The inaugural class of residents in the Desert Regional Medical Center UCR School of Medicine program is an impressive group. Many were chosen because they are more likely to stay in an underserved area after graduation. Some participated in community service while in medical school while others come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background. The group of 21 display cultural diversity and speak a total of ten different languages among them.
Of course, these qualifications are above and beyond their scholastic achievements; there were 500 applications for 8 positions in family medicine alone.
The expanded specialty program which was accredited by the American Osteopathic Association brings 12 residents, four each focusing in the areas of neurology, neurosurgery, and emergency medicine. These new graduates chose to study osteopathic medicine (DO), which considers a more holistic approach to reach a diagnosis, over allopathic medicine (MD), the more classic form which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of human disease.
Their arrival from cities across the nation marks the culmination of years of work and time on behalf of both the residents and their mentors and program directors. At the welcome reception in June, the excitement, enthusiasm and pride of all involved were truly contagious.
“These eight (family medicine residents) truly exemplify our mission to improve access to care, expand and diversify our workforce, and address our community needs,” said program director Gemma Kim, MD.
Javed Siddiqi, MD, who oversees the neurosurgery program, beamed with pride for those who will spend the next seven years under his direction and care. “When you are through with this program, my 8-year-old son will be 15. So we have adopted all of you for the next seven years. You have a lot of work ahead of you, but we will learn and grow together.”
“This is a special day for the entire Coachella Valley because it changes the culture of the medical community,” said Randy Culbertson, DO, director of medical education at Desert Regional. He reminded the residents that when this program is completed, it’s not over. “When you are a physician, you are a lifelong learner. Don’t ever forget that. I have been a doctor for 33 years and continue to learn something every single day.”
Curious about their training in integrative medicine, I spoke with neurosurgery residents Drs. Brian Fiani and Stephen Albano. “Our osteopathic training has taught us to recognize all contributing functional aspects including spiritual, mental and physical, as well as, family and environment,” said Fiani. “This really helps with the healing process.”
Stephen Albano grew up in Hawaii where the strong Eastern influence drew him to osteopathic medicine. “I grew up with many people in our community doing tai chi, qigong, and acupuncture for health.” He feels that medicine is changing. “Medicine for the last half century has been focused on the body: ‘What is wrong with your body?’ and ‘What am I going to do to fix it?’ Now we are thinking more mind, body and spirit, and starting to recognize that these other modalities are making a difference.”
Both are very excited – and grateful – to be in the program. Fiani stated that the neurosurgery residency is very rare with only 18 spots throughout the entire country in the 2014 D.O. match. “I love that Desert Regional was able to offer the neurosurgery program in an area that has a strong need for the specialty.” The local needs in neurology, neurosurgery, and emergency medicine help shaped the specialty program.
Starting this fall, the program will also see students from all over the country that will be doing 4-week rotations to audition for post-residency positions. Culbertson said hundreds have applied.
All of these brilliant minds with diverse backgrounds and contagious enthusiasm are certain to influence not only the doctors with whom they work, but the entire community.
If you get a chance to meet them along the way, please thank them for choosing the Coachella Valley, and let them know that they are making a difference.