Living in a rural paradise doesn’t necessarily mean having to sacrifice access to skilled doctors and timely medical care. As proof, the staff at Buellton Medical Center has been delivering comprehensive services to Santa Ynez Valley residents and visitors for more than a decade.
Founded in 1997 by local physician Dr. Wolfgang Hallauer, Buellton Medical Center handles everything from Family Practice/Primary Care examinations to Workers Compensation cases to DMV physicals at a modern complex just west of Avenue of the Flags.
“It’s a hometown, family-type of clinic and our goal is to provide health care for the community,” says Myra Howard, a Family Nurse Practitioner at the center who has worked in the Valley for ten years.
“We see everyone and anyone: from children to seniors, the well-to-do and the uninsured. We see the whole gamut.”
Recently, Myra and her husband, general contractor Larry Cochran, bought Buellton Medical Center, intending to expand its services and raise its profile within the community.
“One reason Dr. Hallauer said I was okay,” Myra laughs, “was because he knew I wasn’t going to change the philosophy of the clinic.
“My husband believes in what we do, too,” she adds, “and works behind the scenes, keeping things fixed and upgraded.”
The Center’s staff members all speak Spanish, though Myra admits that because her command of the language is less than perfect, she always has an interpreter on hand. They also take pride in getting patients in to see a health care provider within a day or two, and contrary to customary practice at most other offices, they even welcome walk-ins.
“Our patients aren’t at the beck and call of the medical facility,” Myra explains. “We’re independent and we’re here for them. We would never put anyone off for one to two weeks.”
Buellton Medical Center has seven professionals on staff, including family practice physicians, nurse practitioners, an internist, a psychologist and a women’s health specialist. Myra recently added a licensed aesthetician/massage therapist, who offers European-style medical spa treatments.
Born and raised in the Santa Ynez Valley, Dr. Van Valin II, MD, is a family practice physician whose father, a general surgeon, helped to build the local hospital by rounding up donations of land and money. Dr. William Van Valin joined the Buellton Medical Center staff five years ago, after stints at the former Country Medical Clinic, in Solvang, and as an emergency room supervisor at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
“I see walk-ins and regular patients,” he says, “people staying at the RV center or driving through town. I see all the emergency stuff and I do suturing and minor surgery.
“The staff here at the center is probably the best I’ve ever worked with,” he continues. “Everyone here is so easy to get along with, it’s very comfortable.
The center’s internist, Dr. Jennifer Kissinger, whom Myra describes as “a powerhouse doc,” performs double duty as a board-certified general practitioner and pediatrician. Dr. Hallauer comes in two days a week to render dermatological services, and Jeanette Sackett helps keep patients feeling fit with therapeutic massage, aromatherapy and cleansing facials.
Virginia Moreno, a marriage and family therapist, offers psychological counseling, while nurse practitioners Myra Howard and Paula Bagalio provide family practice and women’s health care.
“We have a rather eclectic clinic,” Myra smiles. “We’re not a big medical mill, so we don’t have to see a patient every 15 minutes. We offer quality care, and there’s always time for the patient to ask the doctor another question.”
To accommodate input from patients, the center’s website features a link inviting them to submit questions, comments and suggestions via email. “I love to hear from people,” Myra declares. “Let us know what you need and if something needs to be fixed, I’ll fix it.“
In response to requests, Myra began opening the center for morning appointments on the first Saturday of every month. If the extra hours are well received, she plans to extend them.
“I really believe in what we’re doing here,” Myra says. “I love what I do and I’m thrilled that we can provide these services to the community.”
Photos By Connie Cody.