Traditional and Alternative Health Care
Sara Richey, M.D. is firm believer in tailoring medical treatment to individuals, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach.
That’s why she takes a lot more time seeing her patients. And that’s why she’s working at a new health center in town that dispenses what it calls “traditional medicine with complementary/alternative care in a truly nurturing environment.”
All of this is combined to make a person seeking medical attention happy that they came to the St. Moritz Medical Center in Grass Valley.
Richey, along with clinic owner Linda Foshagen, DO, decided they wanted an environment unlike any other. So they decorated the clinic in lovely colors, antiques, upholstered settees, recessed lighting, coffee tables (rather than magazine racks), and original artwork, giving more the feeling of a spa or salon.
And the exam rooms are all themed: African, Greek, Italian, for example. Not only does a patient have something interesting to look at, she also dresses in a sarong rather than one of those loathsome paper “gowns,” to prepare for an exam.
Richey says her love of the artist Monet caused her to have her office painted lavender. Such a pleasant environment tends to relax and soothe – just the frame of mind doctors like to have their patients in.
While 20 percent of the clinic’s patients are male, women’s health issues are the main focus, with menopause being Richey’s specialty.
“The main thing I do within menopause,” she says, “is work on an individual plan for each woman. Some women need hormones (bioidentical, that is), some don’t. Some may even need antidepressants. We usually start out first with exercise, diet, and herbs. We do a risk assessment too. It’s very comprehensive and may take several visits. Plus we re-evaluate once a year.”
Other modalities she calls upon are acupuncture, osteopath manipulation, massage, yoga, and psychotherapy, to name a few.
Calling her patients thoughtful people who are already tuned in to their bodies (eating right, for example) Richey says “we listen to their personal needs and opinions” – more of a team approach – and focus a lot on preventive care.
Besides weight control, another specialty the clinic does is travel medicine. If a patient should be planning a trip to Vietnam (a popular destination, says Richey), they come in for the vaccinations they’ll need, the medicines to take with them, advice on purifying water, etc. Richey accesses a special Web site of the Centers for Disease Control to get the latest daily bulletins on a country she’s researching.
Has she traveled much herself? No, because she hasn’t had the time to do it. Richey came later than most to medicine. She entered premed at the age of 27, did so well there that she entered medical school a year earlier, and graduated age 35 – all this with three children. While she started in obstetrics and gynecology, it quickly became evident to her that mixing such a demanding practice with raising her kids didn’t work, so she switched to family medicine, practicing in the Bay Area until 1995, when she moved up here.
Richey has a rich life when she’s not doctoring, winning ribbons at the fair for her jams and embroidery, making costumes for her grandkids (“Three, with two on the way”).
“A woman’s most productive career years,” she says, “come after
menopause. At 52 I’m just hitting my pace.”
Richey says that medicine has changed a lot over the years. “No longer is a doctor guaranteed wealth and respect. Doctors keep making less money and there’s a lot of negative feelings about doctors today…on top of which are the changes in insurance. If being an MD, DO, or even Physician’s Assistant is the only thing that will make you happy, then do it, but the stress, hard work, and lack of down time (even in the grocery market, people want to know the results of their lab tests) is tough.”
Yet, says Richey, “the joy of medicine is indescribable. I have moments of transcendence every day. I don’t know what else I’d be doing if not this.”
St. Moritz Medical Center, Inc., 300 Sierra College Dr., Suite 265, Grass Valley
Hours: Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., (530) 271-7070
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