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Coachella Valley Physician Joins Medical School


Coachella Valley Physician and Health Care Advocate Appointed in UCR Medical School

Raul Ruiz will lead community-based initiatives to broaden health care access and improve health

(January 11, 2011)

Raul Ruiz, M.D.Enlarge

Raul Ruiz, M.D.

Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician in the Coachella Valley and founder and director of the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative, has been appointed Senior Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Partnerships in the UCR School of Medicine.

In the position, Ruiz will develop and lead medical school initiatives and projects involving a variety of community stakeholders in the health care, education and non-profit sectors. He will also assist in developing pathway programs aimed at preparing Inland Southern California students for admission to medical schools.

“Dr. Ruiz embodies the very qualities we want to inspire in UCR-trained physicians – a commitment to the highest quality medical care, to community service and to the encouragement of future physicians,” said G. Richard Olds, dean of the UCR medical school. “So we are thrilled to have him join the medical school team.”

UC Riverside is planning to open the medical school to its first class of students in August 2012. When it opens, the School of Medicine will be the first public medical school opened in California in more than 40 years.

Ruiz, recently named Person of the Year 2011 by The Desert Sun-published Desert Magazine, said he was attracted by the medical school’s goals of expanding health care access in underserved communities and improving health throughout Inland Southern California. “Serving the Inland Empire and underserved communities in the region is a personal passion of mine that makes this job more a mission than a job,” he said.

His office will be located at UCR’s Palm Desert Graduate Center, UCR’s teaching and research hub in the Coachella Valley. The medical school position will be part-time, enabling Ruiz to continue practicing medicine at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

“The addition of Dr. Ruiz to the medical school’s leadership team will enable UCR not only to expand its presence in the Coachella Valley, but also to broaden the outstanding programs he has already developed to other areas of Inland Southern California,” said UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White. “The entire region will benefit from his vision and enthusiasm for improving health in vulnerable populations and inspiring the next generation of physicians.”

The programs that Ruiz develops on behalf of the medical school will be diverse and far-reaching, ranging from community-based projects to assess health care needs and initiate programs that improve health to expanding existing programs that inspire youth in the region to pursue careers in medicine.

As director of the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative, Ruiz is leading a community-centered effort to develop a regional plan to improve health care access and wellness in areas with severe physician shortages and large populations with no health care coverage. He said he would like to work with community leaders in other areas of the Inland Southern California to develop similar efforts. Ruiz also envisions the medical school as a catalyst for organizing community workshops on topics of general public interest, such as disease prevention and the impacts of health care reform legislation.

Three years ago, Ruiz launched a pre-med mentorship program to foster in early college students an interest in medicine. The 30 students currently involved shadow physicians in the hospital and participate in community service projects, such as volunteerism in community health care clinics. He said the program can serve as a model in other communities to inspire young people to consider a career in medicine with a strong community service orientation.

“I want to continue to encourage students to take an active problem-solving and leadership role in improving health care, but also motivate them to be community-oriented physicians that also serve the underserved. The best way to do that is to never let them leave the region by getting them involved early with UCR programs that focus on serving the community and improving health outcomes,” he said.

Raised in Coachella by farmworker parents, Ruiz completed his bachelor’s degree at UCLA magna cum laude. He earned an M.D., a master’s degree in public policy and a master’s degree in public health, all from Harvard University. He also did a Fellowship with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Ruiz was an early medical responder following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as the founding medical director of the Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization, founded by actor Sean Penn. The U.S. Army recognized his efforts and awarded him the Commanders Award for Public Service by the 82nd Airborne.

Ruiz has also helped developed regional and national emergency care reform strategies for the Ministry of Health of El Salvador and Serbia. He also appears weekly on the Univision Palm Springs segment “Vive Mas,” discussing a variety of health topics of interest to Spanish speaking viewers. He will earn $65,000 annually in his UCR position.

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The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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