Dr. Adalberto L. Rentería was only seven years old when his family migrated in 1961 from Jalisco, México to the Napa Valley in northern California.
Growing up, Rentería worked in the grape fields of Rutherford where his father Carlos Rentería managed a vineyard.
After he graduated with honors from St. Helena High School in 1973, Rentería received a scholarship to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human biology and then enrolled in UCLA’s medical school.
Rentería completed his internship and residency in family practice at UCLA affiliated hospitals.
Rentería, who has a passion for recruiting and mentoring students, especially Latinos, into the field of health care, joined Adventist Health Physicians Network as their Regional Medical Director for Central California in August 2014.
Two years later, Rentería was named chief medical officer for the Central California Region of Adventist Health in June 2016 where he is responsible for the administration of commercial and rural health clinic system.
Through out his extensive career, Rentería has worked for the Permanente Medical Group in Fairfield, the Sequoia Community Health Foundation in Fresno as chief of family medicine, and served as assistant clinical professor for family medicine for the University of California San Francisco’s school of medicine at their Valley Medical Center residency program in Fresno. He has also work at the El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, Arizona and graduated from Dr. Andrew Weil’s integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona in 2008.
Rentería has also been a preceptor for nurse practitioner programs with UC Davis, UCSF, Stanford and the University of Arizona.
1. How did you get involve in the Discovery Health Care: Volunteer Summer Program and what is your role?
“I am on the advisory board. I got here in 2014 and wherever I’ve gone, quite what I do, because of my background, I just sort of addressing recruiting especially Latinos and Latinas into health care. What I used to do is I just show up to the principal’s office, say I want to talk to your kids, no just your college stars, I want to talk to all of them, including the ones you think are going to jail, because they might end up being a doctor. I used to go to high schools to do that and started doing that around here and then saw the flyers (about the program), wait a minute that’s a much better way of doing it (recruiting). I didn’t know we have a program. …and I said listen I just got here and going to be part of the program.”
2. What would you say is the overall goal of the eight-week summer program?
“We want this to be an educational program, let’s exposed them (students) to other careers. Most of these kids want to be around because they want to be nurses and some are brave enough to say ‘I might want to be a doctor’. … What we did, we exposed them to all kinds of careers in the hospital and outside the hospital including non-doctoral. …We expose them to all the administrative, clinical and also jobs that support healthcare in the hospital and outside the hospital.”
3. How important are programs like Discovery Health Care for students considering health careers?
“They (students) really get an idea of what it is (the profession), because I would say, anectotally, about 30 to 40 percent end up really changing their mind after they go through the program, about what they thought they want to be, because now they really know what it takes.”
4. Do you feel Latino students can see you as their role model to become a doctor?
“I know where these kids come from. My parents were farm workers; I was a farm worker, so I know what they are thinking. If you get into the role and explain it from that point of view, they are like ‘wow this makes a lot of sense.’ It is very important because most of them are Latinas, and my hardest ones are the Latinas that have internalizes that ‘I am second class citizens.’”
5. Why should Latino students take advantage of programs like the one offered at Adventist Health?
“I want them (students) to not make a mistake. They might go into nursing and five years later found out ‘I hate this job’ because they didn’t know what nursing was. And we exposed them to all that.”
6. What does the medical field need more of?
“Increasing women in healthcare, period. Latinas is obviously my preference but is not limited to that. If you get all the kids (students in the DHC program) together in a session, and walk in the room, 90 percent of them are women in that room, and about 90 percent of the women are probably Latinas. Now, I can take you to the Hanford Hospital, if you go down the hallway to the cafeteria and go to the main lobby, they have pictures out there of all the chiefs of staff, and walk down the hallway there is only one woman from the beginning of this place. So my question is what is wrong with this wall?”
7. How can we increase the number of women in top medical field positions?
“If I want to have 50 percent of women as chief of staff, how do you change that, you become a physician, you get on staff, and vote. A lot of them don’t believe they can actually do it. In my class when I graduated from UCLA, only eight graduate and only one was a woman. And it hasn’t changed much.”
8. “When you mentor Latinas in the program, what would you tell them is their biggest challenge?
“‘Look your biggest challenge for most of you here is going to be your mother and father.’ And that also raises some eyebrows - what are you talking about? I come from a very conservative immigrant background, had one sister, even though she was born here, she was raised in a very traditional, no to challenge my parents, raised to be a good girl, get married, have babies, and your role is to take care of mom and dad when they get old. How is that going to work out if you want to be a doctor? Do you parents even know you want to be one? I want them to start thinking about that. And then I do this, I give them my card and say I will personally will speak to your mother and father, and I have done that.”
9. You mention that you have gone to student’s home to talk their parents, how do Latinos parents welcome your advice?
“It’s amazing what the parents learn from the kids about what goes through the program, women go back and start this conversation with the parents and I try to give the parents an idea of what is going to happen to (their kids) if they let them go out of the nest, and that is a very important topic.”
10. Is it difficult to recruit doctors to work in the Central Valley?
“I have a lot of tides to the Central Valley… coming from a farm worker background, there is a lot of poor people here. I want to recruit for the Central Valley because of the stereotype it’s been ‘who wants to live here; it’s poor, it’s hot. I want to go to San Francisco, I want to go San Diego, L.A.’ I’ve been to all those places, I lived in them. There are a lot of positive things of living here, right. It’s more expensive there and a lot more crime. Also, a lot of the student, like myself are close to family and you can have your cake and eat it too. You can be a doctor, and because there are few here I can talk to you about all the loan repayment, and believe me we can get it paid off back in five years because it’s here but not in San Francisco.”
Discover Health Care: Volunteer Summer Program
A summer program that integrates volunteerism and health care career development. Open to students who are currently enrolled in high school or college.
Must be entering junior or senior year in high school, or freshman or sophomore year of college.
Applications will be accepted now throught March 31.
Apply for the Discover Healthcare Volunteer Summer Program here.