Dr. Winni Loesch began her medical career as a registered nurse in critical care, and enjoyed the direct, intense relationships that were required with each patient. But after six years, she wanted to be involved with patients over a longer period of time and in a wider spectrum of care. That’s why she decided to study for her medical degree and become a family practice physician.
Continuing and comprehensive care, together with the formation of long-term, trusting relationships are what help to define family practice, according to Debra Wagner, RN, director of physician recruitment and community outreach at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
“These doctors are at the core of the medical community,” she said. “They’re basically the first stop in medical care, providing ongoing treatment for a wide variety of health issues, and sending their patients to specialists as needed.”
The hospital will honor these providers along with all local providers on March 30 — National Doctors Day.
The holiday was established in the 1990s to acknowledge physician contributions to society and the community, and falls on March 30 each year.
Although many family-practice physicians share basic interests in lifelong care of families and individuals of all ages — they bring their own styles to their practices.
For example, Dr. Loesch has transformed hers into what she describes as a “concierge” medical model.
Her Amethyst Medical Group has a personalized and preventive focus, and is smaller than that of a traditional family practice physician.
“Nationally, most family practice doctors care for about 3,000 patients,” she said. “I used to have 2,800 patients before creating my current practice, where I now have about 400.”
Her patients pay a $1,500 annual fee as members of the group, and for that Dr. Loesch goes well beyond the diagnostic and treatment model allowed by insurance carriers. She said about 80 percent of her patients are covered by Medicare.
“My real focus is on prevention,” she explained. “We look at the whole person, weigh lifestyles, lab results, nutritional and other information and work with patients to help them make life changes that will actually alter their metabolism. I give them annual wellness examinations that last at least two hours, covering them from head to toe and helping them set up a program of what they need to do to balance their lives and stay healthy.”
She said she spends many hours of non-billable time on research for patients, and is available to them by cell phone any time of day or night. “Patients get seen today or tomorrow,” she said.
She loves that this approach allows her to spend more time with each patient.
“I still work hard, but I love what I do,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Burt, with Sierra Care Physicians, was also drawn to family medicine because he likes the one-on–one relationships it requires.
“I hoped to get to know and care for both individuals and families over an extended period of time,” he said. “The relationship that a primary care physician has with his or her patients is unique.” The best family care “includes a focus on preventive care and evidence-based practice,” he said.
Dr. Burt was studying engineering in college when he decided to look at other options.
“I wanted to do something where I could interact with people on a meaningful level and help them in a tangible way,” he explained. “Soon after I started volunteering at a hospital I made my decision.”
Like so many others, he chose a practice in Grass Valley/Nevada City because of its environment and sense of community.
“I grew up on California’s central coast in a community of similar size,” he said. “But I’ve always been drawn to the Sierras, so this community seemed a perfect fit.”
Dr. Todd Bouchier, with Dignity Health Medical Group Sierra Nevada, began professional life as a botanist, pursuing his love of natural science. Although his mother was a nurse, his love of reading led him to appreciate “the philosophy of reverence for life” of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the early 20th Century physician missionary who went to Africa. Schweitzer’s life inspired him to become a physician.
He chose family medicine, “because I’m a jack-of-all-trades and didn’t want to get locked into a specialty,” he said.
“I like the cradle to grave aspect of family practice, and I want to know more about the narrative of peoples’ lives and be able to interact and contribute. I just try to share my zeal for life, and get them to adhere to healthier lifestyle habits and help them achieve their own personal health.”
Dr. Bouchier is an avid fisherman, hiker, and “plant and fungus nerd” who loves sharing the local environment with his two sons and wife Danielle, who is a nurse.
“I’ve got firm roots here,” he said. “I plan to be here a long time.”
Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital wishes to thank all of the local physicians who provide exceptional care and services to our community.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.