A tireless physician who does it all

  • Dr. Jan Sonander, MD, left talks with Keith Smith and his father Frank Smith during a visit to Sonander's office in Santa Rosa, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

In the era of corporate medicine, the solo, independent family physician is rare. But eight years ago, Dr. Jan Sonander made the decision to buy office space in Santa Rosa to start a practice on his own.

"People were surprised," Dr. Sonander said, with his usual understatement.

Backed by an associate physician, a nurse practitioner and an office staff of up to half a dozen, Sonander has built a roster of 4,000 patients.

Sonander had been practicing medicine in the Santa Rosa community since 1989, originally joining another doctor's small practice, which gradually grew into a large medical group and ultimately disbanded in 2004.

"During that time, there was a lot of jockeying for position in the professional community. There were a significant number of large doctors' group failures for a variety of reasons," Sonander said. "It was a challenge to buy a building and put in the infrastructure to run my own practice."

He can trace his motivation to a job shadow program when he was a student at Tamalpais High School in Marin County, his first exposure to the medical profession.

"I was fascinated by the way the doctors thought about things," Sonander said. "They were interested in individuals. They were deliberative about what they did."

If all Sonander, now 57, had done is start a nearly solo practice when most of the medical profession seems headed in the other direction, that would be notable enough. But there is much more than that to the doctor his peers informally call Jan (pronounced "Yon").

"Jan does it all," said Gary Mishkin, an emergency room doctor at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, who first met Sonander at medical school at UC Davis in 1980.

"He's in his second term as chief of staff at Memorial Hospital. He also has been president of the Sonoma County Medical Association," Mishkin said. "This guy is tireless in his service to the medical community."

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