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Arizona medical students graduate early to help fight coronavirus

Arizona medical students graduate early to help fight coronavirus

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

Forty students from the University of Arizona’s Colleges of Medicine are graduating early to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Ricardo Ayala, a longtime Tucsonan, is one of them. He officially became a doctor last week after receiving approval of his early graduation request.

Ayala says he is eager to go to Detroit to help fight the coronavirus during his residency.

“Detroit is a hard-hit city. It’s caused concern for some of our nation’s leaders in terms of the amount of cases of COVID they have out there. So I didn’t really hesitate much in terms of expediting the process,” Ayala said.

As of this weekend, there were about 7,500 confirmed cases and 590 known deaths in Detroit, according to the city’s Health Department.

“I’m uprooting from Tucson, which is my community and has been for a long time, and moving to Detroit, kind of an unknown territory. But not only that, I’m uprooting a family. I have two daughters, a son and my wife that are going to be joining me.”

The expedited graduation allows for better logistical planning for when he and his family move to Detroit, he said.

His residency at Henry Ford Hospital starts on July 1, but if Ayala is called to help early, he’ll be available.

Now that he’s fully licensed and credentialed, Ayala said, he can reach out to the hospital about starting ahead of schedule or volunteering in a satellite clinic or outside network.

The UA made the decision on March 30 to offer early graduation to “qualified students who wish to serve the unprecedented health needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic as new physicians.”

For Ayala and his 39 colleagues in the Tucson and Phoenix campuses who accepted the offer, most had no further training needed to officially join the workforce.

“Most of the students are doing an elective, something that piques our interest and gain knowledge, but nothing credit-critical that would prevent us from being full-fledged doctors from this point on,” Ayala said.

Ayala said he didn’t expect to be in this position but called it a privilege to serve others during difficult times.

“Its quite exciting to be part of it, even though there’s a lot of uncertainty. We have family members, we live with loved ones (and) could potentially expose them,” Ayala said.

“So, there are other factors that must be taken into account and do bring some fear.

“But overall, with passion in mind and considering the reasons we went into medicine, it’s definitely something I look forward to tackling and doing my part to ease some of the strains we’re experiencing in the medical realm.”

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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