Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) alum Jose Cabañas, MD ’05, started his career early in emergency medicine. Cabañas served as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and an emergency dispatcher in Puerto Rico, where he said his interest in the medical field sparked, “That exposure pushed me to study medicine. I was really interested in becoming an emergency medicine physician with a specialty in emergency medical services (EMS).”
Cabañas left Puerto Rico to study at RUSM and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. He is now the director/medical director at Wake County EMS in North Carolina, where he is responsible for the vision, direction, and operation of the EMS system and for guiding, educating, and setting protocol for the medical treatment that EMS provides.
Humbled by earning the RUSM alumni legacy award, Cabañas expressed his appreciation for the RUSM community, “What I really took from my experience at Ross Med was the sense of fellowship, teamwork, and community. It’s something I encourage other alumni and future graduates to take with them wherever their experiences lead.” He also encourages alumni to continue supporting RUSM students, “Don’t forget to give back and serve as a mentor. We have been fortunate for these opportunities to grow professionally and serve as a physician, but we should also try to pay those back to the next generation of Ross Med students.”
Making a National Impact
As president-elect for the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), Cabañas will continue his influence the emergency medicine industry. An experienced clinical researcher with various published scientific articles on EMS and Emergency Medicine topics, as well as several EMS and clinical textbooks, Cabañas often details his cutting-edge work in paramedicine at state, national, and international venues as an invited speaker.
His extensive record of leadership in medicine, service to the profession, academic research, and administration of complex EMS System operations led him to build a diverse and broad level of professional experience that includes work in government, academics, and private practice. In his position as president of NAEMSP, and in his ongoing work at Wake County EMS, Cabañas plans to continue finding new and innovative ways of managing EMS systems. “I’ve learned over time that in order to have a solid and resilient EMS system that is able to deliver to the community, you have to make sure that you are investing in your people,” said Cabañas. “You have no system without highly qualified personnel.”
Cabañas is an advocate in delivering evidence-based practices directly associated with clinical outcomes. He takes an active role in leadership and mentorship to help his team grow professionally and try new approaches with challenges they may face. “You have to be intentional with your work. You have to invest in your resources, but also be inventive and innovative.”
At Wake County, Cabañas and team have implemented changes to care for cardiac arrest patients, which resulted in a higher-than-national-average survival for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. “The fact that we’re always looking to improve our systems of care and the fact that we implement evidence-based practices and look at new ways to better deliver care for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, has made a difference for our [community] members.” Cabañas describes these outcomes as his “North Star” and what he always aims to accomplish.
Finding Your Path
Cabañas completed his emergency medicine residency at the University of Puerto Rico, where he served as chief resident. In his final year of residency, he was selected as the EMS fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After four years in Texas as deputy medical director for Austin-Travis County EMS, Cabañas returned to North Carolina as director/medical director of Wake County EMS systems.
While the medical journey is different for everyone, Cabañas encourages RUSM students to find their inspiration and pursue it. “Get involved early. I know there is a lot going on, but if you are passionate and excited about a specific specialty, make sure you are pursuing those desires and aspirations early on.” According to Cabañas, exploration is critical and should lead to students finding connections in the field such as associations, memberships, conferences, and reaching out to other RUSM graduates.
All across the globe, our alumni perform tremendous work as clinicians, administrators, educators, and mentors. Each of their accomplishments, every accolade received, and every milestone reached, enhances the University’s legacy. The RUSM Alumni Association is proud to honor the Alumni Legacy Award Recipient for their outstanding professional achievements and distinguished service in the field of medicine. Learn more about the Alumni Awards selection criteria.