Home field is greener for Lindsay MD
By Reggie Ellis
lindsay – When Joel Ramirez walked onto the turf at Frank Skadan Stadium in Lindsay last fall, he realized how much greener the grass was than when he left it. Not because it was artificial turf, but rather the circumstances with which he left it.
Ramirez was one of the most athletic quarterbacks to don the cardinal and white uniforms of Lindsay High School. He was a four-year starter who torched defenses with both his arm and legs on a team that seemed destined to win a Valley Title. But midway through his senior year, his GPA dropped to 1.8 and he lost his eligibility to finish the season. When Cardinal Coach Frank Schiro confronted Ramirez about his grades, Ramirez recalled admitting he didn’t care about school and just wanted to play football. So he watched from the bleachers as the team went on to win the title without him.
“How many 5’8,” 150-pound quarterbacks to you see playing in the NFL?” Ramirez recalled his coach asking. “Then he gave me the strongest hug I have ever had and told me to get an education.”
His parents, Joel and Lydia Ramirez, decided to remove their son from the distractions in the hopes he would get an education and not have to work the fields as they did. They sent him to live with his aunt in Turlock where Ramirez finished his senior year with A’s and just one B.
“I didn’t see a lot of people of color holding high positions within the community,” Ramirez said. “I just figured football was my best shot to do something more. Outside of football, college didn’t seem very realistic.”
While attending Modesto Junior College, Ramirez found out about a scholarship for Hispanics interested in pursuing a career in medicine. He then attended Fresno City College for a year and a half before transferring to UCLA for his undergraduate. It was there he met Luis Ontiveros who helped him through the process of applying to med school.
“I took the time to reflect on the path I had taken and all of my parents’ efforts to put me on the right path,” Ramirez said. “I thought, ‘What is the hardest thing to become so I can show them I am serious about my education.’ So I decided to become a doctor, to give my choice more validity.”
In September 2013, Ramirez joined Ontiveros and another fellow UCLA Med School graduate Eric Madrigal who had opened Living Water Clinic at 222 W. Henderson Ave. in Porterville earlier that year. The opening was a homecoming for Madrigal, a 1998 graduate of Monache High School. Madrigal’s parents Francisco and Mireya Madrigal have owned La Fuente Mexican Restaurant and Don Vino’s Italia bar and grill in Porterville for many years. While attending high school, Madrigal decided to pursue a career in medicine after his cousin was diagnosed with Tay-Saehs Disease, a hereditary disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
“I had a personal interest that turned into a permanent interest to help find a cure and to help as many people as possible,” Madrigal said.
Madrigal decided on the name Living Water based on his personal and spiritual growth in the years prior. “It reminded me on a daily basis to be grateful for the blessings we have and seemed like a good mission and foundation for the organization.”
The Porterville clinic quickly outgrew its only location and was named Clinic of the Year for the Porterville area. So on Jan. 1, 2016, Living Water Clinic opened its second location at 833 N. Sequoia Ave. in Lindsay with a Lindsay Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting. It was a proud moment for Ramirez whose parents and most of his family still live in Lindsay.
“It’s been very rewarding being back in town,” Ramirez said.
Living Water replaces the former Lindsay Medical Group, which was affiliated with the Visalia Medical Clinic, owned by Drs. Bruce Hall and Lawrence Ginsberg, both of whom served as the team doctor for the Lindsay High School football team when Ramirez played. Ramirez and Madrigal said former patients of Lindsay Medical Group will still have access to the same specialists and have the option of going to the same hospital with Living Water Clinic.
Last August, Ramirez stepped onto the field as the official team doctor for the Cardinals football team. It was a proud moment for the former LHS standout. During the games he takes time to talk with the players about their grades, how they spend their time after school, if they have thought about college and sharing his story with the players.
“It’s awesome to back on the field, even though it’s a lot nicer than the one I played on,” Ramirez said. “I still get nervous before the game starts but now it is because I want to make sure I have a positive impact on their lives.”