Member of the Month
Oscar Gantes, MD
Oscar Gantes, MD is a graduate of USC’s Keck School of Medicine and completed his residency in family medicine at Natividad Medical Center. He continues to work in the region at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Dr. Gantes is the chapter president for the Monterey-San Benito chapter of CAFP and is involved in advocacy work through participation in the All Member Advocacy Meeting (AMAM), as a Legislative Key Contact and FP-PAC donor, and as a representative to the National Conference of Constituency Leaders at AAFP. How does Dr. Gantes make a difference in family medicine and his community? “I work in a Latino agricultural community that is predominantly Spanish- speaking. In my community, I am able to understand their culture and speak their language because I also am Latino. I was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, which is where I currently practice medicine.”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I chose family medicine because most of the health problems in our country revolve around diseases that are caused by lifestyle choices. Family medicine allows a doctor the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with patients so that, in addition to treating their chronic medical problems, we can also help them to make lifestyle changes and potentially get them off many of the medications they are on.
Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?
I was inspired by the family doctor I had as I was growing up. He emulated many admirable characteristics such as altruism, empathy, intelligence and patience.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
The most memorable experiences that I have had with patients have been getting them off all of their diabetes medications through weight loss, healthy diet and exercise. Usually once patients know what they need to do to avoid going into a death spiral, they will willingly make changes to get off all meds and be healthier people overall.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
One word that characterizes my style of family medicine is “art;” being a doctor requires knowledge but there is also an art to the application of medicine. Not all patients are the same, some are easier to mold than others.
What is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?
My best experience so far has been delivering babies, which for the most part is a very joyous occasion. There is a lot of suffering to get to the point of having that baby during labor, but the reward is great.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because they are our voice at the state and national level. Also, they provide reliable CME throughout the year to help with improvement of practice and I then benefit from the years of experience that other doctors have.
The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:
The most important resource that CAFP offers me is a collective voice. I've been pleasantly surprised to see that other family medicine physicians will take time out of their work schedules, hobbies and families to be a collective voice for pressing social and medical issues.
What has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?
My best experience as a CAFP member so far has been attending the lobby day portion of the All Member Advocacy Meeting and coming together as a collective force to tackle statewide issues important to the communities that Family Physicians work with.
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
I work in a Latino agricultural community that is predominantly Spanish-speaking. In my community, I am able to understand their culture and speak their language because I am also Latino. I was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, which is where I currently practice medicine.
Tell us about a project in which you are involved and why it is important to you:
Currently, I have been involved in a walking group in Monterey County in which doctors within our healthcare system, the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, take turns once a month taking a group of patients on a 45-minute walk at different locations around Monterey County. Locations have included a winery, county parks and around our own clinic. We have had good turnouts and it also gives us an opportunity to give a small talk on a relevant health topic with time for questions and answers. Healthy snacks and merchandise such as t-shirts, water bottles and smart phone arm bands are given away.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
Good qualities a family physician should have are altruistic values and a desire to make a difference in the world by working within their own little community to instill changes at large.
Do you remember your personal statement for medical school? If so, would you like to share an excerpt?
I addressed the health disparities that exist within the Latino community. A key component effective communication. By knowing the culture and language, a spoken and unspoken understanding of the patient is attainable and lets me provide the best care.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
Look into the big picture effect that a family physician can have on a patient and on a community. Many other specialties address things that a family physician could have prevented.
How do you spend your free time?
Free time is spent with family/friends, jogging and riding my motorcycle.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I would be a lawyer and focus on Immigration law and/or criminal law. There is a shortage of lawyers who can adequately represent Latino clients, which is important in the face of a system that can be unjustly biased against them.
What would your best friend say about you?
My best friend would say that I am reliable and fun to be around, but can be misunderstood at times.
Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself.
I recently got through the Ground School portion of flight school and am working on getting my private pilot license.
Tell us briefly about your family:
My parents are from Mexico. They immigrated here to seek a better life for themselves and their family. I was taught that this country does provide people with opportunities to become successful. My parents valued education and emphasized its importance to me and my four siblings as we were growing up. They worked in the fields here in the Salinas Valley, picking long-stem onions, and in the local packing sheds during the asparagus season. Family trips growing up included road trips down to Guanajuato and Jalisco, where my parents are from. These road trips were enriching experiences that showed me the stark contrast of the US to Mexico and, subsequently, other countries.
Each month, CAFP highlights one outstanding California family physician member who lends their voice, time, talent and resources to strengthen the specialty of family medicine and his or her community. The Member of the Month interviews are conducted by CAFP staff. If you choose to share this article, feel free, but give appropriate source and author information. If you would like to share your story or know a family physician colleague who deserves to be recognized for his or her impact or leadership, contact us at (415) 345-8667 or email.