I was given the name and contact information for an English-speaking doctor in Heredia, one of the provincial capitals of Costa Rica. I met with the good doc and found him delightful and very helpful. He turned out to be quite an interesting fellow.

He’s the president of a Tico peace group that raised holy hell last year when Costa Rica President Abel Pacheco announced that he supported Bush’s War on Iraq. Costa Rica has a strong tradition as a peacemaker, and citizens here were outraged when their president ignored that tradition.

When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I wanted to see a doctor just so I would have one. Dr. Slon speaks perfect English, was educated in the States, is a surgeon and internist, and teaches at the University of Costa Rica.

He met with me for more than an hour the first time I saw him, and performed all the usual tests (blood pressure, look right and cough, etc.). He also made an appointment for me to go to a laboratorio to get my cholesterol checked, along with my prostate and all sorts of other stuff.

The exams were the most comprehensive I have ever been given anywhere. Dr. Slon actually seemed interested in the state of my health (what a concept!). He even inquired as to whether I might be depressed or missing my family.

Can you imagine a doctor in the United States who would consider the state of your mental health as well as your physical health? Most doctors in the U.S. will not remember your name, much less your health issues. And never mind your mental health; that’s for someone else entirely (and probably not covered by your insurance policy).

In the States you are rushed into an office for your allotted five minutes (which is all the time that the insurance companies will permit a doctor to spend with a single patient). Here, the doctors take the time to do the job right.

The most amazing part? The visit to Dr. Slon cost me a total of $18. That’s it. I was not even enrolled in the nationalized medical system yet. This is what he charges everyone, tico and gringo alike – even a tourist who might need to see a doctor while visiting this beautiful country.