July 23, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Family Medicine Physician Leadership
| Jesus Rodriguez, M.D.
| Family Medicine
To qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon, experts say to try to run faster than the set standard for each age group to get first dibs when registering. Throughout his life, Jesus Rodriguez, M.D., has always aimed past the standard, and in doing so, he has not only achieved a Boston qualifying time for the 2018 race, but he has used that same determination to inspire many adolescents to pursue careers in the field of medicine.
For the past 10 years, the Kaiser Permanente Fresno Family Medicine physician has mentored Sunnyside High School students as a part of the Doctors Academy program affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco-Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research. The program, which started at Sunnyside High School in 1999, encourages educationally disadvantaged students to focus on careers in health and medicine.
“My passion is to get the youth involved and to look at careers in medicine as an option,” he says. “The sooner we start allowing students to have it in their mind that it is possible, than the more likely they are to pursue it.”
Dr. Rodriguez says although California’s population is over 50 percent Latino, only four to five percent of physicians are Latino.
“The more outreach we do and the more we can encourage the youth, especially from underserved minority populations, the better we will be able to serve California as a whole,” he says. “Once I greet my patients in Spanish, I immediately see them smile and an entire relaxation of their physical being overcomes them because they know they are going to be able to express themselves better, which leads to overall better care.”
Dr. Rodriquez, his brother and mother came to the United States from Mexico when he was just six years old. Raised in a single-parent home, he spent many summers working as a farm laborer to help provide. His mother emphasized the importance of education and pushed him to be the best he could be so that he didn’t have to live a life like she did.
By the third grade, teachers noticed Dr. Rodriguez’ love for Science and Math and placed him on a more accelerated learning path. He quickly became a top student in his school. During his junior year of high school, he was selected as one of only 20 students in California to attend an exclusive, 5-week residential program for low income students with the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program.
Once there, Dr. Rodriguez realized his love for medicine. The curriculum involved completing a hospital internship and attending workshops and lectures conducted by Stanford faculty and medical professionals. Dr. Rodriguez’ internship assignment was to assist in the hospital’s morgue. He discovered a fascination for the autopsy process to learn not only why the person passed away but how it could have been prevented.
Fueled by his new-found passion to help others through medicine, he then graduated from Madera High School as the class valedictorian, attended Stanford University, earned his medical degree from the University of Washington and completed residency training at University of California, San Francisco-Fresno.
Originally wanting to be a pediatrician, Dr. Rodriquez learned to appreciate the broad scope of care that could be provided as a family medicine physician while he completed rotations throughout the Valley during residency. Once he graduated, he decided to stay in the Valley to continue to provide care for the underserved and try to inspire disadvantaged youth just as he was inspired many years ago.
In addition to mentoring Doctors Academy students, Dr. Rodriguez enjoys helping members of the community combat chronic disease.
“I am a big proponent of spreading health education to as many people as I can,” he says.
He has been a guest speaker on many Spanish television and radio programs, he’s provided health screenings at various community events, and is an active board member for the American Heart Association’s Central Valley division. In this role, he plans to focus on the need to educate Latino women about heart health and will work closely with the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno.
In the fall, Dr. Rodriguez also donates his time and services to provide school sports physicals at local high schools. “While I’m there, I take advantage of the opportunity to ask the students of their plans after high school,” he says. “I try to encourage them to continue their education and even consider a career in the medical field or in physical therapy.”
Throughout the years, Dr. Rodriguez has kept in touch with many of the students he’s mentored and is happy to report that almost all of them have pursued careers in medicine, nursing or physical therapy.
“I think it’s rewarding that some part of me was there to help them continue their efforts and encourage them along the way because it’s a hard road,” he says. “Even if they find that medicine is not for them, as long as they keep exploring and trying to find their way and not give up – that’s when we know we’ve done our job.”