Antonio Gutierrez, MD, chief medical resident at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said the best part of working at the VA is the patient population. Gutierrez, who played basketball for West Point for one season, said that the veterans he serves are the ideal patients.
“The Vets are very grateful, and they listen to orders,” said Gutierrez. “It’s an honor to serve that population.”
As chief resident at the VA, Guitterz runs the internal medicine system. At the Durham VA, the largest VA hospital in the region, Gutierrez said chiefs can make real differences in how the hospital runs.
“We can change the shift work of residents or try a new schedule,” said Gutierrez. “It’s a lot of people and problem solving.”
Gutierrez, who wants to go into cardiology and will begin a fellowship at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital next year, said the VA also serves as a site of research. Currently, he works on a project measuring outcomes among radial and femoral catherizations in percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI).
“This is a hot topic in cardiology,” said Gutierrez, who is working with Sunil Rao, MD and Bob Harrington, MD. “Would you rather have a catheter stuck in your groin or your wrist? Moving to the wrist provides a better outcome and represents a real changing of the guard.”
A typical day for Gutierrez requires the balancing of family life and his duties at the VA. He’s up at 6 am to get his kids, Jose, 4, and Rosario, 9 months, with wife Jennifer Gutierrez, MD, ready for daycare. He’s at the hospital by 7:30, where he reviews death certificates and adverse event reports. Overseeing residents also requires a final 10 pm check that can include bedside visits. To keep morale up, Gutierrez maintains a 31-year-old tradition began by Ralph Corey, MD.
“Every Friday night at 11 p.m. we get pizza for the residents and watch Sports Center,” said Gutierrez. “We have to unwind.”
Gutierrez grew up in San Diego, but “up on both sides of the border” with extended family in Tijuana, Mexico. He even belonged to the Mexican National basketball team. He graduated from College of the Holy Cross, where he played basketball, and attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University.
When he was in the sixth grade, his grandfather needed quadruple bypass surgery. He knew then that cardiology was his calling.