Newest Faces of McGovern: Frank Ramirez

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Frank Ramirez
Frank Ramirez

What inspired you to want to pursue a career in medicine?
My choice to pursue medicine was a gradual decision and came to me as a product of wanting to go beyond what I ever believed I could achieve and was inspired by my interactions with neurologic disease in my family members and meaningful clinical experiences.

I did not start my undergraduate studies with the intent to become a medical doctor. In my immediate family and town, I did not really have any role models in medicine to build off of. The thought of being a doctor was not a reality I had given much thought to at all. I adore the thought of being a trusted figure in the medical team and the amount of wisdom gained from being in this role.

Medicine was the career I felt would grant me the most opportunity to grow as a person, be a leader, refine my humanity, and would satisfy my interests for seeing the crossover of science to healthcare.

As time went on, I’ve come to see the framework of my motivation for medicine come into reality and be fleshed out. One of my most meaningful experiences that truly solidified my medical aspirations was my role as a clinical research coordinator during my gap years where I had the privilege to have regular patient contact with individuals effected by a neurodegenerative disorder and observe the multigenerational impacts of chronic disease.

Why did you choose McGovern Medical School?
For me as a nontraditional student, it was important to select a school that I felt would have the most support systems for me and expand the depth of my experiences through their institution and affiliates.

I believe McGovern Medical School is the best medical school to craft your own narrative and really enrich your studies with their various scholarly concentration options, interesting selection of electives, diverse research opportunities, clinical observation experiences galore in the Texas Medical Center, its amazing faculty and staff, and more!

A few months after my undergraduate studies, I started my first job at McGovern and relocated to Houston. Over time, I feel I’ve really established my personal and professional support systems here. I already felt the most at home at McGovern and believed it had everything I could want from a medical school and then some. So, it was an easy choice in the end. We’re a great school and our faculty have always shown me in my extended time here that they really care about the well-being and success of their students.

What motivates you?
Every day, I try to have a growth mindset and aspire to be a better version of myself than the day prior. Even though I don’t always succeed, I try to remain optimistic of a better tomorrow.  Even when I have something I don’t want to do, I always recommend trying to reframe this obstacle and think how it can at least prepare you for another life hurdle or think about what you can gain from this challenge. This mentality I feel has kept me oriented toward my medical career goal for years and resonates throughout my day-to-day life.

My parents are another big motivator for me. As their only child, I know their future is going to be reliant on me one day, and I am forever grateful for all their efforts to do their very best to raise me. Thus, I hope to one day reach a point in life where I can return the favor and have the means to effectively take care of them in the future.

I am also the first in my family to navigate the realm of higher education and embark on such a goal; my father had to drop out of high school to begin working full-time at 17 to help pay for his mother’s medical bills, and my mother only completed high school and was immediately expected to begin contributing to her household. Seeing my education through as far as I can get is a great privilege that I do not wish to squander, so I must keep pushing forward.

Who is your hero?
My parents are heroic figures to me. I’ve always admired my father’s daily commitment to his work, duties, and providing for his family. Throughout his occupational life, his work has almost always entailed hard manual labor out in the blazing Texas sun. His work ethic and continuous efforts to support my mother and I have been essential to getting me this far in life. Even when he knows he has a difficult day ahead or something comes up beyond our means, he had always kept a positive, calm, and collected mentality in the face of adversity, and it is that unwavering stoicism I hope to invoke as a medical professional.

And my mother, for me, was my first immediate intimate up-close observational experience of a caregiver. At one point in my youth, my grandmother resided with us for about the final six years of her life. My mom was the designated provider for my grandmother who lived with us during her eventual Alzheimer’s disease course. Seeing the patience for an individual, her own mother, slowly cognitively deteriorating, entering that state of dementia and prone to mood swings, etc., I greatly admired her capacity to remain so kind, loving, and forgiving throughout it all, never openly breaking down and for always keeping an optimistic outlook throughout her challenges. I hope to emulate the caring and attentive bedside manner of my mother when my time to serve as a medical provider comes to fruition.

And more recently, and so highly worthy of being considered hero, I would have to say my principal investigator here at McGovern for the past 1.5 years, Dr. Erin Furr Stimming, has been a fabulous embodiment of an amazing physician, educator, team-leader, mentor, and an all-around stellar caring person, that I could only hope to even come close to be a worthy comparison one day. McGovern Medical School is full of many awesome possible heroes for us to build relationships with, and I hope that all my peers along the way will find someone here that they can attribute as a worthy inspiration for them as well.

What is your ultimate goal for your career in medicine?
As a product of an underserved community, across varied settings, rural and urban, I hope to one day provide good culturally-competent medical care, having the opportunity to serve as a positive example of a minority professional and help mend the bridge of trust that many impoverished or marginalized communities are still in need of.

I wish to serve as a role model, especially for first-generation and low-income students, mentor Hispanic/Latino and LGBTQ youth, and find additional fulfilment in life from my service. Medicine is such a long journey, and I hope to capture aspects of my ultimate goals along the way, as I don’t believe that experience of being a medical practitioner is a finite duty. All along the way there is room for expanse and inspiration.

What kind of emotions do you feel as you’re ready to begin medical school?
I feel mostly exhilarated, with a little healthy dose of fear. As a non-traditional student, I’ve grown very accustomed to my peaceful full-time employment lifestyle, free from the stress of studying and examinations, and now here I am starting medical school, completely shaking up my day-to-day life.

Going to medical school I feel is going to be a mostly reinvigorating experience for me, perhaps a little stressful at the beginning, but I hope that along the way I find my rhythm and adapt to this path I’ve set on.

What are you looking forward to most about medical school?
I think I am most looking forward to returning to the life of a student and absorbing as much of the fascinating medical knowledge as I can. Although I’ve very much enjoyed my time outside of schooling, I would have to say my happiest times in life have been when I was a student, being challenged, continuously learning, and mingling amongst the varied social environments.

From the fellow classmates that I’ve met throughout orientation week, I can already see we’re going to be a close-knit class. Everyone I’ve encountered has been so nice and eager to get to know one another. It’s a very comforting scenario to come into after being out of university for five years.

If you had to pick a medical specialty right now, what would it be and why?
Neurology. That is the specialty I have felt the most connection to in my upbringing and from the varied research experiences of my gap years.

My first job was a research assistant in an Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders research group, where my projects involved interacting with prions, a highly infectious fatal agent resulting from protein misfolding, in a lab setting where I was to help optimize our biochemical assay for molecular diagnostic purposes. Although a bit morbid, I found it very fulfilling to work with human tissue samples in this context, mostly brain fragments, and discover for myself the honor and altruistic beauty that results from these donated materials to advance the biomedical sciences for the benefit of humanity.

More recently, as a research coordinator in group that serves those afflicted with Huntington’s disease, another very debilitating progressive neurodegenerative disease that has a high chance of inheritance, I’ve learned and gained so much wonder and empathy from that population, the affected family members, and my physician mentor I met along the way. This glorious duty fueled me to further be enamored with the realm of neurologic care in all its facets.

Internal medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation are other plausible routes I am strongly considering.

To meet all of the Newest Faces of McGovern Medical School, click here.