Page 6 interview with dr ron risley


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Page 6 interview with dr ron risley

  1. 1. conducted by Gail Erlandson, MA.I visited Sacramento Medical Oasis, Inc. to interview Dr . Ron Risley on a hot afternoon in late July. The Oasis is aptly named. Thereare bright greens and blues in the comfortably furnished waiting room. The sound of the water from the fountains relaxes you as youwait. Art surrounds you. Sensitive touches also include books for children. The Oasis is the dream of Dr. Risley and several othersinterested in making a big step toward improving mental health services. Ron Risley is the first graduate of UC Davis’ acclaimedcombined residency training program in family medicine and psychiatry. There are many accolades for Ron, but perhaps the mostsignificant are those I’ve heard from his patients. Laura: “Dr. Risley has made psychiatric care available to me. I had been stable with the County and that was why I was eliminated. I went cold turkey off of 250 mg. of Effexor. I could have died. I became hard-core depressed. I get what I need from Dr. Risley.” Robert: “Dr. Risley has been a lifesaver to me. I haven’t had any medical insurance for about 7 years. In 2001, when I was working, 160 lbs came down on my head from a distance of 20 feet. I suffer from chronic pain and multiple injuries. Dr. Risley is the first doctor that actually listened to me and examined me thoroughly. He is helping me with the problems I have. He is awesome.” Nora: “Dr. Risley is a special doctor that listens to my concerns and helps me develop a plan of treatment that we mutually agree on. I feel empowered working with him. He is very understanding because he has lived experience.” Carlo: “He’s a doctor I can trust.”Gail: Who are the people who significantly influenced you in your life?Risley: The first person that comes to mind is my godfather. He was an inventor and was really interested in science andtechnology. When I was barely old enough to read, he bought me a subscription to Scientific American magazine. I would lookat the pictures and I would kind of read what it said without really understanding much. It set the stage for some of my in-terests. He had a garage just full of junk which I always called Joyland. Then growing up I lived across the street from a guyby the name of Bob Herman who designed the first commercial minicomputer. He would give me computer parts and I wouldfiddle with them. Eventually I became an engineer. I did a lot of computer design stuff.Gail: That’s incredible, and now you are a medical doctor, how did you transition?Risley: I really loved the computer stuff, but I got more into the esoteric stuff like cryptography. It is not a field where youcan spend a lot of time talking with other people. So it is kind of a closed world. I ran a consulting firm and spent a lot of timewith machines. I started feeling like I wanted to work more with people. I really wanted to directly affect people’s lives. Ithought that I could be a farmer or a doctor and the farming sounded like a lot of hard, dangerous work.The really interesting part is that I was sitting in a pizza parlor with a girlfriend and she said, “You know you really seem likeyou want to make a change.” I said , “Well, what I would like to do is go to medical school, but I can’t do that!” and, as I saidit, even before she said, “Why not?”, I said, “Why not?” So I did my whole undergraduate program over again. I went to SanDiego City College. Then I transferred to UCSD and got a degree in literature and writing. I read all the stuff that saidonce you get into medical school all you will be doing is science. I found that in doctoring my communication training is morevaluable than organic chemistry. Knowing how to communicate with patients and other doctors has served me well.I had this vision of medicine as sitting down with someone and talking about what was bothering them, and then coming up witha plan for dealing with it. Instead, I found medical school was a world where you are constantly pressured to see people and tofocus on what medicine you are going to give them. The only people who were actually sitting down talking to their patientswere psychiatrists. I really had my focus on primary care medicine. It was what I wanted to do, but I saw that psychiatry wasmuch closer to my vision.Gail: How did the Sacramento Medical Oasis come into being?Risley: This place came into being about this time last year when we all thought we would be out of work. We were wonderingwhere patients were going to go. We thought it would be nice if people on disability income could afford care. We looked intowhether we could accept Medi-Cal, could we get insurance money, could we get grants, was there a way to fund this new con-cept? What we found was that the minute you buy into that insurance system, the costs pretty much triple. There is billing,collections, and a whole bunch of regulatory agencies you have to keep happy. You don’t have to deal with all of that if youdon’t take insurance money. What we came up with, after a lot of number crunching, was that we could see people for $79.00 Continued on page 7