Meet Our Chief Residents
As a Valley Children’s pediatric resident, you become very close to the program’s chief residents, as they serve as clinicians, educators and liaisons between the program and the residents. Chief residents have insight into what the residency program and workload is like because they’ve just completed it themselves.
Who are our chief residents this year? Let’s get to know Dr. Dan Merriott and Dr. Cristina Vargas by asking them a few questions.
To start, let’s simply talk about who you both are: where are you from, where did you go to medical school and what inspired you to become a physician?
Dr. Merriott: I’m from San Jose, California and went to medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. My pronouns are he/him/his, and I became a doctor because I wanted to apply scientific principles on a daily basis to heal those who are ill.
Dr. Vargas: I was born and raised in Stockton, California. I went to UC Berkeley for college and UC Irvine for medical school. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. I was inspired by seeing the lack of doctors that looked like me as a young child, so I always knew I wanted to be a role model to future generations of doctors underrepresented in medicine.
What stood out about Valley Children’s and what brought you here?
Dr. Merriott: I wanted the best training possible. Valley Children's main hospital is a large, free-standing children’s hospital that serves an enormous catchment area. It was also clear from my interview day that leadership was committed to training us to become leaders of interprofessional medical teams.
Dr. Vargas: It is such a heartwarming hospital, dedicated to children, and I wanted to come closer to home and serve my Central Valley community.
What do you love most about working at Valley Children’s?
Dr. Merriott: The diverse patient population we serve! Also, the patient volume and case variety is exceptional, compared to other hospitals in the area - when hospitals in the community need specialist care, they send their patients to us, because they know we have the resources to provide exceptional care for the most complex children in the Central Valley. I also love how committed the hospital is to fostering an environment that will help a child thrive as much as possible during an acute illness. Some examples of this are our back lawn with a built-in play area, child life team, playroom and the fact that we have credentialed school teachers available to make sure children receive a high-quality education when they’re away from their normal educational environment.
Dr. Vargas: The people! Everyone I have ever interacted with is so happy here. The attendings are dedicated to resident educations. And the patients are so amazing and kind!
How would you describe the environment of the residency program?
Dr. Merriott: Supportive, rigorous, collaborative and family-oriented.
Dr. Vargas: It’s like a family away from home - we care about each other’s success and are always there to pick each other up when there are struggles.
What should someone know about the Central Valley if they’ve never been?
Dr. Merriott: There’s no denying that summers are HOT, but other than those few months of the year, the weather really is very nice. From outdoor sports, to fine dining, to artistic events, the area does have a lot to offer. This area is home to some of the highest achieving public school systems in the state, as well.
Dr. Vargas: It is a diverse community with lots to do and see, especially if you love the outdoors.
What personally gets you through the long work days?
Dr. Merriott: I am energized by knowing that my job is truly a privilege - it is an honor to be able to come to work and promote children's health.
Dr. Vargas: Knowing that my support system and lifelong friends that I made in residency are a phone call or text message away! Also going to explore the national parks, swimming at local lakes and traveling.
Lastly, a tough one: would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
Dr. Merriott: I would give anything to fly.
Dr. Vargas: Definitely fly, so I can go visit lots of countries and be home in time for dinner!