Fresno doctor hoping to change lives beyond hospital walls

A local doctor has overcome challenging obstacles to fulfill his dream of helping people in his hometown.
April 7, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A local doctor has overcome challenging obstacles to fulfill his dream of helping people in his hometown.

Andres Anaya wears the white coat of a doctor with pride after surviving some dark days in his early life. The 40-year-old Fresno man is one of only 10 med school graduates to be admitted to the UCSF Fresno emergency medicine residency where he'll spend four years practicing his specialty. Over 4,000 students from around the country and the world applied for a total of 78 resident positions in various specialties.

"I did whatever I had to do to make it to the next semester. I worked extraordinarily hard," said Anaya.

Anaya's parents are both deaf so his first language was sign language. He says while that sharpened his life skills, his reading skills fell behind because there was less spoken word in the home leading to struggles in school. Playing football at Hoover High was an outlet, but going to college wasn't on his radar, so he went to work at a Fresno tire factory.

"I stacked 200-pound diesel tires and refurnished diesel rims," said Anaya. "It was a hard job. It was definitely a hard job."

Then the door of a heavy machine malfunctioned, coming down on his back and arm, crushing him and breaking his back.

"I was about to black out, and I just said my last prayer. I said, 'Please God, don't let me die like this,'" said Anaya.

Recovery would follow but so would post-traumatic stress. He lived with his parents, getting too comfortable doing nothing until he hit rock bottom.

"It's that breaking point that makes you say no more, like I want something from life," said Anaya.

Anaya's trip to the ER wasn't just life-saving, it was life-changing. He credits the accident for shaking him out of his comfortable life and inspiring him to become one of the very doctors who were helping him survive.

Anaya's determined recovery from a broken back prepared him mentally and physically for the back-breaking work of getting into medical school while working full time. His accomplishments and inspiring story helped seal his residency spot.

"We want the best possible group of doctors practicing in this community. The best way to get them is to train them here ourselves to find people who have some reason to want to be in the Valley and some expectation that they may stay here," said Dr. Gene Kallsen, professor of emergency medicine.

But Anaya also wants to change lives beyond the hospital.

"My goal is to get my hands on every high school kid who doesn't think that it's possible and to convince them that it is," he said. "They've got to be willing to go after that dream with everything that they have."

Anaya will begin his residency in June in the emergency room at Community Regional Medical Center in Downtown Fresno. He says another personal mission is to treat every patient as if he or she was a family member.

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