Third medical doctor joins Coastal Health Alliance staff

04/10/2019

Pennsylvania native Steven Aussenberg, the newest family doctor at the Coastal Health Alliance, came West to work as a volunteer for the Marin Conservation Corps 15 years ago. One medical degree and a baby later, he was ready to make West Marin his home. “I’m not immune to the stresses of everyday life, and medical training is pretty challenging and demanding,” he said. “I really wanted, with my new family, to live in a place that allowed me to have access to the natural world and a smaller community that we could be a part of. This was the first permanent position I applied for.” Dr. Aussenberg, who finished his residency at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health last year after graduating from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, works on Mondays, Wednesdays and some Saturdays at the Point Reyes Station clinic, and on Tuesdays and Fridays in Bolinas. He says his approach is patient-centered. “I really want to collaborate,” he said. “The old days of doctors saying, ‘You have this disease and so take this medicine’—those are out the door.” Though he has no formal training in integrative medicine and alternative approaches—except for a stint at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson—that’s where his interest lies. “Doing something that allows you to de-stress is key. So many chronic or acute illnesses can be attributed to increased levels of stress or anxiety in our day-to-day lives,” he said. As a Seahaven resident, he appreciates living near his work, and though he admits he hasn’t had much time since his 10-month-old was born, he said he looks forward to biking in West Marin, one of his favorite ways to unwind. “What’s really attractive to me is the diversity of patients in this location, where I see we are providing a needed service not only to tourists but also to the community,” he said. “Now that I live here, I understand the challenge of going over the hill.” Dr. Aussenberg’s position had been vacant for a year, and completes the alliance’s three-doctor staff. C.E.O. Steve Siegel has in the past said it has been difficult to find medical staff willing to live in coastal Marin, given its limited resources, rural location and steep housing market. Another factor that makes hiring difficult is the reporting requirements associated with working for a federally qualified health center—part of his consideration to merge with a larger organization, the Petaluma Health Center, likely by the end of the year. But for Dr. Aussenberg, the federal qualification is actually a benefit: working for a federally qualified health center in an underserved community allows him to apply for relief from medical school loans. State and federal programs could forgive up to half of his loans, he said.