Janet Cruz, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician in Philadelphia. She cares for patients at Drexel Family Medicine's University City location, and the Drexel Student Health Center. She has a clinical interest in women's health, sexual health, and adolescent and college medicine.
Before coming to Drexel, Dr. Cruz was a United States Air Force military physician and medical director for the 436th Medical Group at Dover Air Force Base. Prior to that, she spent three years as a staff family medicine physician for the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath Air Base in the United Kingdom. In addition to clinical responsibilities, she coordinated training programs for wartime contingencies, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response.
What made you want to become a doctor?
My parents are both farmers from Puerto Rico who came over to the United States. They don't have a lot of education, so I ended up being their translator every time we went to the physician's office or the lawyer's office. Then, I ended up being the translator for some of their friends, too. That's how I ended up getting introduced into medicine. It perked my interest. Then, I ended up getting accepted to medical school as a high school senior through a combined program, so that solidified it for me.
What was the combined program?
It's a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine program. In a combined program, you do your bachelor's followed by your medical degree. I did it with Montclair State University. Then I went to the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, which is now Rutgers Medical School.
You also served time in the military?
I did. The military was very generous in paying for my medical school. I ended up doing a military residency at Eglin Air Force Base. Then I served my time in England and in Delaware. When I left the military, I was a major. It was an incredible opportunity and I'm very proud to have served our country in that capacity.
Were you involved with humanitarian projects while in the military?
Absolutely. Part of that is inherent to military training. You do have to have knowledge, in terms of triaging, of how to set up a hospital out of nothing. I've always liked those sort of projects. I was a part of a humanitarian mission to Ecuador when I was a resident. We delivered care to patients who were in remote areas that didn't have access to care. Then, when I was stationed overseas, I got sent for additional trainings surrounding that, and it's something that I plan to use in the future. When Hurricane Maria happened, I ended up going to Puerto Rico and delivering some aid to individuals there. I didn't do it as part of any association—I just did it on my own. That's something that I hope to do more of in the future.
What was your experience delivering aid in Puerto Rico like?
It was difficult to see, especially when it hits home and it's your own family members who are affected by the disaster. My parents are from Ciales, which is in the middle of the island. They got hit really hard, and they're pretty remote, so we focused on delivering aid such as water filters and nonperishable foods. We also went around to different neighborhoods to explain how to treat the water. When there is no running water, you can have a number of illnesses that come forth.
With my military training, I learned how to prepare to go into areas where you don't have access to running water. You don't realize all of the things you need it for until you don't have it. For example, my parents are farmers. When you kill a chicken, de-pluck them and prepare the food, you need a reliable way to wash your hands. Or consider bathing yourself—where are you going to get the water? I think I took a lot of these things for granted until I was there.
Things still are not back to normal, but the electricity came back on at the end of February.
What sparked your interest specifically in family medicine?
I couldn't decide. I liked a little bit of everything. I had a lot of family physicians who really helped my family along the way when I was younger. We had insurance intermittently, so I really liked the more holistic or whole family approach of family medicine. Our family physician seemed to know the social aspects that we were dealing with and how to approach different issues with us. I wanted to return the favor when I got older and became a physician.
How long have you been at Drexel Medicine?
I started here in September 2017. I've been working at the University City office and at Student Health. I'm currently Interim Medical Director to Student Health.
Are you also teaching at Drexel University College of Medicine?
Yes. While I'm here, I'm serving as faculty for both the medical school and the residency program, which has been interesting. This is a new role for me. I've taught nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the military, and I've helped educate IDMTs, which are military medics.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
I have a very supportive husband who is also a faculty member at Drexel. He works in Sports Coaching Leadership for the education department. I also have two very feisty kids whom we love very much. That's another allure to family medicine. Not only do we take care of families, but we always take care of our own.