Touro medical students help at Solano County clinics

By Barry Eberling; The Daily Republic
From page A1 | February 17, 2013 |

FAIRFIELD — Dara Ghasemi and Sai Aquisap spent six weeks making the rounds at Solano County pediatric clinics to help treat children with such illnesses as respiratory ailments – and also to learn.

Both are third-year medical students at Touro University California on Mare Island in Vallejo. Under the supervision of a Touro physician, they went to the exam rooms in white coats and got pediatric medical experience that goes beyond the classroom.

“You have to have a rapport with both the child and the parent,” Ghasemi said on a recent day in the clinic at 2010 Courage Drive in Fairfield. “You have to get the trust of both.”

Solano County and Touro University California teamed up last year to create the program for medical students. The Touro medical students and physicians can be found at the Fairfield and Vallejo clinics, with plans to expand the program to the Vacaville clinic.

Both the county and university see advantages to the program.

Solano County gets more people to help provide medical care, with about 12 students at any one time working in pediatrics, family medicine and psychiatry. That extra manpower comes at a time when it’s needed.

County Public Health Administrator Lynn Bramwell said the demand for services has increased 10 percent to 15 percent each year. Still more growth could be in store when provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect in January 2014.

He sees another advantage to the program.

“I think the county gets a stronger partnership with a community member,” Bramwell said. “Touro’s been a fixture in Solano for a number of years.”

Touro University officials see benefits, too.

“We want to have our students out into the community,” said Michael Clearfield, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “We also want to serve patients that are most in need. The county (program) fulfills both of those.”

The program allows Touro to help make the community a healthier place, he said.

Stella Sarmiento is a Touro University physician who supervises the medical students. She said a lot of people don’t know that Solano County is home to a medical school.

“It gives us a little bit more exposure, as well,” Sarmiento said.

Aquisap grew up in Stockton and did her undergraduate work at Dominican University in San Rafael. She’s thinking of getting into family medicine, since it combines several facets that interest her.

“I like adult medicine,” Aquisap said. “I like pediatrics. I like women’s health.”

Working in the pediatrics clinic taught her how to interact as a doctor with children. Aquisap said she isn’t around children on a regular basis and learned to be more comfortable with them.

Ghasemi is from Los Angeles and is interested in orthopedic surgery.

Sarmiento led the team for the six-week rotation at the Fairfield clinic. Aquisap and Ghasemi initially shadowed Sarmiento as she saw patients. Then the three would go off to talk about the diagnosis and what the treatment should be.

As time went on, either Aquisap or Ghasemi did the physical exams themselves. Then they consulted with Sarmiento.

“We’ll talk about whether I agree with their assessment or not,” said Sarmiento, who grew up in Vallejo and returned to her hometown after studying medicine in Los Angeles. “And we’ll come up with a plan together.”

Touro University California medical students Valerie Liu and Ngoc Dinh worked another rotation. They worked in the county mental health clinic under the supervision of a psychiatrist, seeing patients with such problems as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“It’s basically to get an idea of what it would be like if we choose to go into psychiatry,” said Liu, who came to Touro University California from Michigan.

She doesn’t necessarily want to do that. But she talked about seeing how important it is to the community to have mental health services.

“It’s a real eye-opener,” Liu said.

Clearfield sees the program at county clinics evolving. For example, he said, someday it might include post-graduate students doing their residencies.

“It’s a really good relationship we have with the county that will continue to grow,” Clearfield said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at


Touro medical students help at Solano County clinics
Touro University medical student Dara Ghasemi, right, and supervising doctor Stella Sarmineto, left, and do a check-up on a 2-month-old baby Aaliyah Bilbo at the Solano County pediatric clinic on Courage Drive in Fairfield. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)