When Victor Rodriguez, M.D. (Class of ’92, B.S., biology) was growing up
in Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, a young medical student
showed him and several other boys a cadaver lab. The initial shock gave
way to fascination and eventually three of the boys grew up to become
doctors, Rodriguez recently told a biology class at California State
University, Dominguez Hills. The top vascular surgeon for Kaiser
Permanente in northern California returned to his alma mater to
encourage students to reach for their dreams.
Rodriguez was raised by his grandparents until he was 11, when his family moved to the United States. As an immigrant youth in California, he remembers that he was never groomed at the schools he attended for anything remotely resembling his current success.
“My [high school] counselor never told me to get ready to take the SAT,” he says.
Rodriguez served in the Marine Corps as a way to pay for college, and when his duty as an airplane mechanic was over, he enrolled at Cerritos College. When he was ready to move on to a four-year university, he was encouraged by one of his instructors at Cerritos College to give Dominguez Hills a try. He credits the individual attention he received from his professors as vital to success in medical school and his career.
“Dr. (Eugene) Garcia, Dr. (Thomas) Lyle, Dr. (James) Riley (former professors of chemistry)—they all wrote me great letters of recommendation because they knew me,” says Rodriguez.
“Garcia guided me and told me where to apply, and was even able to get me a spot in the pre-med group over at UC Irvine. They knew where I came from and they knew where I was going.
“In bigger places, when you ask for a letter of recommendation from your teacher, you don’t really have any interaction with them,” he says. “There’s a generic letter that’s written . . . They know nothing about . . . you.”
Rodriguez now gives back by mentoring young students and propelling them to medical school and careers in the field.
“Even if you only help one [person], it makes a huge difference,” he states. “My way of giving back, of going back to my roots, is by doing this type of outreach and mentoring.”
As a vascular surgeon in Kaiser’s South Sacramento Medical Center, he specializes in complex aortic reconstructions and peripheral arterial reconstructions.
Rodriguez earned his medical degree at the University of California, Davis and served his residency at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. He completed a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wis., and currently has an academic appointment at UC Davis, teaching vascular surgery.