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Taft doctor honored as ‘hero’ for work in family medicine

Jasmeet Bains was working at her father’s car dealership in Taft, selling cars and doing accounting work, when the stock market crash in 2008 forced her to come to a few realizations.

She had planned to spend her life working in business and the automotive industry until she witnessed the effects of the recession. She saw parents unable to afford trips to the doctor and having to forgo healthcare for their children. It reminded her of a scene out of John Steinbeck’s novel “The Pearl.”

Around the same time, Bains’ close friend suffered a heart attack in his home. With no hospital in Taft, the friend’s only option was to call emergency services. He died in the 20 to 30 minutes it took them to arrive, Bains said.

“It angered me that such basic level of healthcare cannot be provided for people at the time that they need it most,” Bains said.

Bains decided to reverse course and go to medical school to become a doctor. She attended medical school at the American University of Antigua, graduating in 2013, and then returned to Kern County to do her residency with the Rio Bravo Family Medicine Residency Program at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield.

After her residency, she returned to Taft as a family medicine physician at Omni Family Health, a federally qualified rural health clinic. She was recently honored as the California Academy of Family Physicians’ 2019 Hero of Family Medicine.

“She’s an amazing physician in terms of being able to take great care of patients but also does that in the context that it really differentiates her,” said CAFP president Dr. Walt Mills. “She sees her patients as being part of families and even more part of the community, so she’s actively engaged in working on improving the health of the community that her patients live in.”

Bains’ work as a family medicine physician means she is involved in “all aspects of healthcare,” including pediatrics, geriatrics, gynecology. Her mission has been to provide care for underserved populations.

In an effort to connect with more patients, she speaks English, Spanish and Punjabi. She also works closely with the developmentally disabled population of Kern County and is focused on continuity of care.

“My vision of a family med physician is someone that is able to see you (and) ... knows you from the day you were born until the day you hit the ground,” Bains said.

Cervical cancer was a large issue in Taft and it wasn’t being screened for correctly, so Bains brought a colposcopy machine to the area to be able to do biopsies, she said. She will start hepatitis C treatments at the clinic in a few weeks and opioid addiction treatment within a month.

Bains is also doing a Primary Care Psychiatry Fellowship through UC Davis to address the mental health and substance abuse needs she’s seen in Taft.

“A physician can really help lead a community forward if they’re given support from their local, their state and their federal politicians,” Bains said, “and they’ve been very supportive. They’ve helped put ideas together. … There’s still a lot, believe me, that I need to do. That we need to do.”

As part of Bains’ position on the California Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission to address the primary care physician shortage, especially in rural areas, she launched a mentoring program to bring more doctors to the Central Valley.

“A lot” of people move away from Taft when they get old to be closer to their doctors and hospitals, Bains said.

It was, in part, her own grandmother who inspires her to keep working to improve healthcare in her hometown. As Bains went through her residency, she served as the primary caregiver during the final years of her grandmother’s life.

Up until the day she died, Bains said, her grandmother would say: ‘The main reason why you are a physician is to bring a higher level of service of healthcare to an area that you grew up in."

Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter: @jmettus.

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