Juan Torres seems chipper, given it’s midshift and just two days into a 12-day run on the acute care ward at Valley Children’s Hospital.
These are extended work shifts, too – 12 hours officially, though it can easily turn into 14. Medical residents, especially those in their first year like Torres, tend to arrive early and stay late. At the end of the 12 days, Torres gets just two days off, what he calls the “golden weekend.” Then, he’s back at the hospital to do it all over again.
The San Diego native is more than happy with the rigorous schedule.
“You come here every day knowing you’re making a difference,” says Torres, one of 13 doctors who started at Valley Children’s in June as part of the inaugural class of its pediatric residency program.
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A second class of 13 will be announced March 16.
The three-year program operates in collaboration with Stanford University School of Medicine, under the scrutiny of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which oversees such training programs across the country. The residents will spend the bulk of their time at Valley Children’s Hospital – or one of its primary-care sites – but will also do rotations at Kaiser Permanente, Saint Agnes Medical Center, Dignity Health and at local pediatricians’ offices.
In a given year, Valley Children’s can have more than 210 residents and medical students from a dozen different programs, but this is the hospital’s first go as a sponsoring institution, with full academic and financial responsibility for these students.
“We’ve been training residents for a long time, 40 years. But we’ve never had our own program,” says Dr. Jolie Limón, chief of pediatrics and the executive director of medical education at the hospital.
“These guys are ours,” Limón says.
“That’s a tremendous responsibility and honor.”
Residency programs are important and doctors take great care in choosing where they study, knowing it is where they will ultimately begin their careers in earnest (after four years as undergraduates and four years of medical school). The so-called Match Day – in which all the potential residents find out where they will be sent to study for the next three years – has all the excitement of a professional sports draft, only the matches are done through a computerized algorithm and kept secret from both the doctors and the hospitals.
Valley Children’s interviewed 130 candidates for its inaugural class and made a hospital-wide celebration of its first Match Day reveal. The residents wouldn’t arrive for three more months, but there was an celebratory meet-up online and a cake in their honor.
And some tears, Limón says. “Happy tears.”
After all, the 13 residents are the realization of a three-year process that will ultimately see the hospital expand on its mission of providing high-quality, comprehensive healthcare services to children, “regardless of their ability to pay.” Indeed, the Central Valley has some of the neediest children in the state, Limón says, a fact that is compounded by a lack of pediatric doctors in the region.
The residency program seeks to create the next generation of doctors, who will hopefully stay in the region and “go off and touch the lives of thousands of kids,” she says. The hospital is hoping half of the 13 residents in this first class will remain in the area – possibly even at Valley Children’s.
That number will compound as the program reaches capacity in 2020.
Already, things are looking good.
Torres is so taken with the community and the hospital that he recently bought a home in Clovis.
Devon Goossen says staying in the region and working at one of Valley Children’s outpatient clinics is the dream.
The first-year resident grew up in Fresno and graduated from Clovis West High School and Fresno State before attending St. Louis University School of Medicine. She knew all about Valley Children’s Hospital even before applying for the program.
She sold Kids Day papers on the corner during high school. She volunteered at the hospital during college.
“It was an easy decision,” she says.
And one that she doesn’t take lightly. As a member of the first class of residents, Goosen and the others have an active role in shaping the program not only for their own careers, but also for the next round of residents.
And the next.
“We’re not just creating this program for ourselves,” Goosen says.
Kids Day 2018
When: Tuesday, March 6.
What: One of the main fund-raising efforts of the year for Valley Children’s Hospital. Special editions of The Bee will be hawked on street corners for $1, with all proceeds going to the hospital.
Who: The Bee and ABC 30 are the major partners supporting Kids Day.