Earlier this month Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC) welcomed family practice physician Dr. Steven Wirth to its medical staff. After six years of private practice Dr. Wirth is happy to return to an employment situation where he can focus on what he likes best: the compassion and science of practicing medicine.
He explains that he never intended to go into private practice. “I came to Ukiah sixteen years ago with the California Medical Foundation. By the time that group folded, my family was established here so I went into private practice,” he said. While he enjoys being a doctor, he says he can do without the business side of it.
As a family practitioner, Dr. Wirth cares for people of all ages, and has some families for whom he sees everyone from the grandparents to the grandchildren. He works with each patient to treat his or her individual medical and developmental needs. With young adults, for example, he makes sure they have appropriate vaccinations and he discusses risky behaviors they should avoid. Sometimes he takes his recommendations a step further and encourages teens to take care of each other.
He gave an example of a conversation he sometimes has during high school sports physicals. “Athletes can have a lot going for them, so I tell them to look out for their classmates. I try to use humor and say something like, ‘If there’s someone who bugs you all the time and they suddenly stop, you should see if they’re okay. Say, ‘Hey, seems like you haven’t been yourself lately, do you need help?’’ They usually laugh,” he said, “But it gets the point across.”
With adult patients, Dr. Wirth encourages people to take care of themselves, even when it is inconvenient or financially difficult. He recommends adults get an annual physical, and see their doctor at least twice a year if they suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension or asthma. “Moms get busy taking care of everyone else, and they don’t take care of themselves…and sometimes that Y-chromosome makes guys fall into the ‘show no weakness’ mode, and they don’t get the care they need.”
While his compassion is clear, he compares himself to Dr. Spock from the popular TV and movie character in Star Trek. Dr. Wirth may not show a lot of emotion, but clearly feels deeply about his profession and his patients.
Dr. Wirth attended medical school at Loma Linda University, and completed his internship and residency at Florida Hospital in Orlando. He is married with two children. His wife is a pilot who owns Pacific Air Taxi, a local air charter company. His 20-year-old son attends UC San Diego and his 16-year-old daughter attends a boarding school in Monterrey, where she gets to foster her love of horses. Outside of work, Dr. Wirth enjoys gardening, skiing, and creative writing, among other hobbies.