CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Dr. Jesus Ruiz’s journey in life has taken him a long way from the small Mexican town where he was born, but his passion for the health of the Hispanic community has only grown stronger.
As a doctor at Piedmont Community Health Center and UNC Health Chatham, he’s building relationships he hopes will lead to a lifetime of good health. Dr. Ruiz treats some of Central North Carolina’s tiniest patients making sure moms have a safe pregnancy, babies have a healthy start, and the entire family has a good relationship with their doctor.
As a child in Mexico, Dr. Jesus Ruiz had a different impression of healthcare.
“We lived in a very small, rural town. People had to walk a long way to get their vaccines. People had to wait for buses to be able to get to to the doctor, if they could. There was a lot of mistrust with the medical field,” he recalled.
When he was 9, he moved to the U.S.
“My parents brought me as an undocumented individual. I grew up in Clayton, North Carolina, worked throughout high school, had a job, got good grades, eventually got a full scholarship to UNC,” he said. “I was actually the first DACA student to get admission to UNC School of Medicine.”
He was determined to become a doctor and help increase trust in the medical system especially within the Hispanic community.
“I grew up in a time where there was no Brown doctor that you could look up to,” Dr. Ruiz said. “There were no role models for me to see.”
Even now, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports only about 7% of doctors in the U.S. are Hispanic, but the latest census shows that 19% of the population is Hispanic.
Dr. Ruiz works with expectant and new mothers as well as other patients at Piedmont Community Health Center, in Siler City. He also delivers babies at UNC Health Chatham Hospital.
He hopes when the babies he cares for grow up, they’ll see even more doctors who share his heritage and that his work will inspire young people to take on challenges and find success, no matter their background or documentation status.
“That’s ultimately my hope,” he explained. “I want them to see that really, if they work hard, if they truly follow their dreams, they can do anything that they want.”