James A. Ruffer, MD
Many people with dreams in life—like becoming a doctor— sometimes find that things don’t go quite as planned. You get sidetracked. In Jim’s case, he got sidetracked by the Vietnam war. Just as he was finishing his undergraduate education at San Diego State University and getting ready to go to medical school, he decided to answer the call of his country instead. It was 1966, the U.S. needed pilots, and Jim was up for the challenge. Next thing he knew, he was receiving his Naval Aviator’s “Wings of Gold” and flying with “The Black Sheep,” one of the most famous aircraft squadrons in history. Needless to say, his plans for a medical career were put on hold. It wasn’t until five years, two squadron assignments, 92 missions, and four Air Medals later that he was finally able to recommit to becoming a physician. But with his original path significantly altered, he realized that he needed to waste no time getting back on track. So he chose a serious, no-nonsense option. He came to UAG. He buckled down. And he became a doctor. When it was time to return to the U.S. for his residency, he returned with a wife, Margarita, whom he’d met in Guadalajara. He re-entered the military as a Naval Lieutenant and became a Flight Surgeon. His medical career flourished, and it took him all over the world practicing surgery, pediatrics, and obstetrics. Internal medicine, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. Equipped with the medical training he received at UAG, Jim went on to earn accolades and commendations throughout his career—Including a Bronze Star for Heroism. And the Defense Meritorious Service Medal— twice. The Nevada community in which he lives honored him with their Community Partnership Award. And in 2014, the UAG School of Medicine named him “Father of the Class” and commencement speaker.