Celebrating Hispanic History Month - A Profile on Francisco Vega, MD
Francisco Vega, MD, is a vascular surgeon practicing at the Mission Surgical Clinic in Riverside, California. He specializes in aortic, carotid, lower extremity revascularization and varicose vein surgeries. Dr. Vega is bilingual and fluent in both English and Spanish, which allows him to cater to the diverse patient population of the clinic.
A parent's immeasurable love for their child often fuels a desire for a better life, particularly within immigrant families. This sentiment rings true for many, including first-generation Mexican American Francisco Vega, MD. He understood the true value of hard-earned money as he witnessed his parents working in the agricultural fields of the United States. His parents immigrated from a small Mexican town in the 1970s and settled in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Amidst long hours and harsh working conditions, Vega observed his parents' struggles, which, although honorable, ignited their aspiration for a better life for their children, which built a foundation that ignited Vega's determination.
Vega wanted to pursue higher education to achieve his goal of becoming a medical professional. His mother struggled with varicose veins, eventually leading to a chronic vein ulcer on her left heel. Although initial medical treatments provided temporary relief, they failed to address the root cause of the issue. Through a standard yet transformative procedure known as greater saphenous vein stripping, his family witnessed a remarkable shift that marked the first instance of a truly positive outcome from treatment.
“That procedure changed our whole family's lives, as she suffered for so long, and it was finally healed. We felt a weight lift off our shoulders once we knew my mother was no longer in pain. This opened my eyes to becoming a doctor,” said Vega.
During his residency in general surgery at the University of California in Riverside, Vega decided to become a vascular surgeon. This decision was influenced once again by his mother. She was diagnosed with May-Thurner syndrome, which causes compression of the left iliac vein by the right common iliac artery. His mother suffered a complication from May-Thurner syndrome treatment. The iliac vein stents that had been placed became infected, they sought out medical care, and the vascular surgery team was once again there for her. This reinforced his decision to pursue vascular surgery; this field of surgery had done so much for his family that he wanted to provide the same for others.
“It was then when everything came full circle, everything made sense, and I knew then that vascular surgery was it for me,” said Vega.
Vega completed a vascular fellowship at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and returned to California to practice in an underserved area. He decided to repay the community that had shaped him, aiding families who have faced similar circumstances. His bilingualism helped him establish bonds with his patients, and the shared cultural background enhanced treatment adherence allowed follow-up visits and minimized communication barriers.
“It’s important to have doctors in medicine from different cultures, and it should always be that way. Just like how the patient population is diverse, we should have the same medical representation,” said Vega.
For Vega, his role as a vascular surgeon extends beyond medical practice. He views it as a privilege to extend care to underserved areas and to bridge the gap in access to treatment for those often disconnected from medical care. In his bid to enhance diversity within the medical field, Vega urges support for the SVS Foundation, aiming to ensure equitable care for diverse populations in the future. He envisions his journey inspiring young minds and fostering the pursuit of careers in vascular surgery.
"Today's efforts may inspire a young individual who aspires to join vascular surgery. I hope my story resonates with those who've encountered circumstances like my upbringing and lets them know their aspirations are achievable," said Vega.
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