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Five Questions with emergency physician Jon Patane

Jon Patane, an emergency room physician at Kaiser South Sacramento, has spent much of the last several months treating COVID-19 patients. (Photo courtesy Jon Patane)

The past few months for Jon Patane ’11 (Biochemistry) have, in his words, “definitely been interesting.”

Patane is an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser’s South Sacramento Medical Center, historically dealing with everyone from patients experiencing stroke and heart attack to mothers delivering babies in the parking lot.

Lately, though, one thing dominates his job.

“I'd say probably 50% to 75% of my patients are COVID-positive,” Patane said. “I spend a lot of my day walking back and forth to the protective equipment cart.”

Despite the difficulties, Patane remains upbeat, happy that he and his wife, a pharmacist, both have jobs, and that he can spend time with his kids and the family’s new border collie. He also says he still enjoys a job where he walks in the door never knowing what to expect that day.

Patane is a South San Francisco native who moved to Sacramento to attend Sac State. He earned his medical degree at UC Irvine, before returning to the capital region to begin his practice.

Below, he talks about his time at Sacramento State and his current work.

Made at Sac State: I know this has been an incredibly difficult year for you so far. How are you doing?

Jon Patane: It’s definitely been interesting. That’s an easy way to sum it up. Obviously, we’ve had our peaks of difficulty and our times that were a little bit less difficult. But there’s been just a few different struggles throughout the course of the year. As far as the protective equipment goes, for a while there were some issues with figuring out exactly what type of equipment was sufficient to properly protect us, and then obviously dealing with COVID patients in general. There was the mental portion of that where there’s a little bit of anxiety, taking care of some of those patients when this first started. We didn’t know too much about it. That’s dissipated away, but it’s also just been hard as far as impaction in our hospitals, our hospitals being full. Not just our hospital, but hospitals everywhere. It’s been difficult to kind of do the things that you want to do with your patients with the limitations that we have been having to deal with.

MASS: Why did you decide to attend Sac State?

Jon Patane at Commencement
Jon Patane graduated from Sac State in 2011 with a degree in Biochemistry before attending medical school at UC Irvine. (Photo courtesy Jon Patane)

JP: I looked at a few different schools leaving high school. My older sister was at Sac State, and so there was some familiarity. I had toured a couple different places. When I toured Sac State – it was actually the last one I toured – everybody just seemed so much more friendly. My sister walked us through the science building just to show us around, and I ended up running into the Chemistry department chair. I didn’t know that’s who it was, and just told her I was interested in going to school there. She gave me a personal tour and was just super friendly and took all this time out of her day just to show some random kid around. At the end, she told me she was a department chair, after giving us all this tour. I was like, oh, well, I’ll be a Chemistry major. It was just the sense of friendliness. Everybody seemed so happy on the campus compared to the other places, so for me it just seemed like it was going to be a better fit for my personality.

MASS: When did you know that you wanted to be a doctor?

JP: I went into college thinking that I’d be interested in it. I went in as a Chemistry major with a focus in Biochemistry, but that way I would have stuff to fall back on in case I didn’t want to go into medicine at the end of it. I’d say probably about my junior year is when I started getting a lot more serious about it. I did some volunteering while I was an undergrad. I did a surgical internship at UC Davis for an entire summer, and then I volunteered in the cardiology department at Davis for about a year and a half or so as an undergrad, just to make sure that that’s really what I wanted to go into.

MASS: What’s an average day look like right now?

JP: We do 10- or 11-hour shifts, so an average day would be me getting to work, getting ready to get on the computer, get everything signed in, and then essentially getting new patients for about eight or nine hours. Every day it kind of depends on what kind of patients come in. We’re on a patient assignment system, so some of it, in a way, is luck of the draw. There are usually five or six of us on at a time; it rotates between each doctor. I’m seeing patients for about eight hours. Especially in these last couple of weeks, I’d say probably 50% to 75% of my patients are COVID-positive, so that’s obviously a big thing. I spend a lot of my day walking back and forth to the protective equipment cart to get my visors and all that. Towards the end, it’s basically finishing up notes, getting everybody admitted, talking to my consultants, things like that. After work, just going home and trying to, you know, decompress. Hanging out with the kids, getting ready for bed, trying to get some sleep.

MASS: How do you feel Sac State prepared you to be a doctor?

JP: It was great. My class sizes were so much smaller than (classes attended by) all my colleagues. I went to UC Irvine for my med school. When I started there were, I think, 104 of us in my class. Out of the 104 people, only four of us came from a CSU. The other hundred were either from private schools or the UC system. I had so much smaller class sizes than these people who took basic Chemistry with, like, 700 people in the auditorium. I got much more individualized attention. I had a lot more research opportunity than if I would have been in a bigger, huge university. I think the individualized attention I got gave me the ability to learn the material a lot better. I felt like I was prepared great.

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales became a permanent member of the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and content editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. What appeals to Jonathan? Local beer and Bay Area sports teams.