About three years ago, Stefanie Smith and her family, including her husband and two children, and her mother and step-father, decided to transition their medical care to UCLA Health when their work-sponsored health insurance changed. Luckily, a new office had recently opened near their Santa Clarita homes.
After doing some online research, Smith, 41, who works for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, made an appointment for her annual physical with Dr. Colin Robinson, who is board certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics. After that first meeting, she liked him so much that she also selected him as the primary care physician her children, Emilee and Derrek, now 14 and 12, and her husband, Michael “Randy” Smith, 48.
“Where I really noticed the difference with Dr. Robinson is that he’s never rushed, and always spends time with us,” says Smith. “He checks all the boxes and then some.”
When the Santa Clarita office started offering extended hours—until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 1 p.m. on Saturdays—Smith says UCLA’s presence in the community became especially advantageous. “We used to drive down to the Westfield Topanga office in Woodland Hills,” Stefanie says. “But now can schedule a same-day appointment and stay close to home.”
That convenience combined with Dr. Robinson’s availability and his role as a patient advocate and leader of their health care team, has been especially important for Stefanie’s mom, Debra Samarini, 64, and her mom’s husband, Hossein, 70, whom are also Dr. Robinson’s patients. Both have a long list of health conditions that require Dr. Robinson to coordinate their care with specialists, including a cardiologist, urologist, neurologist, pulmonologist and sleep medicine physician, among others.
“In this sort of practice, we have to be comfortable with whatever comes our way—from high blood pressure to heart failure,” Dr. Robinson says. “I consider this office a one stop shop for patients.”
That means that when one of his patients needs to see a specialist, Dr. Robinson considers who is nearby. “We almost have a mini medical center up here in Santa Clarita,” he says, “and that’s been very intentional.”
For instance, when Hossein, who has had nine heart attacks, needed a new cardiologist, Dr. Robinson referred him to Dr. David Choand made a personal introduction. Now, Hossein can go to his regular appointments close to home, and if has a problem that can’t be handled in the local office, skip the ambulance ride down to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and head to nearby Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where UCLA Health hospitalists and cardiologists can access his medical records and provide his care.
“We tend to think about medicine as happening in the ivory towers where research specialists and disease specialists exist,” Dr. Robinson says. “But most of what happens in someone’s life happens in their community, near their home. They’re not going to use medical care if they can’t get to it.”
Outside of convenience, the benefit of an entire family seeing the same physician is mostly social, and comes down to strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. Dr. Robinson says that with more frequent contact, he is able to build trust and understand the multi-generational family dynamics that are “a big part of our health and our life.” It also keeps the entire family “plugged in” to their medical home, even if there’s not a whole lot going on.
“This extra time allows me to go beyond lab results and imaging studies,” Dr. Robinson says, “and to cover topics I wouldn’t normally have time to broach in a 15 minute appointment.”
With this regular contact over the years, Debra says Dr. Robinson and the larger care team in Santa Clarita has become an important part of their “great and close knit community.”
When she noticed Dr. Robinson’s penchant for colorful socks a couple of years back, she decided to buy him a new pair before Christmas. That first year, they had a carpenter and tools on them, she says, and said “Mr. Fix-It.” This year they had a pattern made up of coffee thermoses.
“When I went to see him the other day,” Debra says, with a laugh, “he was wearing them.”
This story is part of The Checkup, a UCLA Health community newsletter on how to live your healthiest life.
Tags: cardiology, Healthy Living, Internal Medicine, patient story, Patient Story, pediatrics, Primary Care, primary care, Santa Clarita, The Checkup, UCLA Health Santa Clarita, Uncategorized, urgent care