FRESNO -- Dr. Verónica Ramírez is dedicated to filling the critical shortage of culturally and linguistically competent physicians and specialists in the San Joaquín Valley.
Ramírez, a Dinuba native and graduate of California State University, Fresno and Drexel University's medical school, was among 93 residents and fellows who graduated from the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program last Thursday evening at the William Saroyan Theatre.
"It has always been our dream to come back and be able to practice in the Valley," said Ramírez, who specializes in pediatrics. Her husband, Dr. René Ramírez, who is from Kerman, will graduate from UCSF Fresno's emergency medicine program next year.
Ramírez is not the only program graduate who plans to stay and practice in the San Joaquín Valley.
This year, an estimated 38 percent of program graduates will practice here after graduation. Growing doctors who have an expertise in treating the Valley's diverse patient population is a major goal of the UCSF Fresno program, said associate dean Dr. Joan Voris.
"We train people to deal with the cultural diversity that we have here, and we look for and try to place in our programs a diverse group of residents from different ethnic backgrounds with different language skills," Voris said.
"We know they are going to go out there and improve the health of the people in the communities where they live and work."
The UCSF Fresno program allowed Ramírez to pursue a dream she has harbored since childhood.
She was just in kindergarten when she first saw her mother have an epileptic seizure. That experience inspired Ramírez to understand the medical condition, and discover what she could do to heal it.
Many years later, as a resident at UCSF Fresno, Ramírez has had the opportunity to care for many children -- including a 6-month-old baby, who came to the hospital with seizures, the same condition afflicting Ramírez's mother. Ramírez helped get the child's seizures under control during her weeks-long hospital stay.
"It is really rewarding to have someone come in really sick, and be able to find a solution," said Ramírez, who has accepted a chief residency position with the UCSF Fresno pediatric program.
Dr. Carolina Sueldo, also a graduate of the UCSF Fresno program, is also committed to practicing in the Valley -- after she completes a reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellowship at the University of Connecticut.
Sueldo, who grew up in Fresno and attended San Joaquín Memorial High School before returning to her family's native Argentina, is the daughter of two doctors -- Dr. María Baccaro, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Carlos Sueldo, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. She intends to join her father's Fresno practice, with the goal of educating and empowering women about their health.
"A huge part of what I do is about counseling and education and information," said Sueldo, who earned the Leon S. Peters Foundation Resident Award during the graduation ceremony.
Ramírez and Sueldo both encouraged other Valley students to pursue careers in medicine, and then study and practice in the region.
"Even though it is difficult -- putting in the long hours and the hard work -- it pays off to be able to come back and actually see patients and your dream fulfilled," Ramírez said. "It's totally worth it and there's such a need."
Sueldo recommended medical students complete their residency training at UCSF Fresno.
"I think this is a total hidden treasure," she said of the program.
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