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New ER doctor eases pain, anxiety

John HartDr. Jeff Van Tassell (left) and Dr. Randy Stark confer in the emergency room at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Friday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Slow is good at any emergency room.

But accidents happen, people get hurt, and on a recent Friday afternoon, they came in waves to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

Seven auto accidents occurred, four in less than 20 minutes.



“It was a pretty busy 20 minutes” for a small ER, said Randy Stark, the hospital’s newest emergency physician.

Fresh from a three-year residency at the University of California at Davis Trauma Center, Stark said he was accustomed to the pace that day.




“At UC Davis, you see everything and then some,” he said. “Here you get slices of that; you see the same things, but on a different scale.”

Stark’s journey to Sierra Nevada Memorial began in a round-a-bout way at the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in business.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 210 pounder went to Michigan on a football scholarship. He played linebacker for a Wolverine squad that went to three Rose Bowls.

After a short stint in business, Stark decided he was tired of wearing a suit and went back school to get his premed. Then Stark – who grew up near Cleveland – decided he was weary of living in the Midwest.

“I was waiting for the ‘El’ train (in Chicago) one morning, and it was 60 below. The train was an hour late – and that was enough,” Stark said.

Stark moved to sunny Southern California, finished up a couple of classes at the University of California at San Diego, then applied for med school at UC Davis. He was accepted in 1995.

So why did Stark choose to settle in rural Nevada County?

“The people that I’ve met and know here are genuine people, and the area allows me the outdoor activities I enjoy, like mountain biking and snow skiing,” Stark said.

“And everyone’s been great in the ER,” he added.

Stark admits, however, he was reluctant at first to move to a rural place.

“I was kind of worried that I’d run out of things to do here and didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to meet the type of people that I’m accustomed to meeting, but I was pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Stark trained at an exceptional trauma center and is a great asset to the Sierra Memorial emergency room department and the community, said emergency medicine specialist Jeff Van Tassell.

“He’s skillful at rapid assessment in treatment of emergency conditions,” Van Tassell said.

Stark said controlling pain as quickly as possible is the first order of business, then trying to ease the patient’s anxiety by telling him or her what’s going on and what to expect, early on.

“A lot of people are anxious because they don’t know what to expect,” he said.

While none of the victims in the flurry of car crashes were critically injured, Stark said auto fatalities – especially those caused by drunk drivers – are some of his most tragic cases.

“A lot of times they’re innocent, young, healthy people who are victims of drunk driving. I’d like you to put that in the story,” Stark said. “Working at Davis, I saw hundreds and hundreds of trauma patients, and probably greater than 60 percent of them had something to do with alcohol.”

Stark’s advice to high school students thinking about going to med school and getting into emergency medicine?

Other than the obvious – hitting the books – Stark said, “Volunteer in an emergency department and see what it’s all about to be an ER doctor.”


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