When Juan Daniel Ramirez Reyes was a child in Modesto, he said, he witnessed violence and deaths in the community.
It instilled in him a strong urge to help people, he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of people die and I always wanted to help them,” the 16-year-old said.
Now a junior at Delhi High School, Ramirez Reyes said those experiences are what drove him to pursue a medical career and apply for the medical program at his school.
Delhi Medical Academy of Sciences is a four-year program offered to students interested in pursuing or learning about the medical field. The program serves students in the Delhi Unified School District, the only district in Merced County offering the program.
“It’s a lot of work because you have to focus and commit time,” Ramirez Reyes said.
Once students are enrolled in DMAS, they pick one of two courses of study, nursing or general medical training, said Araceli Peña, career counselor and specialist for Delhi High.
Students who complete the nursing program are eligible to take the Certified Nursing Assistant test. The coursework allows students to receive up to 12 units of college credit.
Students are required to maintain a 3.0 grade average and commit to the full four years of the program, Peña said.
Howard Tremble, DMAS lead teacher, said he works closely with the career and technology education instructor for Merced County, Carolyn Rodriguez, to collaborate on curricula that better prepare students for college and career paths.
“Our goal here is to be college-ready,” Tremble said. “It allows them to get a taste of what it takes to reach their goals.”
Our goal here is to be college-ready. It allows them to get a taste of what it takes to reach their goals.
Howard Tremble, Delhi Medical Academy of Sciences lead teacher
Tremble said the program provides more options for students because it gives them a chance to determine whether to pursue the medical field as a career.
Tremble described the program as a “quick pathway to college.”
“It’s important to teach them the skills to learn knowledge and how to use that knowledge,” Tremble said.
Considering the large shortage of medical providers in Merced County, Tremble said he hopes this program will encourage students to come back to their community as medical professionals.
“A lot of these students have strong roots here that force them to come back,” Tremble said.
Jaquelin Tafolla, 17, is a Delhi High senior who expects to graduate from the CNA program this year. She said some of her family members have had to travel outside the county for medical care, and that is one reason she wants to work in the community.
According to the 2016 Community Health Assessment by the Merced County Department of Public Health, the county is considered a “professional shortage area.” About 43 percent of adults in Merced County found difficulties or delays obtaining health care, according to the assessment.
Tafolla, an aspiring doctor, said that once she finishes medical school she hopes to open her own business for dialysis and looks forward to the day she can help her family and others affected by illnesses in this community.
“Instead of going out of town, they can stay locally,” Tafolla said. “I most definitely want to come back.”
Instead of going out of town, they can stay locally. I most definitely want to come back.
Jaquelin Tafolla, a 17-year-old senior at Delhi High School
Students have the opportunity to begin taking classes in middle school through the Junior Academy of Medical Sciences.
Ramirez Reyes said being a part of the program since seventh grade has helped him with public speaking and allowed him to attend community events. He said being exposed to college and the medical field has been “amazing,” especially learning about sports medicine and the hands-on training.
Rodriguez said students learn how to wrap, tape and ice joints as well as assess a concussion or massage out muscle cramps. Students are at every home game for football, basketball, volleyball and soccer, working with the players and coaches.
“They don’t really need me,” Rodriguez said. “They do it all. They’re fantastic.”
Students have the chance to shadow medical professionals, from doctors and nurses to dentists and even veterinarians, Rodriguez said. They learn how to schedule appointments, the computer systems, billing information and how to enter electronic medical records.
Students who don’t want to be involved with patient interaction can learn about medical technology, engineering and architecture, Rodriguez said.
“They get a full scope of what it takes to work in that facility,” she said. “It gives them a choice and a more global view of what’s out there.”
They get a full scope of what it takes to work in that facility. It gives them a choice and a more global view of what’s out there.
Carolyn Rodriguez, career and technology education instructor for Merced County
Ramirez Reyes said he “highly recommends” that students join the program because it helps them qualify for future jobs.
“Colleges get to see your commitment of four years,” Ramirez Reyes said.
Next year when when he’s a senior, Ramirez Reyes hopes to be accepted into an Ivy League school and major in molecular biology.
In the future, Ramirez Reyes says, he sees himself working as an emergency medical physician and hopes to someday open a clinic in Delhi.
“This program helps other schools see what we’re doing,” Ramirez Reyes said. “That’s why teachers are so hard on us, because we need to lead by example.”
Rodriguez, the county instructor, said she considers it an honor to work with these students. She said that as she grew up in Compton, she saw how easy it was to become caught up in a negative environment.
“I love to teach them everything I know,” Rodriguez said. “Even if they don’t go into the medical field, they have life skills.”