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Bringing Back the Old School: The Rise of the Small Town Doctor

Dr. Patrick Yassini from Peak Health Group is the quintessential small-town doctor. He’s so small-town, in fact, that he’s been known to make house calls on his bike. (And that’s just how he likes it.)

“I grew up in a small-town in West Virginia, and it’s one of the things that I really missed when I first came to California,” says Dr. Yassini. “It seemed like everybody drove into their garages and stayed behind the walls of their home until they left for work the next morning.”

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That all changed when he moved to Coronado during his residency at U.C. San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. He took over the lease for an apartment over a garage on Olive.

“When I moved to Coronado, I was like ‘wow, this is what I remember.’ People know their neighbors and they talk over the fence. I just love it. I had to figure out a way to stay,” says Dr. Yassini.

When he completed family medicine residency in 2000, Dr. Yassini says he was fortunate enough to know Dr. Kerley, Dr. Mushovic, and Dr. Warm, the “original” small town doctors.

“They were staples in this community for many, many years and they knew everybody,” says Dr. Yassini. “They were delivering babies; they were doing surgeries; they took care of generations of families.”

This way of practicing medicine was familiar to Dr. Yassini, as his own father was a family doctor. In fact, he grew up in an apartment upstairs from his father’s practice.

“I remember as a kid, people would knock on my door in the middle of the night, and my dad would run downstairs,” says Dr. Yassini. “He would do whatever the patient needed…from stitching up a laceration to delivering a baby.”

Dr. Yassini says that, like his father, the Coronado doctors he worked with knew their patients and loved them like they were family. The doctors took care of their patients when they had to go to the hospital, even meeting them in the emergency room if there was a problem.

That’s when everything began to change.

“This transition happened by the time I was finishing up my residency,” said Dr. Yassini. “The entire feel and practice of medicine began to change dramatically. Doctors were now answering more to the third party payers, and not as much to their patients.”

This led to abbreviated visits, poor access to care, unnecessary emergency room visits, over-diagnosing, and the performing of many unnecessary procedures, according to Dr. Yassini. Furthermore, the relationship between the patient and their primary doctor eroded to the point that patient satisfaction and quality of care was plummeting–and many patients had to begin advocating for themselves.

“I realized that this was not what I went to medical school for,” says Dr. Yassini. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives, not just put band-aids on them, refer them to a specialist, and collect insurance payments.”

In addition, Dr. Yassini was learning about alternative medicine as he grew increasingly hesitant to prescribe drugs to long-time patients.

“I’m starting to realize, gosh, I don’t want to put you on this drug, because I know the side effects, and I know how it’s going to impact your life,” says Dr. Yassini.  “So I started looking for alternatives to help them, beyond what was taught in medical school.”

He began study with Scripps Integrative Medicine, where he learned about holistic medicine. This changed the entire way he practiced.

“For some patients, the answer may still be giving them a drug, or giving them a diagnosis,” says Dr. Yassini. “I’m still Board-certified in family medicine, I still prescribe, I still take care of my patients when they need to use Western medicine. But there is a whole new toolbox right here, and many of these alternative treatments have been around way longer than Western medicine. They’ve withstood the test of time, and they work.”

That’s when he knew he had to create his own practice, one that looked at healthcare a little differently.

The welcoming courtyard entry to Peak Health Group at 131 Orange Ave.

In 2015 Dr. Yassini created Peak Health Group—with offices at 131 Orange Avenue, Ste 100—to do just that. Instead of answering to insurance companies, Peak utilizes a direct patient relationship model. Many patients will join the practice with an annual membership fee, or otherwise patients pay reasonable fees for services. Dr. Yassini can spend as long as necessary for visits, plus offer more holistic and integrative treatment options independent of payer restrictions. He is under no pressure to recommend the payer-preferred drug, specialist, or procedures over other available options.

“So now it’s like the old days again,” says Dr. Yassini. “I can take care of you, I’m accountable for you. I’m not dependent on health insurance. Because of my business model, I can have your best interests in mind with every recommendation and decision. I can spend as much time as I need to with you, and I don’t care if I get paid or not whether or not I prescribe something or report the right code.”

Dr. Yassini says this type of practice started out being called “concierge,” but it has really morphed into a direct-pay model. He calls it simply “good medicine.”

He says one of his goals is to minimize his patient’s interface with different providers that don’t know them, or their health history.

“If you step on a piece of glass, even if it’s after hours, I will meet you here, we will open the door, and we will get the glass out,” says Dr. Yassini. “We don’t want you taking the chances of going to the emergency room, getting exposed to resistant organisms there since you have an open wound, sitting around for hours, getting an x-ray you may not need, next thing you know you’re in an operating room, you’re getting an I.V. and antibiotics, you’re in the hospital overnight, and you’ve got a wound with a stitch in it. Sometimes less is more.”

In addition to offering primary care services and holistic and integrated treatments, Peak Health Group offers a slew of other services to help improve the quality of your life.

“I ask people, are you feeling the way you want to feel? Are you functioning the way you want to function? Are you looking the way you want to look? Where do you turn for that, because today’s healthcare system isn’t going to help you much with that,” says Dr. Yassini. “But we can.”

He says that most people aren’t able to get treated until they cross the line into sickness. Sometimes they just want a little more energy, or they want to sleep better, or they want a better memory.

To help with improvements in lifestyle, Peak offers things like micro-nutrient testing to detect vitamin deficiencies, I.V. bags, neurofeedback, acupuncture, hormone therapy, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatments, and spa/anti-aging treatments like Botox, facials and the like. Patients with memberships can access all these services for a discount, but they are also available to non-subscribers for the regular price. Peak knows that locals can be hesitant to leave the island, so they offer as many of these services as possible.

“People don’t have to put up with living sub-optimal lives,” says Dr. Yassini. “There are alternatives. My goal is to empower people to take more of an active role in their health and live their life at the fullest. That’s why I built this practice, and that’s why I practice this way.”

When Dr. Yassini isn’t busy helping patients, he’s watching his daughter perform a CoSA musical, hanging out at the Mexican Village, or dancing Argentine tango.

You can learn more about Dr. Yassini’s practice at PeakHealth Group.com, or attend one his free lectures at the Coronado Library.

 

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Christine Van Tuylhttp://islandgirlblog.com/
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com
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