Man goes from Undocumented Immigrant to Future Transplant Surgeon
Juan Ortiz, 34, came to the U.S. illegally when he was just 18 years old from Mexico in order to try and help his family get out of poverty. He is now a naturalized citizen and a third-year general surgery medical resident at the Riverside University Health System’s Medical Center in Moreno Valley (RUHS-MC). His position as a soon-to-be surgeon is a benefit for both him personally and for an underserved community that is primarily Latino. According to a 2015 study from UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, the numbers of Latino physicians is not keeping up with the Latino population, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country. Ortiz states,
I would say that 60 to 70 percent of the population here [in Moreno Valley] are (Latino), low income and with little or no health care coverage. And I can tell you that finding a Spanish-speaking transplant surgeon will be very hard to find. There is nothing more beautiful than being able to cure a patient’s illness with a surgical procedure
According to the study, there were 135 Latino physicians for every for every 100,000 Latinos in the United States in 1980 and by 2010, the figure had dropped to 105. The UCLA researchers were surprised to find the 22 percent drop, in a stark contrast to the 49 percent increase in non-Hispanic white physicians over the same 30-year time period. The study highlights a shortage of doctors who have the language and cultural skills to serve such patients in the clinical setting. Dr. Gloria Sanchez, the paper’s lead investigator, believes that the downward trend could have a negative impact on health care for Latinos in the U.S. because patients may not be able to find appropriate medical care in a language they feel most comfortable. Ortiz was drawn to the Riverside County’s public teaching hospital in Moreno Valley because it serves as the County’s safety net for mostly underserved Latino patients. After his residency at RUHS-MC, he plans to go on to do a fellowship in transplant surgery, which will take another two years.
Juan Ortiz’s story is the type of story that should be admired. He came into the U.S. with nothing and chose to give back to the community.