Sebastian Z. Ramos, MD
Name: Sebastian Z. Ramos, MD
Current Institution: Brown University/Women and Infants Hospital (Providence, RI)
Medical School: University of Massachusetts Medical School (Worcester, MA)
Residency: Brown University/Women and Infants Hospital (Providence, RI)
Fellowship: Brown University/Women and Infants Hospital (Providence, RI)
Tell us about someone who had an influence on you as child.
My sisters and my mother have always been the driving force behind all major decisions in my life. They are resilient, driven, and generous despite having endured much hardship. Our mother raised us to be inquisitive, question the status quo and be generous to those with less. One of my earliest memories in life was living in Guatemala and having a family come by our home every Sunday for milk and bread which my mother would have me personally hand to them. I must have been 5 years old and it is an indelible moment in my life because it taught me that being generous has nothing to do with wealth or status but instead, it comes from empathy and humility that there is always someone less fortunate than us. I chose women’s healthcare because of my mother and sisters. They inspired me to choose a career that would make a difference in the lives of women as both their doctor and their advocate.
Was there a mentor(s) in medical school that inspired you?
I had a physician mentor in medical school who had a similar background to mine. He was Central American, came from limited means, immigrated to the US and was passionate about increasing representation of Latinx providers in medicine. He introduced me to the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) where I was able to meet individuals who shared my passion for social justice, disparities work and specifically worked to address the poor health outcomes experienced by our Latinx community. He was a great example of how giving back is our legacy and duty. He was generous with his time, advice and taught me that you can’t fear ruffling feathers if you want to change injustices in this world.
How did the diversity (or lack of diversity) in your medical educators shape your training?
It’s a hard truth but we lack diversity in all of medicine and more specifically in academic medicine. As a trainee, it was challenging to acclimate to institutions where leadership didn’t look like my community or the community I served. Medical training is a daunting task at baseline and the additional minority tax we pay is high. I had to seek out mentors of color and build my own community. I have met amazing mentors like Dr. Roxanne Vrees (Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Brown Medical School) who was my Associate Program Director and the only person of color in residency leadership. She was my touchstone for those days when you feel like you’re walking uphill and a reminder that meaningful institutional change to address bias and racism doesn’t happen overnight. Even in fellowship, I continue to rely on her support and wisdom to address these issues.
How has your cultural background shaped you as an MFM?
As a member of multiple minority groups, it’s hard not to see the world through a kaleidoscope. My family’s and my personal experience with discrimination, lack of healthcare access and insensitive medical care have guided my approach to patient care and desire for systems change. No one benefits from systems that value one person over another because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, finances, language, or immigration status. We as physician, who see these injustices daily, find ourselves frustrated by our inability to change them. I tell friends that a little anger is not a bad thing if it fuels you to speak up and stand up for change. As someone who now enjoys the privilege that comes with a degree in medicine, it’s my responsibility to help dismantle those barriers that keep our patients from receiving the care they deserve.
Tell us about an MFM colleague who has been an important part of your MFM career.
Dr. Erika Werner has been both a life and career mentor and shaped my view of what an effective leader and communicator can achieve. She has taught me how to be a researcher, an astute clinician and that those most accomplished are usually the most humble. She is my go-to for advice on projects, career decisions and embodies the kind of MFM I hope to be in my career.
Tell us about one of your most memorable patient encounters.
In my first year of fellowship, I took care of a patient who was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer diagnosed in pregnancy. She never missed a prenatal visit nor was late for appointments despite not having the resources we all take for granted. She delivered newspapers for a living and would wake up at 3am every day to do so despite my pleas that she rest! She was a rock in the middle of a torrential river, and I learned so much from watching her navigate these challenges with grace.
What role has SMFM played in your career?
I knew I had made the right choice to go into MFM when I went to my first SMFM annual meeting as a second year resident. I was so enthralled and excited about the research, the clinical courses, and the excitement of sharing knowledge as a community of researchers/scientists/physicians. I look forward to it every year.
If you had to live one day in your life over and over (think Groundhog Day 1993 Movie), which would you pick?
My best friend and I take a hiking trip every year at a national park and have been doing so for the past 15 years. Perhaps one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done was in Canyonland National Park in Utah. I felt like I was on another planet, desolate and removed from all the stress of our modern world. I felt a quiet joy that can only come when the mind is clear and worry free. Medicine demands so much of our life and at times when I feel the most stretched thin, I go back to this hike and remember how big and beautiful the world outside the hospital walls can be.
I’m excited to wake up every day and practice Maternal Fetal Medicine because…
It challenges me to be a better communicator, advocate, and justice seeker for my community. It is rare to find a specialty that allows you to be your most passionate self and rewards you with complexity and meaning.