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Hanford High valedictorians return from Stanford for a summer of learning at Adventist Health

Pictured (left to right): Rodrigo Maldonado and Abraham Alatorre stand outside of Adventist Health Medical Office - Hanford

While most college students are on summer break, Abraham Alatorre, 18, and Rodrigo Maldonado, 19, are shadowing doctors and administrative leaders at Adventist Health Medical Office – Hanford Primary, in hopes of learning the ins and outs of healthcare.

“I’ve always had a passion for healthcare,” said Alatorre, who was raised in Hanford. “Growing up, going to the doctor’s office was a place where I could learn.”

Both students graduated from Hanford High School in 2019, sharing the distinct honor of being named joint valedictorians of their class. Now, both students are pursuing undergraduate degrees at Stanford University. Both have their hearts set on careers in medicine.

“My interest is more into rural health,” said Maldonado, who also is a life-long Hanford resident. “I want to help educate communities about how to live healthier lives.”

Earlier this year, an advisor invited Alatorre and Maldonado to the Stanford Alumni Conference, where they attended a lecture on community health. When they realized the speaker – Dr. Adalberto Renteria, former chief medical officer of Adventist Health in the Central Valley – was based in their hometown, they recognized the chance to take a step toward their goals.

“We went up to Dr. Renteria and told him we’re from Hanford, we’re studying at Stanford and we want to go to medical school,” said Alatorre, a Human Biology major. “He said, ‘No way. You need to come see me next week.’”

The students jumped at the opportunity to connect with Dr. Renteria and learn how to best apply their knowledge and education in their own community.

Dr. Renteria, in turn, introduced the students to Dr. Raul Ayala, a family medicine physician, and medical officer for Adventist Health in the Central Valley. The chance encounter with two of Adventist Health’s 

administrative leaders reaffirmed the students’ shared commitment to return and serve their native Central Valley after graduating from Stanford.

“A lot of students go off to college and they don’t come back,” said Maldonado, who is undeclared but intends to major in Human Biology. “We want to change the culture of talent and make an impact in our communities.”

Instead of planning summer vacations, Alatorre and Maldonado spent the spring semester applying for individual fellowships through the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, which awards students $5,500 in grant money to pursue public service opportunities of their choice. Both students were awarded their respective fellowships and chose to fulfill them with Adventist Health.

“We must invest in the educational opportunities for our youth today, for a better tomorrow,” said Dr. Ayala.

Alatorre and Maldonado will spend the following nine to 12 weeks under the mentorship of Dr. Ayala, who directs patient care at Adventist Health’s ambulatory offices, including the rural health clinics located at 1025 N. Douty Street in Hanford. Rotating between Adventist Health’s various outpatient settings, the students are set to gain valuable exposure into healthcare leadership, forming the foundation of promising careers as homegrown medical professionals.