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Oak Valley Hospital Selected As Rural Teaching Site
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The UC Davis School of Medicine has selected Oak Valley Hospital to participate in a new medical outreach program. The program, Rural PRIME for “PRograms In Medical Education,” is designed to encourage third year medical students to select small communities as their first choice to practice medicine.

UC Davis contacted Oak Valley Hospital about inclusion in the program. After tours of the hospital and visits with local physicians, UC Davis determined that Oak Valley was “an ideal hospital to participate in this program,” according to Oak Valley Hospital Business Development and Clinics Director David Rodrigues.

“The UC officials were impressed with our wide range of medical services, our quality of care and our positive outcomes,” Rodrigues said. “They were also extremely impressed with the caliber, experience and enthusiasm of our physicians.”

Three local physicians agreed to participate in the program. Dr. Chet Mahida and Dr. Andres Arellano of Oakdale and Dr. Bob Peterson of Escalon were granted privileges at UC Davis and have been certified as assistant professors. None of the local physicians are reimbursed for their mentoring/teaching roles. 

“This is a tremendous success story for Oak Valley Hospital,” Dr. Mahida said. “To have been selected by the UC medical school to literally serve as an extension of their teaching hospital is a true testimony to the quality standards of Oak Valley. Our entire community should be very proud.”

Medical students in the Rural PRIME program take the same courses as all other medical students, but in their third year of training they are assigned to four- or eight-week programs in a rural community working in a one-on-one relationship with a certified physician who evaluates their performance.

The four-week rotations are in obstetrics and pediatrics and the eight-week program is in primary care.

Oak Valley’s first student, Sahar Doctorvaladan, began her eight-week rotation in primary care in early January and will work under the tutelage of the three physicians in private practice, clinics, hospital, at home visits, and hospice care. Doctorvaladan is from Santa Rosa and completed her undergraduate degree at UC Davis. She completed her obstetrics program in Ione and her pediatrics program in Truckee.

“One thing I’ve been amazed with is the sense of community,” Doctorvaladan said. “The physicians here have a richer connection with the patients they’re treating.”

She also said she was impressed that the doctors she’s been training with in the rural settings know the families, occupations, and interests of their patients and the doctors are also known within the communities.

Dr. Arellano pointed out to be a strong rural physician, you have to recognize the importance of compassion and to have dedication to the community.

“You need to live and work in a small community and be a part of it,” said Arellano. “That aspect is not always necessary in an urban practice.”

About 4 percent of medical school graduates choose to practice in rural communities. Several university medical schools have developed new programs to encourage students to practice in underserved and rural areas. The UC Davis Medical School created Rural PRIME to produce physicians who are trained in and committed to helping California’s rural communities, officials said. While 20 percent of California’s population lives in rural areas, figures show that only 9 percent of physicians practice there.

Another aspect of the new relationship between Oak Valley Hospital and UC Davis Medical School is local physicians will have access, via telemedicine technology, to university specialists for consultation, diagnosis and possibly treatment recommendations. Highly sophisticated equipment has been provided by UC Davis and is now being tested.

“Once we are ready for implementation, both patients and physicians will benefit directly and immediately from the expertise at UC Davis without having to travel to Sacramento,” Rodrigues said. “Obtaining this advanced technology continues to enhance the quality of care we can provide patients in our communities.”

Oak Valley Hospital is responsible for housing the students during their rotations and welcomes inquiries from residents of Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and neighboring communities who may have unused furnished in-law units or apartments they would be willing to provide. Those interested can contact Rodrigues at (209) 848-5313 or email him at for more information.