Dr. Luis Montes — An Amazing Journey from El Paso, Texas

Luis Montes, M.D., pediatric and adolescent medicine physician, shares what drew him to pediatric rehabilitation medicines and how he connects with patients and families.

Luis Montes, M.D., at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital
Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Summer 2021

Luis Montes, M.D., a pediatric and adolescent medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shakes his head from time to time wondering if it’s all just a dream.

“I count my blessings that a little boy from El Paso, Texas, grew up to work at some of the most wonderful medical centers in the world,” he says.

He joined the medical staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2019 and sees patients at Outpatient Care, Sarasota.

Previously, Montes was the medical director of the Pediatric Rehabilitation Department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and chief of pediatrics at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Medical Center.

In an effort to prevent firearm injuries to kids, Montes helped establish a peer mentoring injury prevention program that reached more than 80,000 school-age kids in the Los Angeles and Oakland areas combined, while serving on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) injury prevention committee with a focus on violence prevention.

He also served as medical director of the Los Angeles County immunization program. He says he’s proud of his efforts to improve the immunization rates for children and helping to establish a California statewide electronic immunization registry.

Why did you get into pediatric rehabilitation medicine?

During my residency I did a clinical rotation at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Hospital and fell in love with the world of rehabilitation. I saw a lot of kids paralyzed from firearm injuries during the nine years I was in charge of the Pediatric Spinal Cord injury program at Rancho. Almost every week, one or two kids came in with spinal cord injuries related to gunshot wounds.

I developed a separate adolescent program focused on optimizing their individual function abilities, social reintegration skills and helped them return to school. Through a grant I received, we established a Los Angeles County violence prevention program called “Teens on Target.” The program won a Presidential Award and is still going strong today.

What brought you to Sarasota, Florida?

Coming to Florida was always our plan. My wife is originally from Sarasota and when her mother turned 80, we agreed we would come back here to take care of her in her golden years. We love Sarasota. It’s paradise!
We moved here in 2015 when I accepted a position with the Manatee Rural Healthcare System in Bradenton. In 2019, a position became available at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care Center in Sarasota working with Dr. Patricia Blanco, who specializes in pediatric medicine.

I had heard of Dr. Blanco and knew how highly respected she is in the world of pediatrics for her care of the chronically ill patient. Everyone told me you need to meet Dr. Blanco. You would both work together very well. So, a dream came true. It was wonderful that I was able to get this job and utilize my talents in the field of pediatric rehabilitation.

What type of patients do you care for?

I coordinate the care of medically complex patients. I help maintain their health, and at the same time, practice general pediatrics. As medical director for the cleft palate and cranial facial program, we meet as a team three days a month. About 50% of my patients have autism or developmental disabilities, attention disorders and genetic disorders like Down syndrome.

How did COVID-19 impact you personally and professionally?

Personally, my wife, Kara, and I like to travel. It hindered our time we could spend with our kids and grandchildren. I’ve also lost a few family members to COVID, so it’s been a bad year.

Professionally, we’ve learned that we’re susceptible to pandemics, and were not well prepared to care for the vast number of critically ill patients. There were lots of lessons learned. We still have a long way to go to bring this pandemic under control.

What’s something people might find surprising about you?

A year ago, I started writing a children’s book. The idea came to me because I wanted to communicate with my grandchildren the history of the Mexican-American culture. It’s about a little boy growing up in El Paso, Texas. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Bringing in humor, my philosophy as a pediatrician, and the beauty of the Mexican culture interacting with the American culture.

I love the patients and enjoy my work environment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. I feel good when I can make a mother smile or alleviate the worries for a parent. I like connecting with kids and making them laugh. If I can diminish their pain, then I’ve had a good day.