A New Trend In How People Choose Their Primary Care Physician

By Dr. Sonny Saggar, MD


Traditionally (and we’re talking about the 50’s and 60’s here), your ‘family physician’ or ‘GP’ or ‘internist’ has always been just around the corner, near to where you live, sort of like Marcus Welby MD (if you haven’t heard of him, ask your parents). This has also been true of your ‘neighborhood’ grocery store, your dry cleaners and even, in these days of Amazon and iTunes, your favorite book store.

In 2010 however, peoples’ lifestyles have changed considerably.

Despite predictions that people would work from home a lot more in the new millennium, it’s now quite normal to work 30 to 60 minutes drive, away from where you live. This means that you tend to see your coworkers more than you see your family or neighbors. Of course, this may be a good thing for many people, but it does present some challenges. Let’s explore this in a bit more detail.

You leave the office around 5 or 5:30pm, get in your car (something feels inherently environmentally unfriendly about this, but what the heck, you do it anyway, making a mental note to save world the very next time you get a day off) and start driving home. On your unnaturally long drive home, you’re looking forward to a nice dinner with the family, or a date with someone special, or just going to bed early and not staying up perusing spreadsheets [again]. The very last thing you want to do, as you cross the city limits of your ‘burb’ is to stop off at the grocery store or go to the doctor’s office, so things just get postponed again………and again.

How many people, even with good health insurance plans, actually even have time to go see their doctor? What would be required? A half or a full day off work? What time does your doctor’s office close? Are they open on the weekend? Here’s a thought: what if you could swing by the grocery store before, during or immediately after your work day at the office? What if you could just walk a block or two and get that soy milk, bread, potatoes and orange juice, right after getting that prescription you just got from your doctor’s office for that sinusitis, right at 5:45pm? Wouldn’t that be great? Well if you think so, you’re not the only one. Hang on a second: wouldn’t it also be great for your employer if you were able to ‘vanish’ for 20 minutes to see the doctor without being missed, without having to take a day off work, without having to miss deadlines on your ‘to do list’?

At Downtown Medical, we’ve stumbled upon a new, amazingly untapped, market. We opened in the summer of 2009 and have grown to 500 patients in a mere 8 months. Approximately 65% of these patients don’t even live downtown – they’re from the county. More than 20% are from Chesterfield alone! These people work Downtown, or nearby at least, and that includes other parts of the City, including the Central West End and even Clayton (which is only 10 minutes drive on I-40).

Many of our patients used to have a physician [or rather had a name whom they never got time to see] for years, but could never find time to visit. They’re blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol were almost getting out of control, and as a consequence, so was their inner sense of well-being. They weren’t able to visit or call a friendly ‘neighborhood’ physician who would be able to ‘call in a script’ for whatever they needed, because they hadn’t seen a physician in so long, they’d been ‘dropped’ from that practice.

At Downtown Medical, over 84% of our patients are ‘young and healthy’ and we intend to keep them that way – well healthy at least! Although we recommend one visit a year, they tend to visit us every few weeks, even if it’s just to say Hey and chat, instead of every few years. Our patients rapidly develop a true sense of belonging within our practice. We belong to you and you belong to us, and this results in a team approach to maintaining good health. Working together to devise the best solution to any challenge. Even just being perceived as your ‘friends’ whom you’d call on like you might a family member, without always having to visit.

Isn’t this what your relationship and attitude towards your doctor should be like? Isn’t this how he/she should be thinking of you? How can your life be enhanced by this physician?

What’s the point of ‘signing up’ with a service, whether it’s a gym or a doctor’s office, if they’re not conveniently located near to where you spend most of your time? By the way, can you remember why you’re paying those hefty health insurance premiums?

Downtown Medical occupies the same building as Downtown Urgent Care, which is open 7 days a week (how many physicians can do that?) and has full x-ray, lab testing, suturing and fracture setting resources. It’s really quite a no-brainer. There are many other benefits we could describe, but we want to describe one of the most exciting. For years, women have found it very challenging to get their menfolk to visit the doctor – not any more! If the husband/boyfriend/son/father works in an office building just a block or two from Downtown Medical, he has pretty much no excuse. He can no longer say “but I don’t have time to see a doctor”. Much to their surprise, these guys find their visit was “actually quite a good idea” – but of course, you girls knew that all along, didn’t ya?

Along the same lines, many employers are encouraging, almost to the point of insisting, that their employees come visit Downtown Medical, even if it’s just to officially start getting them ‘back into shape again’. This is not mere altruism on the part of the companies. They know that a healthy workforce, right from the maintenance guy to the senior executive, is a productive workforce. The fewer people ‘calling in sick’ the better the company’s bottom line for that quarter. It’s really quite a logical and staunchly capitalist approach for the employers, and it’s good for everybody. How many things could be described in that way?

Downtown Medical is located at 916 Olive Street in Downtown Saint Louis, and is fast becoming a wonderful success story. Dr Saggar has developed a strong following and his patients know they’ll get the best possible care and preventive health strategies, in a simple and easy to follow manner, that fits in well with their heavy work loads. As Downtown Medical continues to grow, more physicians will be joining the practice, so you don’t have to wait weeks or months to get to see your doctor. We hope that it’s only just hours or days. Contact Renita Barnes at 314-436-9300 ext 1 to schedule a new patient visit.

Dr Sonny Saggar is the founder of, and one of 5 emergency physicians working at, Downtown Urgent Care, located at 916 Olive Street in Downtown Saint Louis. Dr Saggar is also an emergency physician, on the active medical staff at 7 major emergency departments all around Saint Louis. Dr Saggar is an environmentally friendly vegetarian, and sits on the board of the Saint Louis Zoo. His passion is to promote preventative health measures, as well as caring for the critically ill. downtownurgentcare-stl.com.