UCSF Fresno Physicians Graduating During COVID-19 Pandemic

FRESNO – More than 100 medical residents and fellows, along with three oral and maxillofacial surgery dental residents and four physician assistants will complete training at UCSF Fresno this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCSF Fresno will celebrate the occasion with a virtual commencement tonight (June 11). Many of the graduates will stay in the Central Valley to care for patients, teach future physicians or continue their medical education.

“Regardless of their specialty or sub-specialty, these newly minted physicians and health care providers share the common bond of confronting a novel new disease and as a result, adapting to new ways of learning and caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “They are entering the workforce at a time when they are needed most. We are pleased to have helped them fine tune their skills and to see the physicians they are today.”

UCSF Fresno’s 2020 Virtual Commencement will be held today, Thursday, June 11 at 6 p.m. via Zoom Webinar.  Media: Please call (559) 313-6539 for Zoom call-in details and password and to schedule interviews.

Graduates from Community Medical Centers General Dentistry Residency program also will be recognized.

UCSF Fresno 2020 Graduation Highlights:

  • 70% of residents and fellows completing training in the Department of Emergency Medicine are staying in the Central Valley to provide care.
  • 44% of residents and fellows completing training in the Department of Family and Community Medicine are staying in the region.
  • All three fellows in the Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) program are staying in the Valley. Two are joining the HPM faculty at UCSF Fresno.
  • 44% of internal medicine residents (categorical) are staying in the Valley
  • 50% of residents completing training in the Department of Pediatrics are staying in the region
  • 63% of all graduates are staying in California to provide care or continue their education

The 2020 graduating class includes: 

Nicholas Artinian, MD, is the first in his family to go to college and to become a physician. Dr. Artinian is completing training in UCSF Fresno’s three-year Family and Community Medicine Residency Program. But he wasn’t always sure of which path to pursue in medicine. During his third year of medical school, the Los Angeles area native enjoyed all his general rotations. After completing a rotation in Family and Community Medicine, however, he realized everything he enjoyed about the other rotations was included in the training of a family physician.

“Training at UCSF Fresno has been an amazing experience due to all the knowledgeable and eager-to-teach physicians across all specialties,” said Dr. Artinian. “As a family medicine resident, we get to experience different fields of medicine and every positive encounter has shaped how I practice medicine.”

His parents, who themselves did not finish high school, worked tirelessly to provide for he and his sister, Dr. Artinian said. He graduated from Ferrahian High School in Encino, California, earned his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara and medical degree at St. George’s University. His sister will graduate from veterinary school in Arizona this year.

Dr. Artinian spends his spare time with family and friends, playing soccer with the UCSF Fresno resident team and exercising. After graduation, he plans to practice in Bakersfield and Tehachapi with Kaiser Permanente as an outpatient physician.

“Over the past five years, I had the pleasure of helping patients from Stockton to Fresno while in medical school and residency, respectively,” said Dr. Artinian. “These positive, long-lasting experiences influenced my desire to care for underserved patients in the Central Valley and the proximity to family in LA also played a part in moving to Bakersfield.” 

Sukhjit Dhillon, MD, is completing a four-year residency training program in Emergency Medicine at UCSF Fresno and will stay on as Emergency Medicine faculty after graduation. Fresno is home, said Dr. Dhillon, and I am excited and grateful to work at the same place that trained me.

Born in Punjab, India, she lived in various states in India before moving to Fresno as a teen. She attended Buchanan High School in Clovis and received a bachelor’s degree of science in Biomedical Physics from Fresno State. She earned both a master’s in biomedical sciences and a medical degree at Chicago Medical School.

 Dr. Dhillon said there were instances in India when her family could not afford quality care, and that motivated her to become a physician who advocates for patients.  “Emergency medicine allows me to do that. I get to take care of patients regardless of their ability to pay and I can be there during their most vulnerable time.” 

She considers herself fortunate to have matched with UCSF Fresno’s Emergency Medicine Program. It’s one of strongest programs throughout the county, she added.

“I love the people who I work with here — co-residents, physicians, nurses and other staff members. Everybody is extremely supportive and always there to help you in any way possible,” said Dr. Dhillon.  “I get to take care of the sickest in the community while working with amazing group of people.”

 Her path to becoming a physician was not easy. Dr. Dhillon admits to struggling with self-doubt. It’s something she continues to work on, she said.  “I think the whole journey to becoming a physician has been an important part of my life and is something that I look back at and am very proud of it,” she said. “When I think of the future and what will make me happy, I think of doing a job that I love (which I already am) and finding ways to give back to community.” 

Dr. Dhillon has given back to the community. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with Rais Vohra, MD, UCSF Emergency Medicine faculty member and Interim Health Officer at the Fresno County Department of Public Health. Dr. Dhillon wrote various guidelines and protocols using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, such as testing criteria, risk assessment tool, and screening guidelines for health care and non-health care workers. She continues to help at the health department as time allows and hopes to continue that work after graduation.

In her spare time, Dr. Dhillon enjoys relaxing on the couch, talking to her cat, Rosie (who she is sure understands every word she says), and visiting, hiking, camping and taking pictures at many state and national parks with her husband, Dan.  

“I would have never made it this far without the support of my family, friends and mentors,” said Dr. Dhillon. “I am very fortunate to have a very strong support system.”

A self-described “Navy Brat,” Ryan Howard, MD, says he views the label as a term of endearment and that it means he’s from all over. Dr. Howard is completing a fellowship, advanced training beyond residency, in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UCSF Fresno. Hospice and Palliative Medicine is a sub–specialty that focuses on end-of-life care, including symptom management and relief of suffering.

Patients with very serious illnesses are among the most vulnerable patient populations and their families are often equally as vulnerable, he said. He chose to complete a fellowship in Palliative Medicine because of the serious need for such care providers in the region. All three of the graduating Hospice and Palliative Medicine fellows are staying in the Central Valley. Two of them are joining the HPM faculty at UCSF Fresno.

Working alongside faculty is the best part of training at UCSF Fresno, Dr. Howard said. They are passionate about the specialty of medicine in which they work. They are excellent educators and lead by example.

After graduation, Dr. Howard will serve as Medical Director of Kaweah Delta Hospice and Palliative Medicine Services in Visalia. “Working to aggressively control previously unmanageable symptoms and providing empathetic and compassionate care to folks nearing the end of their lives is just something I felt called to do,” Dr. Howard said. “I am honestly humbled by the grace and courage so many families demonstrate in order to help and allow their loved ones to die peacefully. I wake up and go to work every day just hoping to make a positive impact on the lives of my patients and their families.”

He and wife, Michelle, enjoy Visalia, the farm country and abundance of fresh fruit, especially at the Saturday farmer’s market. The absence of traffic and friendly neighbors also are appreciated. The Howards own land near Three Rivers, which they are developing. They often camp and enjoy the nearby great outdoors with their dogs Jack and Tibby.  In his spare time, Dr. Howard enjoys playing golf. He and Michelle enjoyed working on their property during the statewide shutdown. They cleared walking paths to the river and constructed an orchard. When the pandemic subsides, they hope to travel more.

His parents currently reside in the Charleston, South Carolina, area where he lived for a period while growing up. He also lived in San Diego and Orlando, Florida. He graduated from Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina, and attended the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, on a baseball scholarship. He worked as an EMT in Florida while spending time with his brother and niece. Then earned a medical degree from Florida State University College of Medicine, which has a strong mission to provide service to the underserved and to educate physicians to work in rural areas. He completed residency training in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona. After residency, he worked as a hospitalist at Kaweah Delta and was honored to receive the Outstanding Physician of the Year Award for Compassionate Care.

Dr. Howard gives thanks to his wife for her support during his fellowship and residency training. She is my rock, he said. “I’m very fortunate to have her love and support.”

Visalia native Christina Patty, MD, is completing a three-year residency training program in Family and Community Medicine at UCSF Fresno. After graduation, she plans to serve her home community at Visalia Medical Clinic where she was a patient growing up. Dr. Patty chose family medicine because of the relationships she’s able to build with patients over many years. She says the specialty also allows her to pursue many interests and it is never boring.

The best aspect of training at UCSF Fresno is full spectrum training in both rural and urban settings, she said. It’s allowed her to learn from some of the best doctors in the Valley. 

She spends off-time with her two-year old son and husband, Rafael Martinez, MD. Dr. Martinez completed training in Family and Community Medicine at UCSF Fresno last year. He now works for United Health Centers in Parlier. Dr. Martinez and Dr. Patty met in high school and went to prom together. The couple is expecting baby number two in the near future.

A graduate of Redwood High School in Visalia, Dr. Patty completed her bachelor’s at California State University, Long Beach and earned a medical degree from Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. 

“My path to becoming a physician in the Valley has been even more rewarding because I’ve shared my journey with my husband all the way from high school through residency,” said Dr. Patty. 

Her parents came to the U.S. from El Salvador to give her and her brothers a chance at the “American Dream.” Fast forward to today and Ivett Garcia Renteria, MD, MPH, is finishing up a final year at UCSF Fresno as chief resident in the Department of Pediatrics. She completed three years of pediatric residency training at UCSF Fresno last year and stayed to give back to her residency program and continue her medical education.

“I wanted to help provide leadership, grow my teaching skills as an attending physician in a supportive environment, learn administrative skills in an academic setting and be involved in training the future of medicine by educating medical students and residents,” said Dr. Renteria.

After graduation, she will join the Department of Pediatrics as faculty at UCSF Fresno and see patients as a pediatric hospitalist and general outpatient pediatrician. “The reason I was initially drawn to the Valley is the same reason that I decided to stay, said Dr. Renteria. “I want to care for the underserved Hispanic population and provide health education to those who are underserved and empower them to take control of their child’s health care needs. 

The best part of training at UCSF Fresno has been the people, the people she trained with, her mentors and the children and families she is privileged to care for, she said. 

When not working, she enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and 17-month old son. 

A first-generation college graduate, Dr. Renteria attended Glendale Adventist Academy, graduated from UC Irvine, earned a master’s in public health from USC and a medical degree from St. George’s University.

Dr. Renteria credits her success to her parents. The fact that I was able to accomplish my dream of becoming a pediatrician is all owed to them, she said. “They worked hard for me to get to where I am today. I will be forever grateful for their support, love and dedication to me becoming a pediatrician.”

Manavjeet Sidhu, MD, MBA, is completing a four-year emergency medicine residency program at UCSF Fresno as a chief resident. Now, Dr. Sidhu, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, is trading one Valley for another.  After graduation, he will start as Chief of the Fresno VA Medical Center Emergency Department. In addition, he will stay on at UCSF Fresno as emergency medicine faculty.

“I plan to stay in Fresno following residency, though I am not originally from this area,” said Dr. Sidhu. “I want to give back to the city that trained me. There’s a personal satisfaction that comes from providing care in a medically underserved community.”

In addition, he is looking forward to serving veterans, teaching residents clinically and continuing as a practicing physician.

As a child, Dr. Sidhu enjoyed experimenting with intricate toys and electronics — taking things apart, learning how they work, and then re-assembling them or fixing them if they were broken. That passion led to him becoming a physician. The human body is one of the most complex machines of all, he said. The opportunity to practice and develop skills in multiple aspects of medicine and to treat patients irrespective of gender or age sparked his interest in emergency medicine.

Dr. Sidhu chose to train in emergency medicine at UCSF Fresno because the program offers a unique training experience given the patient volume, diversity of patient population, variety of pathology, and abundance of procedures. In addition, faculty, staff, and fellow residents foster a positive environment, he said.

He attended Van Nuys High School, graduated from UCLA and earned a medical degree and Master of Business Administration as part of a joint program at New York University where he’s also a faculty member. Obtaining an MBA gave him the opportunity to appreciate medicine from a different perspective, he said, and facilitated his ability to start and consult for multiple health care related companies, including ContagiEND Solutions, which aims to mitigate human error through innovative medical devices. The company was recognized by both the medical device community and Forbes Magazine. Its work has recently come to the forefront in the fight against COVID-19. Dr.Sidhu also serves on the board of other health care ventures, with the goal of using technology at the bedside to allow physicians to provide the best possible care.

In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, flying, scuba diving, and traveling with friends and family.  Some of his interests outside of clinical medicine include advising for medical start-ups, health care finance and medical correspondence reporting. Earlier this year, he worked with ABC News in Manhattan, producing medical segments for World News Tonight, Good Morning America and Nightline.

“It is difficult to envision what the pinnacle (of my career) will be,” said Dr. Sidhu. “But I would like to make a lasting, positive impact on the community. Though the future is unknown, what I do know is that I will enjoy the journey.”