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Exploring the Depths and Summits of Emergency Medicine

Photo of Dr. Christian Herrnandez wearing a moustache, glasses, and a peach colored shirt.

Dr. Christian Hernandez, an avid wilderness and extreme sport enthusiast, has matched to a fellowship in anesthesia and critical care at Los Angeles General Medical Center.

When Dr. Christian Hernandez isn’t scuba diving oceanic depths or planning his ascent up Mount Everest, he works as an emergency medicine resident physician at UCLA Health – and continues to participate with and advocate for National Medical Fellowships.

“Those from underrepresented and marginalized communities are statistically more willing to go back and serve. And because emergency medicine is primary health care for those who’ve never interacted with the U.S. health care system before, I hope to encourage and guide these patients toward seeking additional health services essential to their well-being.”

Dr. Hernandez, the son of immigrants from Mexico and Puerto Rico, grew up within the predominantly Latino and Black South side communities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Seeing how my family navigating language barriers and cultural illiteracy impacted our understanding of and access to health care inspired me to become an ally who could help benefit them and others like them,” he said.

While studying biology at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Hernandez volunteered and worked with bilingual community-based initiatives, such as United Migrant Opportunity Services and UNIDOS Against DV, dedicated to preventing and intervening in domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

“I was looking for ways to fund and achieve academic credit for this service when I discovered NMF would not only help provide support for community-based research but also help fund my tuition for medical school.”

Dr. Hernandez completed the NMF/United Health Foundation’s Diverse Medical Scholars Program while earning his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“Because perpetrators of intimate partner violence are often men, I wanted to delve deeper into how men who’ve experienced trauma express emotions,” he said. “I also held multiple workshops designed to empower men as allies who can recognize what different types of violence might look like.”

Dr. Hernandez also joined NMF’s Young Leadership Council and spent a summer researching tropical diseases and snakebite interventions at the El Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la Salud in Panama before graduating into his current residency in Los Angeles.

“In California, there are more diverse medical professionals and predominantly Spanish-speaking programs catering to a large undocumented immigrant population, so I felt I was able to provide more service here than back home.”

Emergency medicine, Dr. Hernandez added, builds on the health equity initiatives, academic research, and community-based interventions he had already been exposed to.

“We’re trained very well to manage any type of situation that walks through our door,” he said. “We manage patients undergoing different types of personal crises, from intimate partner violence to traumatic injuries from gun violence, and people like having us on their teams because we’re completely comfortable with that uncertainty.”

However, Dr. Hernandez said he misses building relationships with patients through continuity of care; therefore, he will begin his fellowship in anesthesia and critical care at Los Angeles General Medical Center after his final year of residency.

“You can build very strong relationships in the intensive care unit because patients and families are facing serious and often life-threatening situations, and I’d like to be able to empathize and build bridges between where we are in someone’s health care and where we’d like to get to,” he said. “I want to be that someone who can help people navigate the tough decisions.”

Dr. Hernandez said he also hopes to further benefit his Latino community by specifically working in the cardiothoracic ICU.

“Many Latino men in the Valley who are exposed to silica dust from cutting artificial stone ultimately need lung transplants and time on cardio bypass machines. I’m interested in studying both the physiology and contributing to further research.”

Ideally, Dr. Hernandez said he would like to spend a percentage of his future career in academia – which is why he recently earned the National Institute of Health/Latino Medical Student Association’s LIDEReS in Research Travel award in Puerto Rico and participated in the NMF Diversity in Clinical Trials Research program.

Photo of Dr. Christian Hernandez speaking at the NMF Dctr Inaugural In-Person West Coast Summit in Anaheim, CA on May 2, 2024.

“Learning more about what makes a competitive grant application and building stronger networks to lean on and ask questions of makes me excited to one day move forward toward funding my own research,” he said.

With all that’s currently on his plate and on his horizon, one might wonder how Dr. Hernandez manages to maintain momentum in both his career and his passion for exploring.

“We actually look for characters like me when we recruit people to emergency medicine,” he said.

“There will absolutely be times throughout your training, like when you’re studying for boards or transitioning to a fellowship, that you will have to sit down and get into the books – but, when you’ve passed or you’ve matched and you find yourself with any free time to explore personal interests, make sure you also have a plan in place to do so, because it is those experiences that are going to differentiate you from others in the medical field.”