Ross University Blog

STUDENTS: Melodie Sarebanha is Skating to Success in Family Medicine

August 08, 2017

Grace under pressure comes naturally to Melodie Sarebanha, an award-winning, competitive figure-skater and coach since childhood. Now the fourth-year Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) student is devoting her lifetime of discipline and training on the ice to her pursuit of a career as a family physician. She continues to skate to success. 

CAFP Council Member

A recent noteworthy accomplishment is her selection to serve as a member of the California Association of Family Physicians (CAFP) Student-Resident Council. “I am so honored,” she said. Melodie has been a CAFP member and key contact since last year. “As a member, I am tasked with building a strong and ongoing relationship with legislators that have the power to put forth policies that may impact the Family Medicine community,” she explained. She is also an American Association of Family Physicians national conference scholarship winner. “The role of council members is to help coordinate statewide student-resident activities and to develop innovative ways to promote and advocate for family medicine in California. CAFP represents over 2500 student and resident members and serves as a resource hub for 12 medical schools and over 50 family medicine residency programs,” explained Pamela Mann, MPH, CAFP program manager.

Volunteer Activities

While on campus in Dominica, Melodie volunteered to work with the USNS Comfort Continuing Promise Mission, the US navy ship that in the summer of 2015 brought health care services to the island by setting up clinics for one week. She was also a member of the Salybia Mission Project, the student-led group that brings health care to the indigenous Carib people in the Kalinago territory on the island.

Los Angeles Ice Theater

Melodie grew up in Los Angeles, California, and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Irvine, where her major was public health. Among the previous work experience she lists on her CV is the role of Captain of the Los Angeles Ice Theater, which gave her “the responsibility for leading more than 20 girls in competitions throughout the world, including the UK and France,” she said. She added that she had been a member of the Los Angeles Figure Skating club since the age of five, competing around the globe.

Becoming a Family Physician

Dr. Enrique Fernandez, RUSM’s Chair of Family Medicine, has been a mentor to Melodie and to the Family Medicine Interest Group at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, of which Melodie was a founder, has been a member and served as president. At Kern she delivered several presentations, including one on schizophrenia, another on pediatric gastro-intestinal disorders, and one on asthma. She is well on her way to becoming a family physician.


Tags: Family Medicine , California

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IN THE NEWS: 23ABC News Highlights Ross' Donation to Kern Medical Center

April 28, 2017


KERO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Bakersfiled, Calif., reporterd on Kern Medical Center's ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of its Student Union funded by Ross. Read more



Tags: California , Donation

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ALUMNI: Sheryl Recinos, MD, Charted a Bold Plan to Pursue Her Dream

March 29, 2017



Beating the Odds

At just 16, Sheryl Recinos packed her things, left her friends, her family, and the place she called home, and began a cross-country journey that would take her to a new home in southern California. There she would learn to support herself, both financially and emotionally.

“Those were some of the hardest years of my life, but I realize that the struggles that I went through as a teen helped shape me into the person that I am now,” said Sheryl about making the decision to live on her own at such a young age. But the same adversity that made for a trying childhood also taught Sheryl how to thrive amid challenging circumstances.

As an adult, Sheryl translated the grit she developed as an LA county teenager into the traditional measures of success. She made good money working as a biology teacher, married her husband Byron, and even went on to graduate school where she earned her MA in education, all while raising three children.

Not until this point in her life, had Sheryl much exposure to the healthcare industry. No one in her circles were physicians. It wasn’t until Sheryl and her husband started a family that her level of interaction with the American healthcare system increased.

Discovering a New Passion

When her first daughter was born, Sheryl developed a connection with a new resident physician who saw her daughter for wellness screenings. It was during these visits that her fascination with medicine started to grow and she discovered that she wanted to pursue medicine.

Not content to dream about what it might be like to become a doctor, Sheryl took a hands-on approach and started volunteering after work at local hospitals. One program in particular really let her get her hands dirty, participating in clinical work alongside doctors and nurses. She even shadowed residents at the University of Southern California to experience what it would be like to train as a doctor.

Sheryl found herself thinking about the volunteer shifts while she was teaching, looking forward to her next opportunity to return to the hospital. “I knew it’s where I belonged,” she said. She continued to volunteer, but each year as she re-signed her teaching contract, she dreamed of being a doctor. Sheryl had worked hard to get to this point in her career, she was successful and had overcome great adversity, but something was pulling her in a new direction.

A Life-changing Decision

The decision to change careers was not without its pressures. She would be leaving a full-time job that supported her family. She may have to leave the place she had long called home. Making matters worse, “Everyone kept telling me I couldn’t do it,” she said, “but my friends and mentors at the hospital said I could.”

With the approval of her children and husband, Sheryl made the decision to begin applying for medical school. She seemed like the perfect candidate: she was published, the holder of multiple degrees, made good grades, and was beaming with confidence and perseverance having overcome so much personal adversity. So, it came as a shock when U.S. medical schools wouldn’t interview her, citing a below-average GPA during the third year of her undergraduate campaign as the primary reason.

After being shut out by U.S. medical schools, Sheryl learned about Ross and its more rounded approach to admissions.

“Sheryl really impressed me because she went through school while raising her family,” said Lori Muramoto, a Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Ross.

Where other medical schools had focused on Sheryl’s below average year during undergrad, Ross took other factors into consideration, such as Sheryl’s post-graduate work, hospital volunteer experience, studies in biology, published article, and personal character.

“She thought that medicine was not going to happen for her, so she earned a master’s degree and worked as a biology teacher to raise her family, " said Muramoto. "She volunteered through the Clinical Care Extender program and was part of its leadership team. She was never a person that let obstacles stand in her way. Whenever she was faced with a challenge, she figured out a way to make it work.”

Making Her Mark in Southern California

After being accepted at Ross, Sheryl’s transition from teacher to student began. “It was overwhelming at first,” she said. Her husband and two of her kids were still stateside for the first few months and she was adjusting to working, studying, and caring for her oldest daughter in Dominica. But Sheryl’s goal never escaped her: she would return to southern California – the place she became an adult, got married, and had kids – to become a physician and serve the community she describes as “her happy place.”

Since earning her M.D. from Ross, Sheryl has returned to southern California for her a Family Medicine residency at the University of California - Riverside where, just a few months from now, Sheryl will complete her training and begin practicing as a licensed family medicine physician.

As Sheryl closes in on accomplishing her dream, she’s paying it forward by mentoring younger students with similar aspirations. Her advice to them is simple but profound:

  • Never lose sight of your ultimate goal – becoming a doctor.
  • Instead of focusing on maximizing your test scores, get out in the community. Volunteer, meet patients, and understand the role you can play.
  • Time is going to pass regardless, just apply and see if you get in.

Thinking about applying for medical school? Learn more from Ross graduates who started their careers in other industries.


Tags: California , Family Medicine , Career-Changer

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MATCH: Q&A with Ross Alumna who Earned an Internal Medicine Residency

March 21, 2017

Iman Arafa, 25, graduated with an MD degree from Ross University School of Medicine in November, 2016 and has obtained a residency in Internal Medicine at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Find out more about her from the Q & A below.

ROSS: Why did you choose Ross University School of Medicine?

ARAFA: Ross was always a good choice for me because my cousin was currently attending when I was
looking into it and my sister and I had previously gone to two information seminars, so I was
pretty confident and educated about what I was applying for. I also applied to Ross because
my MCAT scores were not US med school competitive and I knew I'd have better chances

ROSS: Where did you complete your undergraduate studies?

ARAFA: I majored in public health policy at University of California, Irvine

ROSS: Where did you grow up?

ARAFA: I grew up in Los Angeles, California

ROSS: What area of medicine are you most interested in? Why?

ARAFA: I love internal medicine because of the broad range of pathology and patient population that
you get exposed to. I specifically am interested in being a hospitalist because I love working
hands-on in the hospital in acute care settings. It fascinates me how complex the body is and
how it truly does take a lot to make us sick, so it's crucial to understand the reasoning behind
every patient’s illness and presentation.

ROSS: How would you describe your experiences in Dominica?

ARAFA: I had an amazing time while living in Dominica for 16 months. I experienced medical school
with my best friend who also happens to be my older sister. We were roommates again and
were shoulders for each other to laugh and cry on. We also developed so many life-long
friendships on the island and a renewed appreciation for our surroundings. The campus and
its facilities were constantly being renewed and amazing things kept happening for us. Even
though some of the most stressful moments in my life happened on that island, it was always
nice to take a moment and walk a few steps to watch the sun set over the beautiful Atlantic

ROSS: Were you involved in any student clubs or activities?

ARAFA: I was involved in several student clubs on campus including the ER club which offered many
workshops to gain skills and exposure to common procedures that are done in the ER. I was
also an active member of the Ross internal medicine and neuroscience club where I tutored
my peers in neuroanatomy and neuropathophysiology. As an Arab American Muslim, I was also
part of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) where we would fundraise and make trips to
the Carib territory to help diagnose and treat natives who otherwise have no other or very
limited access to healthcare.

ROSS: Where have you done your core and elective rotations?

ARAFA: I did all my core rotations and most of my electives at California Hospital Medical Center In
the heart of downtown Los Angeles. I did two electives at Norwalk and Danbury hospital in

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MATCH: Husband and Wife Couple Earn Psychiatry Residencies at UCLA-Kern

March 17, 2017

Minal Bhatia, MD (Ross ’16) and Angad Kahlon, MD (Ross ’17) both grew up in California’s Central Valley region. Although they lived only about 30 miles apart from each other, they didn’t meet until they were very far from home. They met as students on the Dominica campus of Ross University School of Medicine. She graduated last November, and he was awarded his MD degree in January. They married in December and have now succeeded in the couples’ match to obtain residency placements together in their chosen specialty of psychiatry. They matched at their first choice, UCLA-Kern Psychiatry Residency Program at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, CA.

“I met my husband at the Sikh Student Association club at RUSM at the end of my third semester, the end of his first,” Dr. Bhatia, a native of Fresno, CA related. “We started dating in 2014, during my fourth semester, his second, and throughout the rest of our medical school journey. He is my rock, and we have supported each other through all the ups and downs of medical school.”

Dr. Kahlon grew up in the town of Selma, CA, in the San Joaquin Valley. “Selma is small farming community south of Fresno, CA,” he said.  He went on to complete his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Irvine and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 2011. He then attended the Pre-Professional Health Academic Program (PHAP) at California State University, East Bay to fulfill his medical school entrance requirements. His wife, Dr. Bhatia, graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences with an emphasis on Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior in June 2012. Dr. Bhatia started at RUSM in September 2012.

Among their common interests is the medical field to which they wish to devote their professional careers: psychiatry. “Psychiatry is an aspect of medicine that is always growing,” explained Dr. Bhatia. “Psychiatry has such a stigma attached to what is known as mental illness that so many people shy away from receiving treatment due to shame. I want to help erase that stigma and want people to know that these mental illnesses are as real as congestive heart failure or as a pulmonary embolism.”  

Dr. Kahlon said that, ”The area of medicine I am most interested in is psychiatry. Many times I saw mental health issues not being addressed and a patient’s psychical illness taking a toll as a result. During a psych consult, I was able to build such great relationships with patients and find out so much about them. Moreover, the amount of research and new findings that are coming out of the field are amazing and I want to be a part of this movement. I want to help eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. I want to educate not only my own patients but also citizens of the community. Awareness is key and I feel it can help alleviate some of the stigma.”

Looking back at their time on the Dominica campus, the couple has many positive things to say. “I absolutely loved my experience in Dominica,” Dr. Bhatia said. “I felt that RUSM provided the perfect study environment with no distractions. I studied in the cubicles in the library every day for my four semesters, and grew to know all the students around me. I felt that everyone at RUSM was a little family, and felt comfort in knowing that everyone was going through the same rigorous curriculum together. I enjoyed my little study breaks to the beach, which were much needed for the hectic medical school curriculum.”

Dr. Kahlon echoed these sentiments. “Overall, my experience was great on the island of Dominica and I wouldn’t replace it for the world. I was able to focus on my studies and had everything I needed available to me. The campus was very advanced and the study lounges were perfect to study long hours. The faculty and staff at RUSM were very helpful and responsive to all students. Certain faculty that I worked with would put in late hours with me before exams and stay as long as I needed. Moreover, I was able to meet some amazing people whom I can call my lifetime friends, most importantly my wife.”

Tags: California , Match

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MATCH: Ross Graduate Seizes Opportunity with Open Arms

March 15, 2017

Atul Bali, MD (Ross ’16) said that when Ross University School of Medicine offered him a spot he “seized the opportunity with open arms.” Dr. Bali, 25, has now obtained a residency in Internal Medicine. On Friday, March 17 he will learn where he matched. He received 33 offers for interviews, accepted 18 of those offers, and then ultimately ranked 15 programs. He matched at his number one choice, the program at Drexel University/Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. “It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said.

Why did he choose Ross? He related that, “The program at Ross is one which I was familiar with having known several close family friends that graduated from the school.” As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, he was a collegiate athlete and as a consequence, he said his GPA “was just a tad bit lower than required for acceptance into a US MD program.”

A native of Modesto, in Northern California, Dr. Bali is interested in cardiology, a fellowship of Internal Medicine. “I'm interested in cardiology, with further subspecialty training in interventional cardiology with a specific interest in structural heart disease interventions,” he said. “I find that specialties that are fundamentally rooted in physiology appeal to me greatly,” he said. “Furthermore, cardiac diagnoses can be quickly made from a physical exam which is considered to be a dying art in modern medicine. I really enjoy that cardiology still has strong foundations with the physical exam. Lastly cardiology is the only field where the practitioner admits his or her own patient, interprets the radiology themselves and if need be, the cardiologist can perform minimally invasive yet life-saving procedures. It’s a beautiful union of all aspects of medicine. ”

About his time spent on the Dominica campus Dr. Bali said, “I found it to be a brilliant experience and am planning a trip back soon. It was wonderful. I could not have chosen a more serene and simple location to begin my medical career. There were no distractions and one can completely immerse oneself in studies and the purity of nature.” He noted that, “The Salybia Mission Project was a big part of my experience on island. I have always been one for public service and to be able to give back to the indigenous folk who so graciously accepted us as part of the Dominican community was very fulfilling.”

Tags: California , Match , Internal Medicine

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SCHOLARSHIPS: Student Inspired to Help Children in Underserved Communities

March 10, 2017

Rutuja Bhalerao, Ross student and recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award

Rutuja Bhalerao, Ross student and recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award

At the time, Rutuja Bhalerao didn’t know that the frequent relocations she had throughout her childhood along with her family would lead to the pursuit of a career in medicine. But looking back, it’s made all the difference.

A 2015 graduate of the University of California-Irvine, Rutuja is a recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award, a Ross scholarship that recognizes students who have made significant contributions to their communities through volunteer work or research. Here, Rutuja talks about why she chose Ross, first impressions and her passion for pediatrics.

What inspired you to pursue your MD?

While growing up, I had the opportunity to live in many different places that helped expose me to different cultures, such as India, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, as well as California. Living in some of the rural communities had provided me with an eye-opening experience as to the need for primary healthcare. While gaining exposure to the medical field during my undergraduate career, my interest in pursuing medicine grew, specifically in pediatrics. In addition, I have always wanted to travel and eventually become involved with Doctors Without Borders. Upon graduation, I hope to pursue that dream so that I am able to do my part in helping many of the underserved communities that I have come across while constantly moving.

Any memorable experiences with pediatrics before medical school?

I served as a board member of an organization called Team Kid Power (KiPOW), which provides early nutritional education in low-income area elementary schools, as a preventative measure against childhood obesity. Each week, I’d go into classrooms and give an interactive lesson on healthy eating and living habits, as well as exercise and eat lunch with them, which helped them learn by example.

My work truly came to fruition when the mother of a student, Mia, thanked me for helping her daughter understand the importance of healthy eating. That was when I realized that I really could make a difference in these children’s lifestyles, and those of their families.

Why did you choose Ross?

My brother is a fourth-year Ross student, and I’d also heard from multiple people about how Ross provides an excellent education and prepares you well for the USMLE®. And the beautiful location of Dominica was a plus!

First impressions of Ross?

My experience has been exceptional so far. Both the faculty and students are eager to make sure that you understand the material. Ross provides you resources that you may need to make sure you’re succeeding and that you’re comfortable while you’re here in Dominica. For example, they have a mentorship program where you are paired with a professor to make sure you’re on track. I’ve also been able to explore the island, from visiting the landmarks and beaches to enjoying local food and tea. I’ve truly received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What makes you proud to be a Ross student?

I’m inspired by the fact that students and faculty take the time to go to local clinics to offer health care and look out for their community. As we’re pursuing medical education abroad, we’re provided with new experiences every day, which allow us to grow, learn and adapt in a community that we now call home.

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Tags: California , Pediatrics , Students , Scholarships

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SCHOLARSHIPS: Grant Campbell is Focused on the Road Ahead

January 26, 2017

“It automatically felt like this is what I’m going to do with my life – whatever it takes,” said Grant Campbell reflecting on the shadowing opportunity he had last summer in the Operating Room department at University Medical Center (UMC) in Texas.

Motivated to turn his desire to become a doctor into a reality, Campbell is now three weeks into his journey to physicianhood as a first-semester student at Ross. He also is the recipient of two financial scholarships - the Dean’s Scholar and the Community Health Leadership Awards.

“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to make a big impact on the community, but I didn’t know how,” said Campbell.

Campbell attributes his sense of community to his father who is a family physician. His father would take him on hospital rounds and expose Campbell to what he perceived as a gratifying life.

“The decision to go to Ross was the biggest, but the easiest. And, now that I’m here, it’s awesome.”

“My father is my hero - the best person I know. I wanted to do something good with my life and have a significant and meaningful effect on people like my father has,” said Campbell. “However, I somewhat pushed medicine aside. I didn’t want to get a medical degree just for the sake of following in my father’s footsteps.”

However, it was the shadowing experience that gave Campbell the clarity and confirmation he needed to make the commitment to get a medical degree. “I realized that getting a MD would give me the knowledge and skills that would allow me to reach my potential to do the most good.”

In addition to having his “aha” moment about following a career in medicine, Campbell first learned about Ross at UMC. A physician he shadowed encouraged Campbell to consider the university. Also, a Ross alumnus gave a memorable lecture on abdominal surgical technique that resonated with Campbell.

Though, Campbell acknowledged his decision to attend Ross was in part due to the mentor relationship that developed between him and Norma Serrano, graduate admissions advisor at the university. “She really was a factor in choosing Ross,” said Campbell. “I knew if she was indicative of the quality at Ross, then I would be in good hands.”

“The decision to go to Ross was the biggest, but the easiest,” continued Campbell. “And, now that I’m here, it’s awesome.”

According to Campbell, he likes the seclusion of being on an island, without the distractions to divert him from his studies. “Most people dread studying all day, but I love it,” said Campbell. “I know that it’s helping me get closer to helping people.”

Campbell is a graduate of California State University – Sacramento and received a post-baccalaureate degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He has future aspirations of joining the US military after his residency training.



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ALUMNI: Checking Up on Two Rossies a Year After They Opened Their Practice

January 20, 2017

Narbeh Tovmassian, MD and Garen Derhartunian, MD, RUSM grads
2012 Ross graduates Garen Derhartunian, MD (above, from left) and Narbeh Tovmassian, MD have been operating their own practice for just over a year in Glendale, CA.

In November 2015, Narbeh Tovmassian and Garen Derhartunian—lifelong friends who attended Ross together, graduating in 2012—opened Elevate Health Group in their hometown of Glendale, CA, plunging into the uncharted territory of owning, operating, and administrating a brand-new primary care practice. The seeds of this idea sprouted almost by happenstance when Narbeh and Garen, both in their second years of residency, were on the phone chatting about which specialties they planned to pursue after residency training.

“Narbeh wanted to do cardiology, and I wanted to do pulmonary critical care,” Garen recalls. “So we got on the phone and were discussing it, and we just came to the realization that we should do primary care together.”

They didn’t make that decision without some reservations, though. “People are scared to go into private practice,” said Narbeh. “There’s financial risk, and a lot of unknowns—we experienced that same fear when we started. But we stuck through it.”

Good thing they did. Because business is booming.

How They Elevated Patient Care in Glendale

In Elevate’s early goings in late 2015, things looked a little bleak. “We were barely seeing any patients in the clinic at first, and financially we took a big hit,” Garen said. “But we kept pushing.”

It’s something of a cliché, perhaps, but what a difference a year makes. Now, the doctors see upwards of 15-20 patients per day at their clinic, plus an additional 15 patients at the three hospitals with which they’re associated. Peruse Elevate’s entry on Yelp and you’ll see glowing review after glowing review.

What’s the secret to their growing success? It’s simple: the pair puts patients first.

“The entire philosophy for starting our practice was customer service,” Narbeh said. “All across the country, patients go to the doctor, sit in the waiting room, fill out a bunch of paperwork—then they wait a little longer. In some cases, patients are double- or triple-booked just so a practice can stay afloat.”

Narbeh and Garen upend that perception. No one waits for more than 15 minutes in their waiting room, and each patient gets his or her own 30-minute slot. “Everyone gets our undivided attention, and we’re very thorough,” Narbeh said. Their reputation has grown so much that patients come from cities outside Glendale to receive care.

Giving Back to Their Community

Glendale is one of the largest cities in Los Angeles County, and the doctors are very focused on truly being an integral part of the community in which they practice.

“We want to be more than just doctors,” Narbeh said. “We want to give back to the community in ways beyond serving as physicians, so we attend health fairs and fundraising events, we donate our time to the community, and really make our presences felt.”

It would seem that Los Angeles County has taken notice of the doctors, too. Recently, they were both named “2016 Top Docs” in Pasadena Magazine—an honor that Narbeh described as “prestigious”. Both doctors were nominated for the honor by fellow medical professionals in the area.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Garen said. “Narbeh and I grew up here, from elementary to middle to high school, and coming back to the community we grew up in is just so rewarding.”

Both doctors speak fluent Armenian, which is a plus in Glendale—the city is home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the US. “The majority of the Armenian population here is bilingual, but they do get a lot of comfort when we come to see them in the hospital, especially if they’re elderly and we speak to them in Armenian,” Narbeh said.

The two have returned to Armenia (though separately, and not for work), and planned to visit together as part of a medical mission program run out of Glendale Adventist Hospital, one of the facilities with which they’re associated. That trip got sidelined for a great reason, though—Garen’s first child was born in September, and Narbeh’s was born in December. Just like their fathers, the children are three months apart.

Who knows? Perhaps Narbeh and Garen’s children will open a practice together someday, too. But until that happens, their fathers are doing their part to address Glendale’s healthcare needs.

“It’s been great, and the community has really gotten to know us,” Narbeh said. “We’ve been keeping very, very busy—and we’re only getting busier.”

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Tags: Alumni , Residency , California

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ALUMNI: Award-Winning Pediatrician Took the Path Less Traveled By

January 10, 2017

Desiree Eakin, MD, FAAP (Ross Class of 2006)

Desiree Eakin, MD, FAAP (Ross Class of 2006)

Desiree Eakin and her now-husband both grew up in southern California. They met and began dating at the University of California-Irvine. When it came time to make postgrad plans, they knew they wanted to spend their lives together and eventually practice medicine in California.

So they went to medical school in… Dominica.

Sound illogical? Far from it. In fact, attending medical school in the Caribbean was a carefully thought-out decision—one she and her husband had planned from the start, says Dr. Eakin, now the owner of Olive Health Pediatrics in Burbank, California.

Although one might have expected the UC grads to apply for medical school in-state and hopefully springboard their careers in California, Dr. Eakin knew the odds were against them—even with her and her husband’s stellar grades. Both were all too aware that talented, qualified applicants are routinely denied admission to U.S. medical schools every year, simply because seats are limited and the demand is sky-high.

“You could be the top of your class, the number one performer, but the chances of us both getting into the same U.S. school were basically none,” says Dr. Eakin. “So we said, why don’t we go to the Caribbean together? We knew as long as we worked hard, we were going to be successful and eventually be able to practice medicine in our home state.”

Why Ross Stood Out

There were three key reasons why Dr. Eakin and her husband chose Ross specifically:

  1. Academics and facilities
    “We were blown away by the anatomy lab,” says Dr. Eakin. “The whole setup was just incredible. You could tell Ross had a strong focus on your academic success with the support in place to help you achieve it.”
  2. U.S. focus
    “All of the rotations were offered at hospitals in the U.S., which we felt was so crucial. We could choose electives at sites with programs in our field of interest and make contacts for future residency positions.”
  3. Accreditation and approvals
    “A lot of Caribbean medical schools weren’t approved in California at the time. Not only were Ross grads approved in California, Ross also had an excellent reputation.”

Finding Her Niche

When they arrived at Ross, they knew they had made the right choice. “The culture was great,” says Dr. Eakin. “It was a big help to have a community of people who want to succeed—and, of course, it was nice having my husband there!”

And despite being located in Dominica, the institution’s U.S. focus was evident in every aspect of their education. “The curriculum mimicked programs in the U.S., the rotations were offered in the U.S., and your academic progress was measured by nationally recognized exams, not just university-specific tests,” Dr. Eakin recalls. “That was so important to us.”

It was during her core rotation in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Orange County that Dr. Eakin knew she’d found her specialty. She’d always enjoyed working with kids, but pediatrics came so naturally to her, it felt nearly effortless. People started commenting when they saw how even the most notoriously difficult kids were calmed by her presence. Both her mentor and the head of pediatrics told her she should seriously consider specializing in the field.

“It just felt like home,” says Dr. Eakin. “It was a natural interaction. I thought, maybe this is the right path for me.”

To say it was the right path was an understatement. After completing her pediatrics residency at University of Nevada School of Medicine, Dr. Eakin became the director of hospital medicine at UN, the director of clinical simulation for pediatric residents, and head of the pediatric sub internship for medical students. From there, she accepted a position at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) as a pediatric hospitalist and attending physician for pediatric residents of CHLA and medical students at USC Keck School of Medicine.

Her next move? She was starting a family and needed more flexibility in her schedule, so she decided it was time to do what she’d always dreamed—open her own practice.

Paving the Way Forward

Today, as the owner of Olive Health Pediatrics, Dr. Eakin is a full-time general pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist, and a part-time academic. Recently, she received a "Super Doctors Rising Stars - Southern California" award for 2016, and a Top Doctor award for 2016. Past recognitions include “Best Pediatrician in Burbank 2015,” as well as “Top Doctor” for 2013 and 2014.

Her husband is an internal medicine hospitalist, where he regularly works in critical care and takes care of patients in the ICU. “That’s his passion. He’s a very laid-back person, but he loves the adrenaline rush,” says Dr. Eakin.

Dr. Eakin’s path has undoubtedly been challenging, but well worth it. And she hopes her story can serve as inspiration for future physicians to realize that success is within their reach, too.

“If I would’ve seen somebody in the spotlight, achieving what I wanted to achieve, it would’ve helped me so much,” she says. “I am proof that although it’s not easy to obtain a position in an academic institution in California as an international medical grad, I have been able to knock down those barriers. Just know that anything is truly possible, and you will accomplish what you set out to do.”

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Tags: California , Alumni , Pediatrics

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ALUMNI: Grad Named Resident of the Month (in Her First Month of Residency!)

October 27, 2016

Alumna Jackline Grace was named Resident of the Month in the first month of her family medicine residency at San Joaquin General Hospital in California.

Alumna Jackline Grace was named Resident of the Month in the first month of her family medicine residency at San Joaquin General Hospital in California.

During her first month of residency at San Joaquin General Hospital in California, Ross University School of Medicine alumna Jackline Grace was awarded a certificate of recognition and was named Resident of the Month in the Family Medicine Residency Program in August.

Jackline chose Family Medicine because, she said, “During my family medicine rotation, I enjoyed seeing the miracle of life in my pregnant patients, delighted in the laughter of children and the wisdom in my geriatric patients. I was fortunate to interact with different populations of people, those with and those without health insurance, realizing that I had become an advocate for providing access to health care.”

Congratulations, Dr. Grace!

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Tags: California , Residency , Alumni

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RESIDENCY: Ross Presents 2016 Residency Results and Highlights

September 26, 2016

Hundreds of Ross University School of Medicine graduates attained residencies this year, with the vast majority of them having started their training in July. In total, more than 42,000 medical school graduates registered to apply for residency placements in this year’s National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP) Main Residency Match (The MATCH℠). 

Here are some highlights from the 2016 Ross residency list.

Key Statistics: Ross Residencies by the Numbers

  • 786 Ross graduates attained residencies this year in more than 15 disciplines, including pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, family medicine, neurology, anesthesiology, radiology, and more. View the full list.
  • 86% of 2015-2016 Ross graduates who applied to residency for the first time in 2016 attained placements.
  • On a related note, 99% of all 2014-2015 Ross graduates who passed their USMLE Step exams on the first attempts attained a residency by April 2016.
  • Ross graduates attained residencies across the United States, placing in 46 US states and territories (this figure includes Washington DC and Puerto Rico). The Association of American Medical Colleges has predicted a nationwide shortage of physicians over the next decade, and we are proud that Ross graduates can potentially make a difference on this issue across such a wide area of the United States.
  • Several Ross graduates from Canada attained residencies through the Canada Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), enabling them to go back to their home country for training.
  • More than two-thirds of Ross graduates who attained residencies in 2016 are in primary care specialties—this includes pediatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine. Ross graduates who complete training in these areas can enter fellowships and subspecialties in areas of their choosing.

Ross Residency Highlights

  • A Ross graduate matched into the neurological surgery program at SUNY Upstate Medical Center. According to the NRMP, only 216 spaces in neurological surgery were available in this year’s MATCH.
  • One of our graduates matched in child neurology at University of Chicago Medical Center.
  • A total of 28 Ross graduates attained diagnostic radiology placements this year.
  • Two Ross graduates attained dermatology residencies. One was at George Washington University in Washington DC, with the other at SUNY Health Sciences Center in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Seven Ross graduates attained residencies in neurology this year, not including the child neurology residency placement listed above.
  • We had a Ross graduate match into the neurology program at the prestigious Duke University Medical Center, ranked the #1 hospital in North Carolina by U.S. News and World Report and nationally ranked in 13 adult specialties (including neurology) and 10 children’s specialties.
  • Two Ross graduates attained placements at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT—one in diagnostic radiology, and the other in internal medicine. According to U.S. News and World Report, Yale-New Haven Hospital is the #1 hospital in Connecticut, and nationally ranked in 11 adult specialties and six children’s specialties.
  • A Ross graduate placed into Stanford as a pathology resident. According to U.S. News and World Report, Stanford University is ranked #2 nationwide for research.
  • Also for pathology, a Ross student attained a residency at Baylor College of Medicine, which is ranked #20 nationwide for research, according to U.S. News and World Report.
  • Two Ross graduates attained residencies at Brown University programs—one in pathology and the other in internal medicine.
  • A Ross graduate attained a general surgery residency at McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, IL.
  • Two graduates earned internal medicine residencies at the well-known Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education’s Florida location.
  • Two graduates earned family medicine residencies at Emory University School of Medicine, which is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report in primary care.
  • Three Ross graduates placed at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic’s Florida location in internal medicine.

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Tags: Residency , Match , Canada , New York , Illinois , North Carolina , Connecticut , California , Texas , Florida

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ALUMNI NEWS: RUSM Grads Open Internal Medicine Practice

January 05, 2016

Narbeh Tovmassian, MD and Garen Derhartunian, MD, RUSM grads
Garen Derhartunian, MD (above, from left) and Narbeh Tovmassian, MD, recently opened a new internal medicine practice in Glendale, CA. They graduated from RUSM in 2012.

Congratulations to both Narbeh Tovmassian, MD and Garen Derhartunian, MD (both from the RUSM class of 2012). This past November, the pair opened Elevate Health Group, a new internal medicine practice in Glendale, CA—where they both attended elementary, middle, and high school together.

“It’s been a lifelong goal to come back and serve the community that taught us all that we know,” says Dr. Tovmassian. “Ross University School of Medicine gave us that opportunity to do so.”

Dr. Tovmassian completed an internal medicine residency at University of Nevada School of Medicine, Las Vegas; Dr. Derhartunian completed his at NYU Lutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn. Both physicians are board certified.

Are you an RUSM graduate who recently made a career move and would like to be mentioned in our blog? Send us an email!


Tags: Alumni , California

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ALUMNI: Grad Reflects on Medical Relief Work

September 30, 2015

Since graduating from Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) in 2002, Faiz Hussain, MD, MPH, has made medical relief work his personal mission. Upon completing his residency in Internal Medicine from Loma Linda University in 2005, he served as director of a clinic site in the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. Subsequently, he made multiple trips to Pakistan, Kashmir, and Haiti as a medical member of disaster response teams, including the South Asian Earthquake in 2005, Haiti Earthquake in 2010, and the Pakistan floods in 2010.  He also led a medical delegation to the Philippines in 2013 in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. “Though I certainly wish these disasters had never occurred in the first place, I am deeply grateful to have been in a position to put what knowledge and skills I had to good use,” he says. For the past five years and more, Hussain has served as Clinical Director of the Department of Compensation and Pension with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Long Beach, Calif.  Previously, he was Medical Director of an Occupational Medicine group in Orange County, Calif.


RUSM: Tell us about your current position at the VA.

Hussain: I perform forensic evaluations of medical claims filed against the federal government. Although I feel more like an attorney than a physician, I could not perform this job without a solid medical background. What I enjoy most in this position is serving the veteran population - those who served our country. Secondly, I'm intrigued by the challenge of reviewing and presenting medical evidence as concisely and articulately as possible.

RUSM: What led you to pursue a career in medicine?

Hussain: I’ve always had a fondness for travel and I sought a career that would blend this passion along with my passion to serve others. Medicine has helped me accomplish exactly that. It is such a portable skill; you could literally be dropped off anywhere in the world at any time and have an immediate and measurable impact upon those around you. 

RUSM: What led you to choose RUSM and how well do you feel it prepared you for what you are doing now? 

Hussain: Education has always been at the core of my professional goals.  I had exceptional clinical training both during my 3rd and 4th year clerkships as well as during residency at the University of Utah and Loma Linda University Schools of Medicine. I vividly recall how a single attending physician could make all the difference in a clinical rotation experience. Someone who takes pride in imparting knowledge instills a greater thirst for knowledge in his or her students.  I’ve tried to embrace this spirit as a teaching attending for RUSM and Chamberlain College of Nursing students on international clinical electives in Kenya, where we set up mobile medical clinics in various pockets within Nairobi.  Living in Dominica and participating in community-based projects was also invaluable. It heightened my cultural sensitivity and fostered my commitment to the global application of medicine. 

RUSM: You are very active in the RUSM alumni network. What motivated this involvement and what do you tell prospective students? 

Hussain: Having had these amazing experiences, I wanted to share my passion with others. RUSM continues to forge relations with major academic institutions nationwide.  In this light, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as an alumni ambassador while liaising with undergraduate medical advisors on tours of our beautiful campus. Additionally, I’ve been invited to offer pearls of wisdom and advice while addressing the incoming 1st semester class during orientation week in Dominica to help assuage the anxieties and uncertainties commonly experienced by new students. For the last several years, I’ve also participated in RUSM information seminars to help illustrate the tangible successes one can achieve with a RUSM medical degree. To help fortify our basic sciences curriculum, I participated in the RUSM Education Summit in Dominica. I was also invited to represent RUSM on an alumni panel during Congressional meetings in Washington, D.C.  What I share with prospective students is that there is no obstacle that is so insurmountable it cannot be overcome. If medicine is your dream, it is something that can definitely be achieved. RUSM gave me that opportunity when few others would. For this reason, I continue to be grateful and see it as a pleasure to assist others who are in the same position now as I was in several years ago. 


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Tags: Alumni , California

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PROFILE: For Alum Eric Wilson, RUSM Opened a Door to Opportunity

September 08, 2015

RUSM alumnus Eric Wilson
Alumnus Eric Wilson, MD (above), Class of 2007, credits Ross University School of Medicine for his success as a sports medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente, Santa Clara, CA.

For many years after his undergraduate studies at University of California Davis, Eric Wilson (’07), MD, had given up on his dream of going to medical school—held back by a less-than-stellar GPA.

Then he discovered Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM).

“For me, having the opportunity to realize a dream that I had given up on many years before was just an amazing experience,” he says. “The Admissions Committee at Ross University [School of Medicine] saw some potential in me and opened a door that would have otherwise remained closed.”

Once Dr. Wilson stepped through that door, he never looked back.

Strong USMLE Performance and His First Choice of Residency

He scored competitively on the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE) Step 1 and 2 exams, and completed his residency in internal medicine at University of California San Francisco-Fresno Medical Education Program—his first choice.

“My experience from the moment that I first stepped foot on Dominica to the moment I walked across the stage to accept my diploma was fulfilling, stressful, challenging, difficult, and at times exhausting. But looking back, I would not have changed a single thing,” he says.

Dr. Wilson, now a sports medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, CA,  (Kaiser) credits RUSM for his success, and the ability to pursue his personal passion: tennis medicine.

As a competitive tennis player and a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) certified teaching professional, Wilson served as a member of the USTA Sport Science Committee, and is actively working toward understanding causes of tennis-related injuries, and how to prevent them.

"My experience from the moment that I first stepped foot on Dominica to the moment I walked across the stage to accept my diploma was fulfilling, stressful, challenging, difficult, and at times exhausting. But looking back, I would not have changed a single thing."

— Eric Wilson, '08 RUSM graduate, on how RUSM helped him achieve his dream

A Continual Source of Inspiration

Working in Kaiser’s department of orthopedics, Dr. Wilson treats a wide range of nonsurgical orthopedic conditions and sports related injuries.

“I work in a very enriching and collegial atmosphere and have the opportunity to interact with patients of all different ages and ethnic backgrounds. I treat their orthopedic conditions, which cause them pain and dysfunction, and to help them return to their desired level of function.” 

Seeing his patients recover remains a continual source of inspiration.

“The power of the body to heal itself never ceases to amaze me, and it is a privilege to support patients during their healing process and see them make a meaningful recovery,” he says.

Final Words of Advice for Medical School Students

And while his daily focus is on his patients, Dr. Wilson is constantly grateful for the opportunity RUSM has given him.

“I’m doing everything I wanted to do thanks to Ross [University School of Medicine], so I certainly owe everything to them.”

His advice to prospective students: never give up.

“If you have the desire and the dream to become a physician, Ross University [School of Medicine] looks to make it possible.”

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Tags: Alumni , California , USMLE

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GRADUATE PROFILE: A Bold Path Pays Off for RUSM Grad Ariel Gavino

February 26, 2015

Like most Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduates, Ariel Gavino, MBA, MD, always had big dreams of becoming a physician. What’s different about his story is the path he took to make those dreams come true.

“I didn’t do as well as I would have liked in college, so I took a different route,” says Gavino, who graduated from RUSM in 2008.

"Directors from internal medicine programs, surgical programs, Emergency Department programs—they were all asking me to go ahead and apply [for residency], because they thought I’d do well."

Ariel Gavino, '08 RUSM graduate, on getting multiple residency offers during clinical rotations in the US
It was a route that ultimately paid off. After earning his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree at RUSM, he's now both an attending physician (addiction medicine) at Kaiser Permanente, California, and a psychiatrist with the California State Department of Corrections.

“Being a physician is one of the most prestigious, honorable careers one can have,” Gavino says. “Without Ross, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Grabbing His Opportunity at Ross

Gavino is a career-changer—a term describing a student who decides to pursue medical school a bit later in life, after having already held a job in either a medical field or something entirely different. Some career-changers simply hear the calling to practice medicine later in life; others intentionally spend time gaining practical experience through non-physician healthcare careers.

In Gavino's case, it was the latter: He spent years gaining experience as both a certified respiratory therapist and a physician assistant before starting his search for medical schools.

Even so, the search proved discouraging at first. “I thought getting into med school in the US was unachievable, because I knew how competitive it was, and still is, in the states,” he says.

A good friend of his had recently been accepted to RUSM, so at that friend’s encouragement, Gavino attended an information seminar in Los Angeles to see what the school was all about. After speaking with a RUSM advisor and explaining his personal situation, he applied, was accepted after his interview, and—as he says it—the rest is history.

Taking the First Steps Toward His MD

Gavino started his medical training in January of 2004 on RUSM's highly advanced campus on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean.

“What’s good about [Dominica] is that you don’t have the distractions you’d expect at US medical schools, where you’re in a city or densely populated area,” he says. “I was able to focus exclusively on my studies, and that was a huge advantage to me.”

That focus came in handy while undergoing RUSM’s rigorous preclinical curriculum, during which students spend the early part of their training mastering the fundamentals of medicine. “Their curriculum is really geared toward empowering you to perform well—not just in your preclinical studies, but also clinical rotations, the USMLE, and even residency,” he says. 

Check out a video detailing our curriculum, plus some of our advanced technology, here.

Multiple Residency Offers During His Clinical Rotations in the US

“We were always there on time: always helpful, we always volunteered first, and we were always prepared for any of the presentations that we needed to give as clinical students. That’s really how Ross trains you to be [during the basic sciences].”

—Ariel Gavino, MD, speaking about how RUSM's Foundations of Medicine curriculum set him up for success during clinicals

After heading back to the US for clinical rotations, Gavino felt that he was actually ahead of the curve in some ways when compared to the US students he was rotating with. “That’s another good thing about attending Ross,” he says. “We were prepared for the hard stuff. That really strengthened us when we did our rotations.”

It didn’t hurt that he had a good amount of medically related experience from his two previous jobs, either. “I performed my own EKGs, blood draws, arterial blood gas tests, and IV placements,” he says. “I was already trained in that, so I taught it to some of the US medical school students.”

He ended up getting a lot of meaningful face-to-face time with attending physicians and residents during the clinical experience, perhaps due to a philosophy that he refers to as “first in and last out.” This means, simply, that he was the first person at the hospital for rotations and the last person to leave.

“We were always there on time: always helpful, we always volunteered first, and we were always prepared for any of the presentations that we needed to give as clinical students,” he says. “That’s really how Ross trains you to be.”

Given that he received multiple residency offers during his time in clinicals, it would appear that his dedication paid off.

“I wasn’t only being encouraged to apply for psychiatry residencies,” he says. “Directors from internal medicine programs, surgical programs, Emergency Department programs—they were all asking me to go ahead and apply, because they thought I’d do well.”

Ultimately, he selected a psychiatry residency at Maricopa Medical Center in Arizona. He says psychiatry, which he describes as an “art”, gives him the ability to achieve a good balance between spending time with his family and caring for patients.

Gavino is a regular fixture at RUSM information seminars on the West Coast, usually California and Arizona—and he has nothing but love for his alma mater. “That’s why I always volunteer,” he says. “I’m very happy; Ross gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of becoming a doctor. I’ll never forget that.”

Want to meet Dr. Gavino? He'll be speaking and answering questions at our March 7 Information Seminar in Irvine, California. Sign up here


Tags: Alumni , Residency , California

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Numerous RUSM Alumni Have Earned 2013-14 Chief Resident Positions

March 14, 2014

Each year numerous RUSM alumni are selected as Chief Residents of their residency programs. The following are a selection of 2013-14 Chief Residents in various specialties:

Family Medicine


Internal Medicine







Tags: Alumni , Residency , Illinois , Tennessee , Florida , Michigan , New Jersey , California , New York , Kentucky , Connecticut , North Carolina

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Dr. Greg Ackroyd, neurologist, joins Annadel Medical Group in Sonoma County, California

February 11, 2014

Dr. Ackroyd (RUSM ‘00) is board certified in neurology and sleep medicine. After earning his medical degree from RUSM, he completed his neurology residency at University of Texas Medical Branch, and completed his sleep medicine fellowship at University North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently the medical director at North Bay Sleep Medicine Institute and has maintained a private practice in Santa Rosa for the past seven years. Dr. Ackroyd earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Tags: Alumni , California

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