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Ryan Gates ’04: Using His Passion to Help His Patients

Apr 22, 2013

When someone is passionate about something, they carry a ray of light with them. It doesn't take much investigating to learn about the difference they make in their community and to those close to them. The act of giving becomes natural for them just as it is for Ryan Gates '04.

Before coming to Pacific, Dr. Gates attended Bakersfield College where he was part of the wrestling team. He transferred to Humboldt State University where he received his bachelor of science in environmental biology with a minor in botany and completed a teaching credential. After graduation he went on to teach and coach wrestling at Chaparral High School in Colorado.

Following in the footsteps of his brother, Aaron Gates '03, he came to Pacific in 2001 and completed his doctor of pharmacy in 2004. "With my love for education and mentoring, I knew from the beginning I wanted to remain in academia/clinical pharmacy in some form or fashion," said Dr. Gates.

Dr. Gates also completed a primary care pharmacy residency at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System with an emphasis in diabetes. In 2005, he landed his first job as a clinical pharmacist at Kern Medical Center (KMC) and within two years he was promoted to Senior Clinical Pharmacist and Residency Program Director.

His brother's footsteps were not the only ones he followed. Dr. Gates says his parents' "selfless giving and caring continues to impact me to this day." He grew up in the farming community of McFarland where his parents were school teachers, and his dad was also a wrestling coach. They had nearly 80 acres of apricots and alfalfa. Despite their busy schedule, they were very involved with the disadvantaged youth of the McFarland community and often hosted students/athletes at their house for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

He channeled his parents' ambitions and carried them with him to the birth of the second diabetes clinic at KMC. During his residency, he studied under Steven Edelman, MD, founder of Taking Care of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) so when he worked at KMC he sought out Victor Ettinger, MD, Chief of Endocrinology. When Dr. Gates accepted his position at KMC, he "soon came to learn that Dr. Ettinger's clinic was severely overbooked. His first opening for a new patient was in nine months! And yet we were discharging patients from our hospital daily with newly diagnosed diabetes with instructions to follow-up in the diabetes clinic." This became the foundation to Dr. Gates' diabetes clinic which opened in 2009.

The conception of his diabetes clinic was the result of a partnership between a local MediCal managed care company and KMC coupled with the lack of services available to a large population of patients, especially MediCal patients, who needed care. The clinic is under the care of Dr. Gates and five additional residency-trained and board certified clinical pharmacists. They provide services to treat hyperglycemia, hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetic neuropathy.

Clinical pharmacists providing health services to treat health issues such as diabetes is the main reason for the push and support of Senate Bill 493. If the bill passes, it will recognize pharmacists and optometrists as health care providers, "more importantly, get pharmacists recognized as providers under MediCal."

"Depending on the source you look at, over 60 percent of California's primary care physicians currently do not accept MediCal patients and over 40 percent of California's primary care physicians are 50 years of age or older and will be retiring soon. The fear is these newly enrolled patients will be provided MediCal insurance, and yet have nowhere to go to receive quality care," said Dr. Gates.

According to the Michael J. Mishak (2013), Los Angeles Times, "Doctors say giving non-physicians more authority and autonomy could jeopardize patient safety. It could also drive up costs, because those workers, who have less medical education and training, tend to order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics." Dr. Gates says he agrees but that the key lies in "providing the proper training, oversight and mentorship of these providers." Read the full article here http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/09/local/la-me-doctors-20130210/2.

If the bill does not pass, it could jeopardize clinics similar to Dr. Gates' diabetes clinic. "Safety net facilities that currently employ clinical pharmacists to see patients will no longer be able to justify their employment as a provider because they will not be able to bill for their services," commented Dr. Gates.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Gates says it's his patients who inspire him to work hard every day. "I love seeing these patients come back to me empowered to care for themselves, understanding their disease state, their medications, implementing life-style choices, feeling better and excited about life," commented Dr. Gates.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. Gates also works at Frontline Pharmacy Consulting, Inc which he founded with Matthew Dehner '05. Their business provides administrative and clinical pharmacy services to local managed care companies. This year, they hope to open a pharmacist-led diabetes clinic that will also offer anticoagulation services.

Dr. Gates is married to his childhood sweetheart, Heather Gates, and they have five children, Savannah Kaye (5), Charles Madison (4), Sophia Rose (2), Sarah Jane (18mo) and James Ryan (1 mo).