Raul Ruiz to receive ER physicians’ Humanitarian Award
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)– Emergency physician Raul Ruiz doesn’t sleep much. He’s too busy balancing his work at the Eisenhower Medical Center and the UCR School of Medicine with his passion for community service—providing free medical care in the poorest neighborhoods of the Coachella Valley, answering medical questions on Spanish language television, shepherding organizations to improve health care access in the Coachella Valley and mentoring local students who are interested in medicine.
With a focus like that, it wasn’t hard for the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) to chose Ruiz as this year’s recipient of its annual Humanitarian Award, to be presented Friday, June 24, at noon at the organization’s 40th annual Scientific Assembly in Newport Beach.
The award recognizes members who work on humanitarian causes in their communities, outside of their normal medical practice, according to Deputy Executive Director Ryan Adame.
In addition to his job as UCR School of Medicine’s senior associate dean for community engagement and partnerships, Ruiz is also an emergency physician at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. But this son of farmworkers who was raised in the Coachella Valley strongly believes in community service, especially when it comes to improving access to medical care.
“My social life has taken a beating, but I love what I do. I love the people of the Coachella Valley and the Inland Empire and it’s a joy to help them find solutions to the real problems we face in our communities,” said Ruiz. “It’s always an honor to be recognized by our professional society, and I am very proud to be representing the Inland Empire with this award; especially the Coachella Valley, because we’re sort of isolated here. When you think of emergency physicians from big cities like LA, San Diego and the Bay area, having the Humanitarian Award going to someone from the Coachella Valley is pretty significant to me.”
Ruiz earned his bachelor’s degree at UCLA and his medical degree and a master’s in public health at Harvard University, where he also did a fellowship with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in International Emergency Medicine and Disaster Aid.
He was the founding medical director of the Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and received a Commanders Award for Public Service from the 82nd Airborne of the U.S. Army. But Adame said many of ACEP’s members helped in Haiti and other disaster areas. The organization chose to recognize Ruiz because of the many ways he is serving the Coachella Valley.
“It’s most impressive to see how he’s involved very closely with the Latino community, reaching out to them and addressing their needs,” said President Elect Andrew Fenton, an emergency physician in Napa, Calif., who nominated Ruiz for the award. “Emergency physicians know a lot about dealing with out-of-control medical problems that could have been avoided if they had been addressed earlier. Raul wants to do something more than just curing an illness; he wants to prevent it and he’s actually making a difference by educating the community about how it can care for itself. That’s something we all need to do as emergency physicians.”
Ruiz agrees. “Emergency physicians are really at the front lines of the social ills we have in America; whether it’s a surge in gang violence or lack of health care insurance because of joblessness or a public safety or public health issue, we feel it and see the effects in the emergency department. So I believe if there’s a problem, (emergency physicians) have to step up to the plate and help create the change that’s needed.”
The American College of Emergency Physicians is the largest group of ER physicians in the U.S., with nearly 30,000 members. The state chapter has about 3,000 members and is the largest group of emergency physicians in the state.