Local doc leaves OB practice, but won’t stop helping those in need
Editor: Dr. Jeoff Gordon will be retiring from serving Ocean Beach this week. His practice at the corner of Cable and Santa Monica has been a mainstay of the community’s medical practitioners for the past fifteen years. However, Dr. Gordon has been practicing medicine in the beach area for more than four decades. He helped open up San Diego’s very first free clinic over in Mission Beach in 1971 – along with People’s CEO Nancy Casady – and became its first medical director. The Free Clinic morphed into a non-profit, low-cost facility that lasted into the late 1980’s, called the Beach Area Community Clinic.
Dr. Gordon devised a plan and obtained a year’s funding to hire community outreach workers who would go door-to-door in the beach areas, including OB, performing medical screening tests – like blood pressure readings and screenings for iron-deficiencies. If residents were found to have medical problems, they were referred to the clinic. The OB Rag ran an earlier post about Gordon a little more than 3 years ago.
By Matthew Wood
After more than three decades with a local practice, Dr. Jeoff Gordon is getting back to his roots.
He is retiring and will be closing his Ocean Beach Medical Group on Friday, October 18, ending a run of more than 15 years in OB and more than 40 in the beach area.
“I want to live a little bit of life,” he said. “I’ve got two kids and a dog and a pile of books I want to read.”
But the good doctor is far from done helping people. He will work part-time a few days a week at the Family Health Centers, an offshoot of a group he helped organize in the 1970s. Back then, he would go door-to-door in neighborhoods to give basic medical tests to residents and refer them to low-cost clinics to receive treatment.
It will be a welcome change of scenery for the doctor, who will miss working in the neighborhood, but not all the bureaucracy that comes with running a private practice. “I’m burned out,” he said of the downward spiral he sees in the American health care system.
“I don’t mind fighting city hall, or the insurance companies. But this is a national condition. You don’t hear about the kindness and compassion from doctors anymore. Nothing is real.”
During our recent conversation, Gordon elaborated on a number of the ills of the medical profession that have made it such an inefficient operation, from the greed of insurance companies to a computerized Electronic Medical Record that’s “not ready for prime time” to a general lack of compassion for the people who need it most.
“It’s a consumer-oriented, market-based business,” he said. “It’s much harder to do the right thing.”
He told story after story about the system failing patients in dire need of help and a human hand.
Like an 80-year-old patient who had major kidney troubles who almost died numerous times. She was put into Hospice – a veritable death sentence – without Dr. Gordon’s knowledge, only to be refused service because she put herself back on dialysis. After Gordon examined her again, he found her “blood work was excitingly normal.”
But the next obstacle came when her insurance company wouldn’t approve her kidney medication, even though she has little chance of living without it. After spending an excruciating day getting the runaround, speaking to office after office that didn’t contain a single doctor, he finally got the medical director of her health plan on the line and got the medication approved. “Nobody fucks with me,” he said with a smile.
But you can tell instances like this have taken their toll on the doc. He said he can only deal with so many circumstances where patients couldn’t get help from their insurance or had to put off necessary procedures simply because they couldn’t pay their co-pay.
“(Insurance) is just sucking the blood money out of people.”
Not that Gordon won’t miss the hundreds of patients he sees in a typical week in OB, some of whom he’s known for years.
“In the course of the last couple of months, I’ve shaken the hands of a lot of people whose lives I’ve saved,” Gordon said. “But it wears me out. You really have to focus. It’s not physically demanding, but more emotionally and mentally. I don’t think I’ve had a pay raise in 5-7 years. Expenses keep going up, and you’re paying more attention to a computer than a person.”
There will always be a soft spot in his heart for the “diverse slice of life” in the neighborhood.
“I love OB, because it’s a community” he said. “The lilt and the energy here make life fun.”
Of course, if you think retirement will soften his sometimes harsh political and cultural views, think again. His left-leaning opinions will still be strong as ever. Such as his opinion of the overall health care system in America.
“It’s exploitative. It’s un-Christian. It’s immoral. We’re living in a banana republic.”
And the idea of a free-market system?
“If you have a debate with a libertarian, ask them what country has a Libertarian government,” he said. “They won’t be able to name one. It’s a figment of their imagination.”
Gordon is not a big fan of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, mostly because it doesn’t address the problem of insurance companies controlling health care.
“You can’t keep cutting the sickos out and keep the insurance (model),” he said. “Obamacare is based on the insurance model, which is inefficient for everyone.”
He also had harsh words for Sarah Palin, who he says did a great disservice to the plan by introducing the term “death panels” to the health care vernacular. “She turned it into a pile of dog poop.”
Will he take his new-found free time to perhaps make a run for political office? Not gonna happen. “That was a long time ago,” he says with a laugh. “I want to relax.”
So he’ll go back to what he loves: Helping people that need it most. Family Health Centers specializes in helping those who are uninsured or underinsured, an epidemic he sees more frequently than ever these days. The center’s 120 doctors and nurse practitioners serve more than 160,000 patients a year.
“It’s the finger in the dike that keeps America from having riots,” he said.
While he may talk down his role in society, his presence will no doubt be missed by the OB community.
“I don’t feel like I’m a saint or a missionary,” he said. “I’m not working in Africa. I’m in America, just doing what I can.”
Don’t sell yourself short, doc.