By C.J. Barbre

On Aug. 2, Joel Felix Ramirez, Jr., son of Joel and Lydia Ramirez of Lindsay, began his medical orientation at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His family couldn't be more proud. In fact, his dad asked specifically if this brief bio could make the front page of the Lindsay Gazette - for the future grandchildren - "to show what is possible." Joel Jr., 24, is the first in their family to graduate college. Going on to medical school is, in essence, beyond their wildest dreams, and it's happening, has happened.

While he was a good student, some say exceptional, in the early grades, the peer pressure that inevitably comes with puberty was taking its toll.

"We knew he was very bright, but it was getting to the point that we were worried if he would even graduate high school," Joel Ramirez, Sr. said. "He would say, 'Dad, A's are out and F's are in.'" His parents made a tough decision. Joel Sr. has a couple of sisters who live in Turlock, eight miles south of Modesto. "He was hanging with the wrong crowd." They took Joel Jr. out of Lindsay High School for his senior year and sent him to the aunts in Turlock. "It was there he kind of hit bottom, and decided to make something of his life," Joel Sr. said.

Once he turned the corner, there was no stopping him. By his own admission, he didn't have the grades to go straight to university, but had to attend community college, which he did with relish. After attending Fresno City College, Joel Jr. was accepted at UCLA. He majored in physiological sciences earning his bachelor of science degree this past June. He was prepared for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

While getting his undergraduate degree, Ramirez was actively involved in the Chicanos/Latinos for Community Medicine (CCM), a state-wide pre-health organization. Through CCM he took the opportunity to provide free hypertension, glucose, and cholesterol screenings to the disadvantaged in downtown Los Angeles. He also was able to visit high schools in under-served areas where he discussed AIDS and STD prevention with students.

When CCM members joined in a quarterly trip to Tecate, Mexico, along with physicians and other medical students, Ramirez said he gained tremendous satisfaction from being able to provide free medications, food and clothing to these families who had no other means of health care, especially considering his own Mexican heritage. His parents, who have lived three decades in Lindsay, had immigrated to the United States from Mexico. In his last year at UCLA Ramirez served as the administrative coordinator for CCM.

This past summer Ramirez spent working at Lindsay High School, tutoring students in a program intended to improve their reading and writing skills. "I enjoyed this opportunity to interact with youth, to offer them motivation and hope," he said in a written statement to the Gazette. He is of course, back in school.

His dad said about Joel Jr., "His purpose is to motivate." He has already motivated his two older sisters, ages 30 and 35, to try for their own college degrees.

The really good news is, following his medical education, Joel Ramirez, Jr., son of Joel and Lydia Ramirez of Lindsay, plans to return to the Central Valley, to work as a primary care physician and live his life serving others.

Start typing and press Enter to search