ASSOCIATE MEDICAL DIRECTOR, INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE
PETALUMA HEALTH CENTER
The Back Story:
Dr. Fasih Hameed always felt he grew up on the wrong coast. He liked surf, sun, and snow—and his hometown in New Jersey fell a little short in those areas. So after earning a B.A. from Brown and an M.D. from Tulane University, Dr. Hameed and his wife, Sarah, hitched their wagon (or Prius, as it were) and headed west, to the prestigious UC San Francisco Family Medicine Residency program in Santa Rosa.
The couple initially landed in Petaluma because it was halfway between Dr. Hameed’s residency and Sarah’s teaching job in Marin County. The two quickly discovered that living in Petaluma was ideal not only for their daily commute, but also for their sense of adventure.
“We’d drive out to the coast for an afternoon surf, and then head up to Tahoe and be snowboarding by the next morning,” remembers Dr. Hameed. “Right away we connected with people who shared our interest in music, so if we didn’t have the time to get away, we could easily have a jam session or listen to jazz or bluegrass at one of the local venues.”
Dr. Hameed spent three years in his residency and then an additional year launching the Integrative Medicine Fellowship, the first training program of its kind on the West coast to focus on underserved patients. By 2009, he was ready for his next step and considering a number of options—from joining a boutique medical office in San Francisco to starting his own practice in a small coastal town.
Then in mid-summer, Dr. Hameed received an opportunity that knocked all the others out of the water. A new federally-funded health center building was being planned in Petaluma, and its leaders wanted integrative medicine to be part of its patient care model. Would Dr. Hameed apply his knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking to build a program that would serve Petaluma’s most vulnerable populations?
“The offer from Petaluma Health Center represented a win for everyone,” says Dr. Hameed. “I got my dream job within biking distance of my home and Petaluma Health Center got a champion for the whole-person approach they believe is the future of medicine.”
Dr. Hameed recalls a number of “revelations” during his years in Petaluma.
You can have a “staycation” and not get bored. You can go for a walk and bump into someone you know. You can see all types of food growing all over the place—from apples and plums in your backyard to blackberries and miners’ lettuce near the side of the road.
“The social innovations here always surprise me,” he says. “Take the Phoenix Theater. It’s a music venue by night and an adhoc teen center by day, offering youth a safe space to socialize and, once a week, get access to healthcare through a teen clinic.”
For Sarah, Petaluma has been a land of possibilities. A few years after arriving here, she decided to leave the classroom for the ocean. She started volunteering at the UC Davis marine research center in nearby Bodega Bay and eventually completed a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from UC Davis. Today she works for a global marine science institute based in the heart of Wine Country. Go figure.
What is he up to now?
In his eight years at the Petaluma Health Center, Dr. Hameed has built an award-winning Wellness and Integrative Medicine program with innovative approaches to chronic pain management, diabetes prevention, and family health. The program offers mindful meditation classes, integrative medicine consultations, and access to low cost acupuncture. There’s a pediatric wellness program and a 5,000 square foot onsite garden, both of which involve collaborations between the Health Center and local nonprofits.
“Our model empowers patients to move past the barriers that are preventing them from being well,” he explains. “We help patients make relatively simple lifestyle changes which result in dramatic improvements in health.”
Dr. Hameed is happy to call Petaluma home. He and Sarah have two daughters now, and he’s grateful his position at the Petaluma Health Center offers the time and the space for him to be a dad. Even in his personal life, however, his attention never veers too far from unconventional ways to heal the world.
“There’s a practice called ‘forest bathing’ that is supposed to be very healing,” he says with a smile. “That sounds very West Coast, doesn’t it?”
“The social innovations in Petaluma always surprise me.”