Dr. Michael Omlid has accepted the position of medical director and attending geriatrician at Mission Terrace, making it the only rehabilitation and convalescent hospital in Santa Barbara to have a full-time on-staff physician.
This is significant not only for prospective patients but also for their doctors, many of whom welcome not having to be away from their own practices in order to treat patients who move to convalescent homes for rehabilitation.
Dr. Omlid began seeing patients at Mission Terrace when he started at the then-Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic in 1995, which merged with Sansum Clinic in 1998. He was the head of the Skilled Nursing Facilities Department at Sansum Clinic until moving his practice to Mission Terrace this summer.
Dr. Omlid graduated from the USC Medical School in 1990, completed a three-year internal medicine residency at Cottage Hospital in 1993 and followed with a two-year fellowship in geriatric medicine at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.
“When I started there [Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic], they hired me as a geriatrician but they put me in their internal medicine department and scheduled me with younger adult patients," he said. "But they also gave me the older, more complicated patients because they knew that that was what I wanted to do.”
After six months, Dr. Omlid grew restless and volunteered to follow other primary-care doctor’s patients to the convalescent homes, which was a win-win situation for everyone.
“I started teaching the residents at Cottage Hospital and it became a rotation for the internal medicine residents to do geriatrics with me,” he said.
By 2000, Dr. Omlid was working completely outside the clinic at the various skilled nursing facilities throughout Santa Barbara while still based at Sansum.
For Dr. Omlid, his move to Mission Terrace is pivotal in terms of his personal goals as a doctor because it gives him the opportunity to manage his patients’ care much more optimally.
“I can be completely available to my patients and their families full-time so that their care can be a lot more physician driven," he said. "I can really be involved and know what’s going on, which was harder to do when I had to be in too many different places. It’s just better care to give patients that availability and consistency.
“Part of being a geriatrician is being comfortable working as part of a team. We talk about medicine being multi-disciplinary but geriatrics is really more inter-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary and that’s working together. I really like interacting with nurses and social services and physical, occupational and speech therapists and dieticians. Mission Terrace is a place that works together as a team really well. The level of communication is excellent, so I was always confident that my patients would get really good care here.”
Contrary to the common misconception about convalescent hospitals, the vast majority of patients who come to Mission Terrace rehabilitate from their injury or illness.
“My goal is to help my patients get better and let them go home,” Omlid said.
But biology is just one part of the picture, even though it’s the predominant focus of internal medicine. In geriatric medicine, the doctor must intimately examine the interplay of the biological, the psychological and the social spheres.
“You really have to pay attention to the person’s social support systems and the person’s psychological status because if any one of these spheres falls apart, the person can’t live independently,” Omlid said. “And for those people who aren’t able to get better and go home, I value being able to accompany them through that part of their life, too.”
Looking ahead, Dr. Omlid does recognize the value he is adding to Mission Terrace’s services in terms of medical care. There is a clear benefit in that he will be on hand to assess situations as they arise, reduce the incidence of unnecessary E.R. visits due to a change in condition, be more available to his patients and their families and be able to look in on Mission Terrace residents as needed throughout the day.
However, the good doctor is quick to acknowledge that it is a team effort at Mission Terrace.
“The rehabilitation and wound care are outstanding," Omlid said. "The dietary program is both therapeutic and really good food. The nurses are extremely caring and very highly skilled and there is considerable value placed on the hard work that the CNAs [Certified Nursing Assistants] do. They are the primary caregivers and I think everybody recognizes that they’re the heart and soul of Mission Terrace.”
At Mission Terrace, the nurses don’t need to go very far to speak with the doctor if he’s needed. And the Sansum patients who come to Mission Terrace will continue to get the quality care they have come to expect from Dr. Omlid.
“Now I’m going to be able to do an even better job taking care of Sansum and private patients alike, being full-time at one location," he said. "And personally, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to put all my focus where I have always felt it should be — on my patients.”
— Sarah Scott is a publicist representing Mission Terrace.