René Ramírez fulfills his medical dream

FRESNO — Dr. René Ramírez’ dream of becoming a doctor began when he was a high school junior. Now that dream is a reality.

Ramírez, 32, is one of 97 resident physicians who graduated from the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program on June 13 at the William Saroyan Theater.

According Brandy Ramos Nikaido, UCSF Fresno director of media relations, the program graduates approximately 90 physicians annually from its residency and fellowship programs.

“We are proud of all of our graduates,” said Dr. Gene Kallsen, interim assistant dean at UCSF Fresno.

“Our physicians are improving access to health and health care by teaching the next generation of doctors, researching health issues that matter to Valley residents, helping the community and providing much-needed care,” Kallsen said. “Their success is our success and we wish them well.”

The medical education program prepares residents to become specialists in three to five years, depending on the specialty. Fellowships, which generally last one to two years, offer specific training beyond residency in an area of expertise such as cardiology, said Ramos Nikaido.

Ramírez, who is chief resident in the emergency medicine program, is one of the 30 percent of the graduating class that will stay in the San Joaquín Valley to practice, Ramos Nikaido said.

“Everybody knows there is a shortage of doctors in the valley,” Ramírez said of his choice to stay in Fresno to practice emergency medicine. “There are not enough doctors to meet the need of the Valley.”And with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Ramírez said the need for doctors will be greater as more people obtain access to medical insurance.

Ramírez, who is the first one in his family to go to college, said he wanted to do emergency medicine because the emergency room “is the place where everybody goes at some point in time.”

He said the emergency room is the “ultimate entry point to the hospital. You need help, we are there to help out.” He added that for some people, the visit to the ER is the last resource in seeking medical care since they might not have health insurance.

Ramírez, who was born in Fresno and raised in Kerman, graduated from Kerman High School in 1998 as senior class president. He went to California State University, Fresno and got his B.S. in Molecular and cellular biology in 2003. He moved to Pennsylvania to attend Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. He came back to California in 2009 to do his residency in Fresno.

Ramírez will join the UCSF Fresno Emergency Medicine department as faculty starting in August. While he was obtaining his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State, Ramírez took part of the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), which is a partnership between UCSF Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Fresno State to prepare undergraduate students to be competitive applicants to health professions schools, according to Nikaido.“HCOP opened my eyes to what was available in terms of health careers,” Ramírez said.

The UCSF Fresno, which was established in 1975, is a clinical campus of UC San Francisco.According to Ramos Nikaido, UCSF Fresno plays a vital role in providing healthcare services to residents of the Valley, training medical professionals in the region, conducting research that addresses regional health issues and preparing a pipeline of students for careers in health and medicine.

Ramírez said more training programs such as the UCSF Fresno medical education program in the Valley could help address the issue of doctors’ shortage in the Valley.He said studies have shown that training doctors tend to stay in the community where they are doing their residency.

Ramírez added that Fresno is a great place, a “hidden gem” to practice medicine.He said patients show up with rare diseases that most residents in other areas only read about in text books. Ramirez said at other programs across the country residents graduate with less experience than residents in Fresno because they are only able to do procedures on cadaver skills labs or simulation type of setting.“We get more experience,” Ramírez said.

His ultimate goal is to “be a good husband, a good father, a good doctor and to provide high quality care to patients.”Ramírez is married to Dr. Verónica Ramírez, a Fresno pediatrician who also attended Fresno State with her husband for her undergraduate studies. She went to the Drexel University College of Medicine and graduated from UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program last year. They have two children.

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