Dr. Ruben: Emergency Doctor Protecting His Family & Community

Dr. Ruben: Emergency Doctor Protecting His Family & Community

To describe emergency medicine specialist Jason Ruben, MD, as dynamic is an understatement. In addition to saving lives for a living, he serves as Medical Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at MarinHealth Medical Center and is on the MarinHealth Foundation Board of Directors. He also manages to find time to bike, hike, back-country ski, and explore the North Bay with his wife and two energetic young boys.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dr. Ruben wasn’t planning on moving to Northern California. After all, he attended medical school at the University of Southern California and completed his internship in Internal Medicine at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He remained local for his residency in Emergency Medicine at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. After obtaining his board certification in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Ruben traveled extensively, and became a consultant to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan’s Ministry of Health for nearly four years. He continued to travel but made Santa Barbara his home base, working in the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Emergency Department.

Dr. Ruben was always attracted to the lifestyle of the Bay Area and Marin in particular. When one of his best friends from his residency program invited him to come for a visit and check out Marin and where he worked, he took him up on the offer. He loved what he saw but wanted to be certain that the work would be sufficiently challenging. In 2006, he started working shifts at MarinHealth Medical Center (then Marin General Hospital). A few years later, Dr. Ruben met his wife and they agreed to call the Bay Area home. “As an ER doc,” Dr. Ruben explains, “a relatively smaller market like Marin might not have seemed right for me. But I was attracted to MarinHealth because of its Trauma Center. We see such a wide variety of cases, and I feel like I can really put my skills to work. Bike and motor vehicle accidents, strokes, heart attacks… lots of high-acuity cases. And we have a large elder community coming in for emergency care.” Dr. Ruben also feels motivated by his informed and engaged patient base. As he points out, “To be a doc here, you have to be on your game. This is a very educated community that demands we know our stuff.”

While Dr. Ruben values our community’s high degree of health literacy, he is not convinced people realize the level of medical expertise that exists in the North Bay. “We provide outstanding care,” he asserts, “in a better environment, faster, more efficiently than some of the shinier names. I want to challenge any mistaken perception that we don’t have major-market talent. Our ER docs and call specialists—the physicians the Emergency Department relies on for consults—are exceptional experts in cardiovascular medicine, pediatrics, urology, plastic and orthopedic surgery and other fields. Like me, they choose to be here and are committed to the community. My goal is for everyone to understand that our doctors are experts, truly top notch across the board. And now, with the new hospital building, our facilities reflect that same high level of excellence.”

Dr. Ruben believes the pandemic has revealed the power of the partnership that exists between MarinHealth Medical Center and the North Bay community. His own family has experienced the constraints of life during the COVID-19 crisis, and he understands first-hand the strain of not being able to visit a hospitalized loved one. “My dad almost died recently at Cedars in LA, so I get what it’s like to have a hospitalized family member you can’t visit.” Dr. Ruben is proud to see the hospital staff rise to the challenge and deliver the highest level of relationship-based care, as evidenced by a nurse he heard reassuring a frightened patient who was unable to see his loved ones, “Don’t worry, we are your family.”

For Dr. Ruben, the excellent collaboration between the hospital administration and physicians has been especially impressive during the pandemic. “Seeing us all together, all for one, demonstrates the administration’s commitment to our doctors and our community.”

With the Emergency Department on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s been Dr. Ruben’s responsibility to make sure his department is prepared and on-point. In addition to putting together a logistics response team, Dr. Ruben is holding 1.5 hours of virtual meetings each week with the entire ED staff so they can go over processes, discuss issues, and support each other. As he puts it, “This has been incredibly valuable in helping us get to know each other across different shifts, on a more meaningful level, and share pain points and stressors.”

Dr. Ruben is grateful for the leadership of Eric Pifer, MD, Chief Medical Officer of MarinHealth and CEO of the MarinHealth Medical Network, in organizing the mobile assessment team for COVID-19. “This unit has been instrumental in identifying hot spots early and to be proactive with care and education, which ultimately helps preserve precious medical resources…their collaboration with the Marin Department of Public Health is critical—we are all dependent on one another—we must have a unified front to battle this pandemic.”

The outpouring of support the hospital has received from the community through MarinHealth Foundation has been moving and energizing for Dr. Ruben and his team. “It’s incredible how much this community has done,” he marvels. “Stepping up, making sure we’re taken care of on the front lines. We’ve gotten financial donations, food, PPE, even two negative-pressure tents to enable us to use best practices to care for our COVID-19 patients!”

Like many of us in this community, Dr. Ruben is glad to be weathering the current healthcare crisis here, in the North Bay. “We are so grateful to live here,“ he says. “You realize what a benefit it is to be able to walk out into nature to decompress and find balance. My family loves the outdoors, and we can still hike, put the boys in the bike trailer for a ride, or go fishing and catching tadpoles.”

This story was first published in July, 2020.