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My Days at ‘The Clinic’

In 1994 I called the Anderson Valley Health Center from a phone connected to a Redwood tree stump. I was in the third year of clearing land, milling wood, and building our house. I was put through to Terry, the executive director. I asked her if I could rent a room in what I would call “The Clinic.” I was not sure she had any idea of what a Chiropractor did. She said I would have to talk to Mark. I thought I was talking to the person who could make this decision, and, I had no idea who Mark was.

I kept calling this very busy person for about a week. He was either with patients in Boonville, or working in the emergency room in Ukiah. I finally got through and realized I was talking to Dr. Mark Apfel, who I would later see as the most dedicated MD in my life. Mark asked me a few questions to make sure I was not some snake-oil-peddling-preacher from Marin County and welcomed me to the Clinic.

I had quit my practice in San Rafael and thought I better find out if I could make a living as a Chiropractor in Boonville. My wife Rachel, also a Chiropractor, decided to give it a try in Mendocino. She got so busy in a month in Mendocino I had to start helping her with the overflow. I started slow in Boonville and yada, yada ,yada… here I am 23 years later.

I am now saying goodbye to the clinic.

I remember the faces on my first day. Mark, Terry, Peggy, Maria, Jack, Isabel, Judy. I remember their compassionate care that always over-shadowed the worry of money and federal funding. I remember being proud to work in a building with what I called the Dream Team of Local Health Care: 1. Dr. Mark, who is a combination of Dedication, Compassion, and Knowledge , 2. Nurse Judy Nelson, who healed people simply with her smile and presence. I set my own hours as I was not an employee of the clinic. I remember Mark working on charts after everyone left, then sometimes driving his old red Volvo to make a house call or two on his way home. I remember my sales pitch. “I’m inexpensive and it’s a long way to Ukiah for an adjustment.” “Give it a try.” I remember the first call for my first Patient at The Clinic: Kathleen Kephart.

I remember the sad passing of Terry and the hiring of the new director Judith Dolan. Overall, this was the most dramatic change in the clinic while I was there. Peggy left as Judith hired new staff and built the new clinic. It was the end of the conservative economics of Director Terry and the start of the “begging” for grants and federal funding. It was the borrowing of money and the building of a new structure. It was the hiring of new positions to support the new clinic. Anjes came and left. In with ObamaCare, welcome Mitzi. It was the hiring of three people to do what Maria seemed to do by herself in “the good old days.” It was the new era of dental with Phan Taph, Paula and Kathy. It was so busy during construction, I ended up sharing a trailer with Director Judith in the parking lot. And lucky for the clinic —Fabiola was hired. Oh, my, the life of the assistant director Favi. Assistant to who?

In three short years-Judith, Dave, Diane, Lucresia, Shannon, Susan, and Chloe. Really? Any problems? Ask Fabi. That’s what I always did. Judy Nelson retires. Could Nurse Judy ever be replaced?

In all this newness emerged Cindy and Carolina. From my standpoint “the saviors” of the clinic as I knew and loved it. Carolina, who helped me for the sake of helping, I will miss you dearly, and Cindy who filled the void that Peggy left in patient care. Cindy was the one in ten professional who moved to the Anderson Valley and stayed.

Then all hell broke loose. The rumors of corporate takeover rallied the old hippies. The clinic was being run by three “out of towners”? Would Mark be pushed out? Would Cindy quit? Did Logan quit? Who is this Shannon, anyway? It was time for a community uprising. They met at the Grange. Diane Paget made her last speech there where she spoke for me. Letters were written. The AVA printed them. Facebook had its say. Phone calls were made. Board members did their best to assure the Clinic would survive.

When it was all said and done, Mark and his patient care standards were here to stay. New nurses I barely got to know took over for Judy Nelson. Stephanie, Roger, and Michelle, real nurses, real caring. Chloe, a new “almost local” (Mendocino High School graduate) was hired as director. (Fabi finally had a boss who may stay awhile.) Chloe seems to be establishing herself as what the clinic needs in this changing world of public medicine. I wish her all the best.

It’s a small town. As I’m writing this, Cindy, the Nurse Practioner, pulls into my driveway to drop off her daughter to do art with my wife. We discuss the newest drama at the Clinic. Yup, Logan is really leaving this time. We both feel this too will pass. The next “Mark” will come naturally, as the first one did. My eyes water as I tell her of this writing.

For those who keep asking: Is this retirement for you? Yes, except for my three Chiropractic days on the Mendocino Coast (937-1165), my home office days (895-2006), my year round high school basketball coaching, my farming and maintaining of our 10 acres, my part time property management, and most importantly, time with my family.

Thank you Anderson Valley for those wonderful years at the Clinic. (Thank you Bert and Lauren for being there when I was hungry.)

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