But by 1990, an era of change came to his country, “not so many of them nice.” By then, he had more relatives living in the U.S. than in Latvia, including his maternal uncle, who sponsored his immigration. “Every June 8, I celebrate Michael Ashnin Columbus Day,” he laughed. It’s like my second birthday.”
For five years, he worked at Loma Linda University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, finishing his residency for his U.S. medical degree. He then was a teaching attending physician at Loma Linda.
After a short stint in Bakersfield, a friend invited him to come see Lompoc Hospital, which at that time was at its former site on Hickory Street. He was not impressed by the exterior of the aging building, he admitted. But inside, it was the cleanest facility I had ever worked with,” he said. “It had the best nurses and outstanding surgeons doing stuff of university proportions. I never looked back.”
He remembers his first day visiting Lompoc, with children selling lemonade on street corners and charitable organizations selling barbecues all along H Street. The air was so crisp compared to Bakersfield, he added. “I had a feeling, ‘I’m coming home,’” Dr. Ashnin said. “I love the people I work with. When I had a difficult time personally, they helped me through it. We are a family.”
He chose anesthesiology after working in an intensive care unit when he was a registered nurse. “There is a very strict discipline in the operating room,” he said. “Everything about the OR is different. It makes more sense. There is a clear chain of command.”