science, it’s chemistry.”

In fact, she has been in charge of making the Christmas turkey in her family for several years. An English friend taught him how to make his now famous “Turkey with music”. But like a good Tica, she knows that there is no Christmas without tamales, and there he will make her make tamales with her family.

She also likes to make salads, of various colors and flavors, and, she says, pureed beans are also great for her.

The kitchen is something she inherited from her mother, may she rest in peace, and her aunts. As the mother of three daughters, she also passed on the tradition.

A widow for 13 years, Arguedas says she still misses her husband, but he gave her and her daughters a lot.

“I married a wonderful husband. Sergio Vasquez. He was a pediatrician, like me, a neonatologist. Three little girls and I moved on in life, with gratitude for having a wonderful husband and father,” she emphasizes.


Two years and eight months after the first case of covid-19 in Costa Rica, Olga Arguedas says that, as far as she knows, she is still “undefeated” and has not been a victim of SARS-CoV-2, although her youngest daughter, with whom she lives, he had it, on two occasions. There was no infection in his home.

“I practice what I preach. We are very consistent, we take measures when it arrives at the home. My office is next to the covid area, I have it right next to it, but we managed to control it. I have my four vaccines and I will get what is needed – he points out.

As a person, she says that she missed hugs the most. “I love hugging, that physical contact. To my daughters, to my patients, to my friends.”

“It is the hardest blow that health workers could receive in our lives. In the first weeks, there was very little information, but we knew that something serious would happen, that it would change our lives. I think we were all afraid. I had it, but it was neutralized by the action,” he says.

From 2020 and 2021, it saves the value of teamwork, learning. That took the fear away. What he had never seen was such reluctance to the vaccine.

“We had to establish bridges of dialogue, conviction, empathy, and that’s how we managed to convince, but until we succeed in vaccinating everyone, there will be vulnerable people,” he points out.


He still has work to do before he retires, but he is seen doing more things after his hospital stint, what he doesn’t see is the drop out of teaching. – I think I have a lot to give to future generations.

“Everything has its moment in life. I love the hospital, this is my second home, but at a given moment I will make a decision to retire, and that will be to enjoy other activities in life,” he says.

She would like to have more time to be herself and spend even more time reading and occasionally dance a little.

She doesn’t have a granddaughter yet, but she assures that she would like to be a grandmother, but “everything in its own time; in this new generation we are becoming slightly older grandmothers, they (my daughters) will decide that”.

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