Sierra View Medical Center celebrates historical moment of inaugural graduate education program

Sierra View Medical Center (SVMC) proudly announces the graduation of its first class of internal medicine residents. This momentous occasion celebrated 13 doctors who completed their three-year residency program, marking a significant milestone in both their professional journeys and the hospital’s history.
The inaugural cohort of Sierra View Medical Center’s accredited, community-based Internal Medicine Residency Program began in July 2021. Since then, the program has welcomed three additional cohorts, including the newest group currently in the onboarding process.
Dr. Paul Watanakunakorn, Sierra View’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program Director, expressed his pride and excitement for the graduating residents. “I cannot understate how proud I am of our first graduating class,” Dr. Watanakunakorn stated. “They faced numerous challenges—coming to an institution without a history of graduate medical education, no senior residents to help supervise them, and starting their training in the middle of a pandemic. It is truly amazing how they have not only succeeded but thrived, laying the foundation for a successful residency program for years to come.”
Reflecting on the three-year journey, Dr. John Cabrera, one of SVMC’s Internal Medicine Chief Resident, shared an example of collaboration and support during the tribulations of the pandemic. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I struggled with managing critically ill patients and having difficult discussions with them and their loved ones,” said Dr. Cabrera. “With the help of the hospitalist and critical care staff, I was able to provide these patients and their families with the best care available.”
The Internal Medicine Residency Program at Sierra View Medical Center was established to address the growing need for trained physicians in the community. It provides residents with comprehensive training and hands-on experience in a supportive and educational environment, thanks to SVMC VP, Chief Nurse Executive, and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo, FACHE, who worked tirelessly to bring the program to Porterville. The program’s mission is to produce highly skilled and compassionate internists prepared to meet the healthcare needs of the diverse population they serve.
“This first graduating class will be noteworthy not just for helping build a residency program but for a significant number of them staying in the Central Valley to work as physicians,” added Dr. Watanakunakorn. “One of our main goals was to increase the number of physicians caring for the population in this area, and we are seeing the results of our efforts with this class.”
Dr. Cabrera also emphasized the support he received in navigating his career path, stating, “Being the first physician in my family, deciding what to do after residency and what career path to choose was daunting. With the help and advice of our core faculty and mentors like Dr. Chahal, I found a career I am passionate about and successfully pursued a fellowship.”
The graduation ceremony was a joyous event filled with pride and reflection on the accomplishments of the residents. It featured speeches from hospital leaders, including Dr. Harpreet Sandhu, President of the Medical Staff, and Dr. Bindusager Reddy, Chairman of the Sierra View Local Healthcare District Board of Directors, who praised the graduates for their dedication and contributions to the community. Associate Program Director Dr. Nashwan Obad, Porterville Mayor Martha Flores, and Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 5 representative, Israel Sotelo Jr. presented each of the resident physicians with certificates commemorating their completion of the SVMC Graduate Medical Education Resident Physician training.
The graduates are now poised to embark on the next phase of their medical careers, equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the field of internal medicine. The hospital looks forward to the continued growth and success of the residency program and the positive impact it will have on the community.
For those interested in viewing moments from the graduation ceremony, a full photo gallery is available on the 2024 GME Graduation Gallery page.  For more information about Sierra View Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Residency Program, please visit

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