ORLANDO - When he was growing up in Puerto Rico, Hector Ramirez was fascinated with fish. He had four fish tanks in his home. His favorite recreational pastime was fishing. And when he left the island to attend Boston University, his plan was to become a marine biologist.
“It was the thing I liked to do, but it was difficult,” said Ramirez, who said he soon realized the profession also would be limiting, intellectually and financially. “I asked myself ‘I enjoy science, but what am I going to do?’”
Ultimately, Ramirez decided he would follow in the footsteps of his father, Lucas Ramirez, MD. “He’s a work-alcoholic,” said Ramirez, and “with dad being a solo practitioner, we went through all the stages of his career, including when we were not doing that well and we lived in a very small house” with his younger brother and sister. Ramirez said he saw his dad, an OB/GYN, “living through all the sacrifices to achieve his career goals, sacrificing family for the well-being of his patients at all times made me realize the importance of the medical profession.”
But once his father’s practice “settled in,” Ramirez said, he got a taste of a different life. “My father would say to us ‘I’m not going to leave you any money when I die, but I’m going to show you the world now.’” Ramirez remembered. “We traveled and went to the best restaurants.” At some point in college, Ramirez said “I realized I’m not going to be able to afford all that I like to do as a marine biologist.”
So, he returned to Puerto Rico and told his dad “I want to go to medical school, but I do not want to be an OB/GYN. I want to be a general surgeon.” However, while at the Ponce School of Medicine, Ramirez changed his mind. “I saw some surgeries I did not like and I said ‘I can’t do this.’ Then I said I wanted to be a psychiatrist,” he said.
But, in time, he deduced that being an OB/GYN could feed his interest in both those specialties. “I liked surgery and psychiatry, and you use a lot of both” as an OB/GYN, he said. “It’s a good mix. You talk to patients, hear their concerns, you help them out and you see a change,” whether it is in the operating room or following the stages of their pregnancies in his office. “I like having a problem to solve. … I love the progression. It is very dynamic,” Ramirez said.
After medical school, Ramirez accepted an offer in 2005 to complete the OB/GYN Residency Program at what is now Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando. He was one of six in that class, and he fell in love with one of them. Atlanta native Tullie Ramirez, MD, and he married in 2007, and completed their residencies in 2009. That is when their attending physician, Terrence Peppy, MD, offered them jobs.
“I spent a lot of time teaching both of them. A lot of residents stick out … the very, very skilled physicians, we offer positions,” said Peppy, who is chairman of the Department of OB/GYN with Physician Associates, which is part of the resident faculty at Winnie Palmer. “But despite me trying to hire them, they moved to Puerto Rico,” said Peppy.
“We moved there because that’s where I am from and because of my dad,” said Ramirez. “It was always my intention to return and practice with him. But that was before we knew my wife would be moving back with me, and it would not be just me and my dad. We were there for 5 years,” he said.
“But once we had our daughters (Claudia is 4 now and Gabriella is 1) things started changing. I was so busy I was never at home, I was always on call, the medical reimbursements were much lower than in the states, and there were big problems with crime and unemployment. We factored everything in and decided to come back to Orlando” in 2014, said Ramirez. That opportunity was facilitated by Peppy. Ramirez now practices in the Physician Associates office in Ocoee, and Tullie is an OB/GYN nocturnist at Winnie Palmer. “Peppy has been a key factor in my career,” said Ramirez.
“They’re both wonderful people. Very good doctors, skilled surgically and clinically,” said Peppy. “To have all those components in a married couple is rare.”
Ramirez is not one to shy away from taking risks. When he was in Puerto Rico, with his father’s help, he delivered both his children (and harvested and banked their cord blood; a practice he strongly endorses). He also performed a hysterectomy on his mother. “Some of my friends said that took real guts,” he laughed.
Ramirez has another, and arguably less perilous, method of getting his adrenalin surging. “I love cars and I like to drive fast. I go with friends and we rent a track. We’ve done it in Vegas and here, too. We’ve rented Ferraris and Lamborghinis a couple of times,” said Ramirez, who also owns a couple of pretty serious sports cars: A BMW 1 Series M and a Porsche 911 GTS.
Ramirez stays in shape with CrossFit training workouts at 5:30 a.m. three or four times a week.
But what he really likes to do, still, is go fishing, whether it’s for a large-mouth bass in the lake near his home in Windermere, or teasing a trout while fly-fishing in a Wyoming stream. “I love it,” he said.