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UC San Diego Surgeons Visit Imperial High School

School is Dept. Chair Dr. Bryan Clary's alma mater


The Department of Surgery had the privilege recently of spending an entire day with the extraordinary health career students of Imperial High School (IHS). Invited by Ms. Rosa Guerrero, who leads health career instruction at IHS, Drs. Bryan Clary, Luis Cajas-Monson, and Isabella Guajardo were treated to an inspiring day leading simulation exercises in minimally invasive surgery and surgical knot-tying, as well as providing overviews of surgical training and the rewards of a career in surgery.

In their presentations, Dr. Cajas-Monson and Dr. Guajardo offered relatable stories of their pathways to becoming a surgeon from their respective roots in Guatemala and Mexicali (a bordertown adjacent to Imperial County). Imperial, Calif., happens to be the childhood home of Dr. Clary (Chair, Department of Surgery) and he is a 1983 graduate of IHS.

According to Dr. Clary, “While much has changed in the 39 years since my graduation, the incredible dedication of the teachers and support of the community has not. IHS and the support of family, coaches, and many others in the community gave me the tools to succeed in college and a longing to enter a profession where helping others was a tangible.

"The day spent with these great students brought back fond memories, and it was special to share some knowledge and encouragement. I sensed in these students many of the same hopes and excitement for the future that I had at that same stage. While most of the students we spoke to today will not choose a career in surgery, they hopefully left with a better appreciation of the field, and more importantly with examples of what is possible through hard work, an education, and the support of others.”

Imperial County is directly to the east of San Diego County and geographically of a similar size. It is home to approximately 180,000 residents, with more than 85 percent of Hispanic/Latino descent. Through an extensive irrigation system drawing water from the Colorado River, the area was transformed from largely uninhabitable desert to one of the major agricultural communities in the United States. As is often the case in agricultural communities, Imperial County has among the highest rates of poverty in California and challenging health outcomes. UC San Diego has an important affiliation with a critical access hospital in Imperial County (El Centro Regional Medical Center), which has afforded the Department the opportunity to help serve the needs of Imperial County residents.