MCHC Health Centers is pleased to announce the arrival of Dr. Matthew Swain as the new chief medical officer. Dr. Swain, who began his new role in November, oversees MCHC’s clinical practices, including mental, dental, and behavioral health. In addition to being a member of the executive team, Dr. Swain continues to see patients, as is the case for all clinical leaders at MCHC.
Dr. Swain comes to Mendocino County from Alaska, where he spent the last two and a half years practicing family medicine on the Kenai Peninsula in the small coastal town of Homer. Prior to that, Dr. Swain spent three years as the chief of primary care for Alaska’s Veterans Administration Healthcare System, where his duties included clinical and administrative supervision of 30 providers spread across six clinics. Before moving to Alaska, Dr. Swain, a veteran of both the Navy and Marines, practiced medicine and held a number of leadership roles at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
While he is accustomed to small-town living, he admits that Northern California and Southern Alaska are very different–and that by comparison, Ukiah feels pretty big. “In Alaska, it sometimes seemed like we had just as many moose as people,” Dr. Swain said. “I think the most we ever had in our yard at one time was six.” Then he asked, “Do you know why the stores in Homer don’t have automatic sliding doors? Because they don’t want the moose walking in. I’m not kidding.”
Although he speaks highly of his time in Alaska, he explained that he and his wife, a nurse leader, were ready for a new adventure, and after a nationwide search, they chose MCHC. In addition to the small-town atmosphere and beautiful natural setting, Dr. Swain chose the area because the MCHC team was so dedicated to its mission of providing the highest quality healthcare for everyone in the community.
“When I first visited, everyone was smiling, engaged, and clearly invested in their jobs; people weren’t just punching timecards,” he said. He was also drawn in by MCHC’s team-based approach to care. “Team-based care means having a small group of dedicated providers and support staff who know you and your health history,” Dr. Swain explained.
As a family physician, he has always held a holistic view of wellness, one that integrates a person’s physical and emotional health, so the way MCHC’s structure encourages collaboration was another good fit for Dr. Swain. “Being able to walk down the hall and consult with providers across different disciplines is so much better than reading notes and going back and forth over the phone. Multiple perspectives improve care. No one person has all the answers all the time,” he said.
To be a good physician and leader, Dr. Swain’s philosophy is that you have to be genuinely interested in patients and what is going on with them—even outside of medicine. A lot of factors affect health, and lab tests rarely tell the whole story. Mood, family, and work all play a role, too.
Dr. Swain explained, “You have to be willing to get into all the little details, because the little details are often what make the difference between living a healthy, comfortable life or not. When a patient knows you care about what they care about, they’re a lot more likely to work with you to maximize their quality of life.”
As a leader, Dr. Swain says he is responsible for clearing obstacles and providing support to employees. “It’s my responsibility to take care of everyone who takes care of patients, whether they’re providers or the staff who support, whether they are answering phones or cleaning treatment rooms,” he explained.
MCHC CEO Rod Grainger said, “It is not often you find a leader that fits so well into your existing team. With his leadership philosophies, his skills and experience, as well as his personality, Matt is winning over the team and already having a positive influence on the culture of our organization. His personal mission aligns with our mission for both our employees and our patients. I am thrilled to have him on board.”
Regardless of what he is doing at any given moment, Dr. Swain says his ultimate focus is providing excellent, value-based healthcare to the local community. Sometimes that means treating patients directly; other times that means caring for the providers who care for the patients so they are free to do their jobs.
“MCHC employees are mission-driven and committed to meeting the emerging needs of patients in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an honor to be the chief medical officer here and I look forward to helping providers and staff grow and succeed every single day,” he said.
MCHC Health Centers includes Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. It is a community-based and patient-directed organization that provides comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare.