San Francisco Care Center a Fine Fit for Its Neighborhood
By George Nevin
On the flank of San Francisco’s Potrero Hill, patients at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s care center at 350 Rhode Island Street have found a warm welcome and a home.
The location is easy to get to, with convenient parking and three bus lines within a block. Inside, the quarters are comfortable, modern and spacious.
And then there’s the human touch – in a neighborhood that previously was medically underserved, physicians, nurses and support personnel are genuinely happy to work here, and patients can feel it. Says one patient, “I love coming here!”
The care center, part of the Sutter Health network, has been on Rhode Island Street since November 2010. Previously a smaller care center, two miles away, served area patients. Internist Jerome Franz, M.D., worked in both locations, having come aboard at the former Cesar Chavez location in 1983. “We’re very happy to be here,” he says. “It’s a new larger office and we have attracted patients from around the community. This area appears to have been underserved in terms of local doctors.”
Another physician, family practitioner Elizabeth Ziemann, M.D., says with enthusiasm, “It’s a space built specifically for us. It’s really well designed, and we love it. There are a lot of surrounding businesses, and residents can walk here. Oh, and there’s parking! We are comfortable. The doctors are happy. The patients are happy.”
Serving the Local Neighborhood Community
The patient population is quite diverse, Dr. Ziemann says. “We serve a large Latino population who live in the nearby Mission District as well as attracting young professionals who work around the area. As a result, there is a lot of diversity at this new office.”
The diversity extends to foreign languages spoken by the care center physicians and staff – several of the physicians are fluent in Spanish, and two languages of the Philippines, Tagalog and Visayan, are spoken as well.
Administrative Supervisor Christina DeLeon says, “About 75 to 80 percent of our patients came along when the care center relocated to the Rhode Island location.”And the practice is thriving, she notes. “We are seeing more patients.”
She adds, “When you come in here, it is like a family. Everyone smiles and makes you feel comfortable. I couldn’t ask for a better staff.”
In addition to Drs. Franz and Ziemann, five other physicians practice at the care center: pediatricians Agnes Alikpala, M.D., and David Tejeda, M.D.; family practitioner Robert Vazquez, M.D.; dermatologist Christine Jacobson, M.D.; and internist Charles Delatore, M.D. Along with these doctors comes a very welcoming group, including three medical assistants, four clerical staff, one lab technician and the dermatologist’s LVN.
Up-to-Date, One-Stop Shop
Since July 2009, the care center has been affiliated with Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, a group of more than 240 physicians who offer primary, specialty and complex medical care in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Del Norte counties.
Dr. Ziemann calls the care center “a one-stop location” for care, and says, “We have an interesting mix of providers, and we’re trying to get more specialists in so people won’t have to go elsewhere for their appointments.”
Dr. Ziemann helped launch the care center’s electronic medical records project. She says, “Patients like that – they can set up an online account, and review their test results, and email us for appointments.” They also appreciate the modern medical equipment and that an on-site lab is available to draw blood.
Keep it Personal
Care center physicians embrace a personal approach to medicine that resonates with their patients. For instance, Dr. Franz rides his bicycle to work from his home in Noe Valley, and makes house calls – yes, on his bike – to shut-in patients. He bikes to the St. Luke’s campus of Sutter Pacific Medical Center, a Sutter Health affiliate, to visit hospitalized patients.
Dr. Ziemann also feels good about seeing her hospitalized patients at St. Luke’s: “Patients like it. It’s nice to see a familiar face when you are in the hospital.”
One patient, a woman in her 40s, best summed up the care center: “I’ve been with this office for such a long time. When they decided to move, it was not a hard adjustment for me at all. It is worth my drive from the East Bay. The staff and doctors are all so wonderful and accommodating.”
To find a neighborhood doctor and care center location near you, visit sutterpacific.org/appointment.