'I can help you' changes everything for one patient
Maricella Toledo couldn’t speak when she first met physician Stephany Sanchez.
Overwhelmed by recent transitions, including the loss of a long-term job and move to a new city, her health changed. She had managed a seizure disorder most of her life, but these symptoms were different: headaches, no appetite, all-over pain and constant worry.
“I was hardly ever ill,” she said, “so wasn’t sure what to do.”
An internet search for a community clinic led her to the Sacramento County Primary Care Center in Oak Park and to Sanchez.
“During my first appointment, all I could do was cry,” Toledo recalled. “Dr. Sanchez asked questions, listened and said, ‘I can help you.’”
Sanchez has been her doctor ever since and, Toledo said, “she’s the best doctor I’ve ever had.”
Making a difference in patients’ lives
Thank-you notes from patients and colleagues cover the bulletin board in Sanchez’s office at the clinic, where she has worked since 2011. Originally from Mexico, she was raised in the border town of El Paso, Texas. That’s where she first learned that the kind and quality of health care someone has access to can make huge differences in health outcomes. While in elementary school, she decided to become a doctor.
After graduating from Stanford University and medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern, Sanchez chose UC Davis Health for general internal medicine residency training because of its reputation for providing care in urban, underserved settings.
Professor Craig Keenan, director of that residency program, said Sanchez was the perfect candidate.
“Our holistic selection approach puts community experience and humanistic perspective on par with grades and test scores,” Keenan said. “The Sacramento region and our patients are very diverse, and it’s essential for our physicians to be culturally respectful and understanding of the multiple factors that can affect health.”
After residency, Sanchez chose to make UC Davis Health and the county clinic her career.
“This has always been my plan,” Sanchez said. “I was drawn to this work. There is huge satisfaction in working where you can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Expanding access to quality care
UC Davis Health providers like Sanchez comprise the majority of the clinic’s medical team, where patients often are recent immigrants, refugees, homeless or like Toledo, looking for a convenient place for comprehensive care.
Clinic services include primary care for adults and children, mental health services, infectious disease screening and chronic disease management. The university and county recently expanded services to include specialty care such as women’s health, rheumatology, sports medicine, cardiology, nephrology and neurology.
“We are continuously finding ways to break down barriers to care and adding specialty services onsite is a huge part of that,” Sanchez said.
She recently achieved another career goal when she was selected as associate program director of the UC Davis internal medicine residency program. That means she will be guiding the work of doctors-in-training like she once was.
“It’s the best of both worlds to be able to have an impact on the lives of great patients and the careers of great doctors,” Sanchez said.
More information about general internal medicine at UC Davis Health is online.
More information about the County of Sacramento Primary Care Center, including how to schedule an appointment, is on the county's website.