Best Doctors, Best Practices
Five of the East Bay’s Top Docs Talk Shop
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the nation’s top-ranked physicians, yet it can still be challenging to find a doctor who takes your individual health plan or is accepting new patients. For families who are new to the area or individuals who may be seeking a specialist, Avvo (www.avvo.com), a Seattle-based company that rates medical professionals, compiled this list of 269 local physicians.
Avvo rates all doctors on a 10-point scale, factoring in peer endorsements as well as experience, education, training, research and awards in its proprietary algorithm. These ratings are regularly refreshed based on new information from doctors themselves as well as from certifying and licensing boards. The physicians profiled here were selected from a list of local doctors and represent the top 5 percent of practitioners in their field, based on the Avvo rating.
While no list can include every outstanding physician, we hope this guide offers a starting point for readers who want to choose a doctor to meet their specific medical needs.
Warren Strudwick, M.D.
Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
Bay Area Orthopaedic and Sports Specialists, Emeryville
Strudwick, a Washington, D.C.-native, comes from a medical family. His father was a surgeon, his mother was a pediatrician and his paternal grandfather was also a doctor. Strudwick attended Brown University in Providence, R.I., followed by medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He completed a fellowship in reconstructive knee surgery and sports medicine at the University of Lyon in France following his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Stanford Medical Center. He also holds a master’s in business administration from Stanford University. Strudwick has been a team physician for the Oakland Raiders since 1996, served as the team physician for the U.S. Track & Field team at the 1996 Olympics and is the father of a 23-year-old son and a 19-year-old stepdaughter. An avid swimmer, Strudwick, 56, lives in the East Bay with his partner, Lisa, and their 4½-month-old son.
With both of your parents being physicians, did you always know that you would become a doctor?
No, my parents never pushed me to follow a career in medicine. They did emphasize hard work and community involvement. I was raised in a middle-class family and had my first job at the age of 12. As I grew older, I enjoyed hearing about how my grandfather, William Strudwick, was a pioneer in the medical field. He was the son of freed slaves who went on to attend medical school in 1907 and became one of North Carolina’s first African-American physicians. I have his board certification on the wall of my office, as well as the first signboard, or shingle, he hung outside his medical offices.
You’re the team doctor for the Raiders—what does that entail? Have you always been a football fan?
Growing up in Washington, D.C., I was a Redskins fan as a child, but I’ve developed a respect and emotional attachment to the Raiders. As a team physician, I attend every game and we see a wide variety of injuries. I may refer a complex hand injury to a hand surgeon or a concussion to a neurologist. I treat a myriad of player injuries; most commonly, I deal with knee injuries (ACL and MCL tears), shoulder injuries and sprains.
What kinds of cases do you see in your practice?
I treat patients who have injuries and diseases of the knees, shoulder and back, and I see both athletes and patients who have been injured on the job or who have conditions such as arthritis. My ultimate goal is to try and help my patients live a healthy, good-quality, pain-free life.
How has your field changed since you first started practicing medicine?
When I was finishing medical school, sports medicine wasn’t a big specialty area. Today, it’s huge, and sports injuries that were once considered career-ending are now becoming less and less threatening. Arthroscopic surgery has been one of the biggest advances in the last century, allowing doctors to use scopes specifically for the examination of joints. The use of the arthroscope in joint surgery was a major revelation that spurred many new instruments and techniques to be developed and has made it possible to do minimally-invasive surgery on shoulder, knee and hip joints. This decreases surgical time, risk of complications such as bleeding and infection for the patient and also allows patients to return to their level of activity more quickly.
You also do a lot of community service work. Tell us more about that.
For the past six years, my BOSS Foundation has held the shortest triathlon in the world—a 100-yard swim, 2.5 mile bike, 2.5 mile run—all through the streets of Emeryville. Proceeds from the event benefit health and fitness programs in the Emeryville Unified School District. I’m also president of the Sinkler Miller Medical Association, an organization of more than 300 African-American physicians that support the medical education of African-American students. As a group, we have given over $700,000 in scholarships.
Eunice Lau, M.D.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center
A native of Hong Kong, Lau relocated to the United States with her family when she was a teen. After earning her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Lau moved to California and attended medical school at Stanford University. She completed her physical medicine and rehabilitation residency and subsequent fellowship training in interventional spine medicine at Stanford and has been employed with Kaiser Permanente since 2003. Lau, 41, lives in the South Bay with her husband and young daughter, and enjoys trying out new restaurants and spending time with friends and family.
When did you decide to pursue medicine as a career, and how did you choose physical medicine and rehab as a specialty?
I discovered my interest in science during high school and decided to pursue a medical career when I was an undergraduate student. During my undergraduate and medical school years, I was involved in several neurological science research projects at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health. This led to my interest in neurology and musculoskeletal care, and I chose physical medicine and rehabilitation as a specialty to manage and treat conditions or disability from neurological diseases and musculoskeletal conditions. My job as a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician (physiatrist) focuses on developing a comprehensive program to improve patients’ function after injury or disease and to work with my surgical colleagues when surgery is needed. Within the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, I have specific interest in nonsurgical spine care.
What’s a typical day like in your job?
I see patients ranging in age from young adults to seniors who are experiencing spine and other musculoskeletal pain after either sustaining an injury or the normal degenerative process. While some conditions can be addressed via a one-time consultation and recommendations, others may need more follow-up. I also partner with primary care providers by providing long-term chronic management recommendations.
How has your field changed since you first started practicing medicine?
In the last 10 years, I’ve seen the introduction of electronic medical records and the capability to offer secure email exchanges with patients. This allows me to follow up with patients after consultations or after injection procedures, via telephone or email, which can be more convenient for some patients. Patients can also email me if they have questions about their treatment.
With the aging baby boomer population, do you anticipate seeing more patients with specific conditions?
I anticipate seeing more patients who have spine and musculoskeletal pain due to the normal wear and tear (arthritic or degenerative) process among aging baby boomers. While no one can avoid having arthritis, they can strive to maintain an active lifestyle, and to not put excessive strain on their spine and joints.
What do you find most rewarding and also most challenging about your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I see a patient experiencing improvement of pain or function in spite of their underlying chronic neurological or musculoskeletal condition. On the other hand, it’s hard to see a patient with a disease or musculoskeletal condition that’s chronic and I have no definitive long-term cure to offer to them.
Michael Linn, M.D.
Bayside Medical Group, Oakland and Pinole
Linn was a biology major at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and returned to his native Illinois to attend medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Linn, 43, lives in Berkeley with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9, and enjoys swimming, camping and traveling with his family whenever possible.
What inspired you to become a pediatrician?
My childhood pediatrician left quite an impression on me. He didn’t retire until he was 94, and in his 70 years of practice, he perfected the art of pediatrics while caring for patients, including my brother and I and several cousins. I admired his knowledge, his calm and his smile.
How would you describe a typical day in your job?
My day usually begins at the hospital where I see brand-new babies at Alta Bates in Berkeley or sick kids at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Next I head to the office where we do drop-in time (parents are invited to show up without calling). I might treat a rash that just appeared on a child, an earache that disrupted the child’s sleep or something more serious like an asthma attack. The rest of my day is set up for scheduled appointments, and this includes school physicals, well-baby checks and usually a few surprises. Recently, a colleague called me in to an exam room to see a 3-year-old who had unusual bruising on the soles of her feet. The color was odd, but the family didn’t think it could be ink. I decided to use some rubbing alcohol on the child’s feet, and fortunately the purple spots came right off.
What do you like best about your job?
Pediatrics is full of rewards, and helping new families through the first three months is particularly sweet. Examining the ears of a 2-year-old without any fuss is always a good feeling, and the medical students I work with find this skill particularly impressive. One of my last students began calling me “the baby whisperer,” referring to a trick I learned many years ago, where I look for birdies in a child’s ear and give a little whistle.
How has your field changed over the years?
Small pediatric groups were far more common when I first started practicing medicine, but sadly they seem to be slowly disappearing. One of the things I love about my job at Bayside Medical Group is that each of our offices retains that small-group feeling, even though our practice is quite large. The large scope of our practice brings tremendous diversity, and I get to work with people from all corners of the globe. I learn a little more Spanish every day, and I continue my quest to hear every possible cure for hiccups. My favorite is from Mexico where a small red thread is moistened with saliva and applied to the child’s forehead.
What is your best piece of advice to families who are reading this article?
Our family was recently involved in a car accident, so my best advice is to always wear seatbelts and make sure your car seats are installed properly. Of all the little things we worry about as parents—runny noses, coughs— it is important to remember that driving around the neighborhood is really the riskiest thing we do.
Mehra Hosseini, M.D.
Northern California Gastroenterology Consultants
Offices in Berkeley, Brentwood and Walnut Creek
A Bay Area native, Hosseini graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with honors in biology and psychology. He went on to attend medical school at New York Medical College and the University of California, Davis, where he completed his residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology. Hosseini, 45, lives in San Ramon with his wife and two children, ages 10 and 13. In his free time, he enjoys attending his childrens’ soccer and cheerleading events.
Why did you choose a career in medicine?
I knew at a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. My father is a retired cardiac surgeon, and I was always amazed to hear about the surgeries he performed and how his work seemed to make a huge difference in his patients’ lives. I chose gastroenterology as a specialty, because it allows me to use cognitive decision-making to diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses, while also performing a variety of specialized diagnostic procedures to investigate disease.
How has the field of gastroenterology changed since you first started practicing medicine?
I think the most important development in my field is colon cancer awareness and the importance of colonoscopy as a screening tool. Many patients are realizing the importance of beginning to get colonoscopies at the recommended age of 50 and at regular intervals until age 75. In addition, the medicines we use are more targeted towards disease and hit at the core of the problem. This is especially true with inflammatory bowel disease and hepatitis.
Describe a typical day in your job.
I usually wake up at 5:45 a.m. and am out the door by 6:30 a.m. I’m the managing partner in our medical group, so I begin the day dealing with any business issues and then see my first patient at 7:30 a.m. I spend approximately half my time seeing patients in the office and the other half performing endoscopies. Any spare time I have is spent reviewing labs, imaging, pathology reports and calling patients with their results.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s very gratifying to see my patients improve clinically and feel better, whether they are suffering from simple acid reflux or complicated inflammatory bowel disease. A smiling patient is always the best reward.
What is the best piece of medical advice that you can offer to our readers?
I would encourage readers to get their colonoscopy, beginning at the age of 50, or earlier if you have a history of colon cancer. The test itself only takes about half an hour, it’s not painful and patients can be given medicine to help them relax. Colonoscopies are one of the most powerful tools for preventing colon cancer and as well as detecting it early, when it’s easier to treat. I guarantee that readers will feel better about taking care of themselves.
Natalie Cvijanovich, M.D.
Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Cvijanovich, born in New Jersey, moved to North Carolina as a teen and attended medical school at Duke University in Durham. She then completed two years of general surgery residency at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, before changing career paths to pediatrics. Cvijanovich completed her residency and chief residency at Primary Children’s Medical Center, the pediatric specialty teaching hospital of the University of Utah School of Medicine. She also completed fellowship training in pediatric critical care at Primary Children’s. Cvijanovich lives in Oakland with her 15-year-old son and enjoys hiking and rock-climbing at the gym.
You’ve participated in several medical missions with Operation Smile. Can you tell us more about your work abroad?
I’ve been on five missions with Operation Smile, traveling to locations including Paraguay and Cambodia. The work is pretty intense—my job is to screen prospective patients to ensure their health is good enough to undergo surgery for facial deformities including cleft lips and cleft palates. We usually spend 10 days in the country and can see anywhere between 100 to 300 cases each day. In addition to caring for the patients, many of whom have traveled long distances to receive surgery, there’s a lot of mutual learning that goes on with the in-country physicians. They are very good at conducting comprehensive exams without the technology that we have access to in the United States.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
It’s very rewarding to have a child who comes into the hospital suffering from an injury or illness that puts them at death’s door and being able to turn that situation around. It’s a huge gift to be a part of that experience and to see the child walk out of the hospital with a smile on their face.
You’re also involved in research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, or CHORI. Can you describe some of your recent work?
I recently completed a study, sponsored by [CHORI], that looked at giving critically ill children zinc oxide through IVs. It was part of a multicenter random trial that I worked on with Dr. Heidi Flori, another pediatrician here at Children’s, and our colleague at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Hector Wong. Through our work we found that critically ill kids have abnormally low zinc levels, which in some ways isn’t surprising if the zinc is going into the cells. We wanted to see if there was an association with zinc levels and how sick kids were, if giving kids zinc supplements via IV would help and what a safe and effective dose would be.
Are you working on any other projects?
Yes. Dr. Flori and I are working on a visual interface that can be used as a telemedicine transport application. When a transport medical team is sent out to a remote location now, they call us and describe the patient’s condition (vital signs, breathing fast, etc), but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and it would assist the treatment process if we could visually see the patient. We’re pretty close to completing the application and hope to have it ready by the end of the year. It’s very exciting, and we think it could have far-reaching applications.
How has your field changed over the years?
We’re seeing more children who are technology-dependent and rely on using ventilators or respirators at home. These are kids who wouldn’t have survived 20 years ago. Thanks to seat belts, car seats and helmet laws, we’re seeing fewer kids who have sustained serious injuries in accidents.