Family physician recognition goes to doctor from family of physicians

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It's a family matter, medically speaking.

Dr. C. Brian Sonderegger of Carson City, whose family tradition is practicing medicine, was named Northern Nevada Family Physician of the Year for 2012 by the Nevada Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Sonderegger's father, who died last July at age 100, was Dr. Morris "Sandy" Sonderegger. His son, Justin, just completed his residency and does emergency medicine at Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks. You hear quiet pride as he talks of his father, son and award.

"It's a great honor to be recognized by the people who do the same thing you do," the family practitioner said. But he sounded equally interested in talking of the Sonderegger family's contribution. Take his son's case, for example.

"He's an emergency room doctor," said Sonderegger. Smiling, he added, "He says he works real hard, but when he's off, he's off."

Such is not the case for family doctors. Sonderegger said he occasionally does house calls or is called out at night, must be available 24/7 and handles a patient load in the neighborhood of 2,500 or more.

He also said he is one of the few physicians left in the area who still follows his patients even after they are hospitalized, but the goal is to keep folks out of hospitals.

"The most expensive place is the hospital," he said.

Born in Salt Lake City of parents then living in Ely, Sonderegger's family moved to Reno when he was young. He grew up there and did undergraduate work, plus his first two years of medical school, at the University of Nevada, Reno. He then finished medical school and his residency in Alabama.

Sonderegger returned to Nevada and began practice in Carson City in 1979.

"It has been a great place to practice and raise kids," he said.

The doctor said primary-care physicians, or family doctors, are trained to take care of 95 percent of their patients' medical needs. He added that they know to whom patients should be referred when specialists are required.

Sonderegger said he loves taking care of family members all their lives and used to love delivering babies, which he did some 300 or 400 times before medical malpractice insurance premium costs drove him out of that in the late 1980s.

"When it got up to $32,000 a year to deliver babies, it got cost-prohibitive," he said.

His father, Sandy, also delivered a few babies before obstetrics-gynecology became so dicey. Sonderegger estimated his dad delivered upward of 6,000 babies in a lifetime of practice.

Though the Carson City doctor enjoys family practice, he acknowledges it is a lot like being an airline pilot: Hours of routine and precision work punctuated by brief periods of tense and crucial decision-making.

That is part of why he was gratified to receive the award from his colleagues in a ceremony the evening of Oct. 30 in Reno.


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