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MedWatch Today: UCSF Fresno Grads stay in Fresno to treat local patients


Once a doctor graduates from the medical residency program at UCSF Fresno, they can choose to practice anywhere. But more than 50 percent of them choose to stay here in the Central Valley, to continue to serve the patients most in need.

After years of training through his residency at UCSF Fresno, Dr. Rafael Martinez made the decision to build his career here.

“The Valley kinda kept calling for lots of reasons, you know, I’m from here, my wife’s from here too, and you know, as you go through medicine and now residency, you start to realize kinda where your niche is and where your need is and I feel like I can make the most difference here,” said Dr. Martinez.

Dr. Martinez is from Visalia, but he was born in Mexico to migrant parents and quickly learned he wanted to help others.

He said, “We don’t have a lot of physicians that are from the Valley that stay here. We don’t have a lot of physicians that are fluent in Spanish or understand the culture and you know, when you’re able to do those things I feel like you can make more of an impact on your patient’s lives and that’s really rewarding for me.”

You can find Dr. Martinez caring for patients of all ages in Reedley. The family medicine physician is also part time faculty at UCSF Fresno.

“My training here was absolutely outstanding and it really prepared me for you know, working 25 miles away from here in the middle of nowhere and feel pretty comfortable with anything that kinda walks in through the door,” he continued.

Dr. Lily Hitchner agrees. Her training at UCSF Fresno set her on the course for success in her career. After graduating from UCSF Fresno’s residency program, Dr. Hitchner decided to stay in Fresno, and now she works in the emergency department at Community Regional Medical Center.

She stated, “We have such a great patient population, such a diverse, there’s huge volumes, diverse patient population and problems and complexity and acuity. I think it really creates such a good training environment for me and my fellow residents.”

Unlike Dr. Martinez, Dr. Hitchner is not a valley native. She’s from Maryland, but is now proud to call Fresno home.

“Everyone’s been so incredibly welcoming and it’s been easy to feel at home here both in the department and outside of the department so it feels natural. I feel at home here,” said Dr. Hitchner.

The Central Valley has biggest physician shortage in the state, but UCSF Fresno’s training helps new physicians see here’s where they can make the greatest difference for patients.

She continued, “To be faculty here is such an honor and privilege.”

“I really love what I’m doing, I love where I’m working, and it finally feels like I’m at a place where I’m making a big difference and I’m really grateful for that,” ended Dr. Martinez.

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