- Oncology & Hematology
- Cancer Care
Malignant hematology (leukemia and lymphoma), future applications of immunotherapy and CAR T-Cell Therapy, renal cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, multiple myeloma and plasma cell disorders, Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs), thrombosis and thrombophilia, hemolytic anemia, palliative care, psychosocial aspects of cancer care, end-of-life care
- Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines, IA
- Internal Medicine, Ascension Genesys Hospital in affiliation with Michigan State University, Grand Blanc, MI
- Hematology & Oncology, Nassau University Medical Center in affiliation with SUNY, Stony Brook University Hospital, East Meadow, NY
Internal Medicine, American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine
Medical Oncology, American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine
Hematology, American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine
Dr. Fernandez also holds his Masters in Public Health (MPH) degree with a focus in Health Policy & Administration from the University of Iowa, College of Public Health.
Philosophy of care
In getting to know my patients, I try to appreciate and understand the various factors in their life that may affect their health and well being. Oncology is a specialty that truly is multidisciplinary, with expertise from pathology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology and primary care, all working together. It is also a ‘team sport’ that goes beyond the doctor’s role. Many other healthcare providers including the oncology nurses, physician assistants, social workers, psychologists, dietitians, physical therapists, geneticists and administrative support staff all play incredibly important roles in coordinating compassionate, comprehensive care for our patients. The whole experience matters.
Having a background in public health, psychology and osteopathic medicine has reinforced my goal of caring for the ‘whole’ person. Having a patient-centered and family-centered approach to providing cancer care is very important to me. At the center of the complexity is a person, the patient, who after being diagnosed with cancer must navigate a very difficult, often frightening path. I try to remember that this person could just as easily be a close friend, colleague, spouse, child, mother, grandfather, or other family member as cancer affects all walks of life. In my opinion, my key role as their oncologist is as an informative guide and communicator. I try to understand the patient’s perspective and empathize with their concerns. I attempt to facilitate and assist them in the decision-making process while acknowledging their fears and respecting their priorities, goals, and values related to their treatment plan.
Why Dr. Fernandez went into medicine
My first job in health care was in high school as a Non-Invasive Cardiology Technician (EKG) at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa. I later spent time volunteering in the Adult Oncology Unit, which was an early exposure to oncology. These initial experiences prompted me to consider a career in medicine.
I wanted to go into oncology because it is a specialty that is very evidence-based, fast-paced and regularly evolving with new information, research, guidelines, technology and options for treatment. Cancer, biologically speaking, is very fascinating and we continue to learn exciting and often groundbreaking information that could one day change how we treat a given cancer. New treatment strategies are always being developed, which is exciting and keeps me optimistic. I enjoy the collaboration with colleagues and the multidisciplinary approach to cancer care.
Most importantly, I value my relationship with my patients, and respect the hardship and sacrifice they often endure on their journey through cancer. It has been very rewarding.
Favorite advice to give to patients
Although we strive for the best possible care and outcome that we can achieve, absolute certainty about the future is not possible. Nothing is 100% in medicine or in oncology. The best you can do is try to live a healthy lifestyle, spend time with those you love, do the things that bring you joy, and make the most of your life. It is important to understand the facts and possibilities, but it is equally important to try to think positively and to surround oneself with a strong support network. This will be a journey, but we are here for you along the way.
I enjoy spending time with my wife and two children, reflective journaling, traveling, wildlife and landscape photography, outdoor activities such as nature walks or hiking, skiing, biking, and camping. I also love grilling outside (BBQ) with friends, Iowa Hawkeye football, and recreational golf.
Prior to my medical training, I obtained my undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Iowa. I then completed graduate education that led to a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree with a focus in Health Policy and Administration. Following receipt of my MPH, I worked for two years as a Research Associate for the University of Iowa, College of Public Health focusing on Public Health Programming and Health Services Research for local-, state-, and federally-funded public health programs. I also spent two summers conducting research internationally in Eastern Europe (Romania). I maintain a strong interest in global and public health today.
I enjoyed my work in Public Health, but missed the individual interactions with patients. I attended medical school at Des Moines University (DMU), College of Osteopathic Medicine. As a medical student, I kept a broader perspective on health care and served in several leadership roles at the local and national level including as Class President and as a Legislative Representative on the national student council. I was very fortunate to have experienced several research opportunities as a medical student including time spent at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, a Health Policy internship in Washington, D.C., and a global health medical rotation in Uganda (Africa).
After leaving Iowa, I moved several times for medical training including to Columbus, Ohio (Doctors Hospital) for clinical clerkships and then near Flint, Michigan for my Internal Medicine residency (Genesys Regional Medical Center). Sub-specialty fellowship training took me and my family to Long Island, New York (Nassau University Medical Center and SUNY-Stony Brook University Hospital). Although living and training in New York had its appeal, I am very happy to be settling back in the Midwest closer to family and friends.
I live in Hermantown, MN with my wife and two children. I have greatly enjoyed my time in northern Minnesota so far and look forward to exploring the many outdoor experiences the state has to offer. I am excited to have joined the oncology team at St. Luke’s in Duluth and look forward to providing cancer care for the surrounding community.
1. Ashorobi, D. & Fernandez, R.J. (2019): “Asplenia” StatPearls Review Series. PubMed ID#30844198. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30844198
2. Ashorobi, D. & Fernandez, R.J. (2019): “Thrombosis” StatPearls Review Series. PubMed ID#30860701. Available online at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30860701
3. Fernandez, R.J. & Shaw, Y. (2013): “Global aging, local solutions: Maryland physicians as the agents of change” Maryland Medicine 14(1): 15-16. ISSN# 15382656
4. Wallis, A.B., Fernandez, R., et. al. (2012): “Validation of a Romanian scale to detect antenatal depression” The Central European Journal of Medicine 7(2): 216-223. ISSN# 18951058
5. Fernandez, R.J. (2012): “Viewpoint: D.O.s offer benefits, not buzzwords,” The DMU Magazine (print & online). Des Moines University: www.dmu.edu/magazine/summer-2012/dos-offer-benefits-not-buzzwords/
6. Fernandez, R.J. (2010): “Big picture.” Abaton 4: 103-106. Literary journal in medical humanities (print & online). Des Moines University: www.dmu.edu/abaton
7. Fernandez, R.J. (2005): “Barriers to combating infectious disease globally: a look at dengue fever” International Journal of Global Health & Health Disparities (Spring/Summer). ISSN# 15564428
Media Presence and Local News Links
1. Duluth News Tribune - Cancer Patients Offer Important Life Lessons