[caption id="attachment_37111" align="alignleft" width="154" caption="Mary Maddux-Gonzalez"][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Mary Maddux-Gonzalez, a 22-year veteran of Sonoma County public health, has joined the Redwood Community Health Coalition as the nonprofit’s new medical director.

Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez, who spent the past 11 and a half years as Sonoma County’s public health officer and division director, said she joined the Health Coalition to help community clinics and federally qualified health centers address  the looming implementation of health care reform.

She had retired from her position with the county earlier this Spring.

After over two decades in public health, she said it was time for a change, and the unique position that health centers will be in as an influx of new patients are delivered to the health care system made Redwood Health Coalition an ideal fit.

“I really think the community health clinics is where we can look more broadly at the community health in a greater context, particularly for low income individuals,” Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez said. “The focus of community health on low income really gives us an opportunity to improve the health of our community as a whole.”

In her new role, Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez will oversee the Health Coalition’s four-county wide network of physicians – some 287 full-time equivalents and many part-time physicians –  and other medical providers, while focusing her efforts on expanding primary care for patients served by its 16 member clinics and health centers. She will also lead the Health Coalition in addressing anticipated shortages in primary care physicians and will work on recruitment, retention, and coordination of such providers in the four counties it covers.

While with the county health department, in December 2010, Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez helped commission a study on primary care physicians in Sonoma County.

“What we found is we are at the lower limit of an informal range of primary care doctors,” she said. “Particularly with the increased demand of health care reform, we will need more physicians.”

According to the report, 16 percent of Sonoma County’s primary care physicians are employed by community health centers affiliated with the Health Coalition – second only to Kaiser Permanente, which has a third of the county’s primary care physicians, or 34 percent.

The Health Coalition’s network includes Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Yolo counties. In Sonoma County alone, some additional 45,000 new patients will join the health care system, and health centers are expected to absorb a great deal of the previously uninsured.

In 2009, the Health Coalition had over 185,000 patients and provided nearly 620,000 clinical visits across its four-county range, which include some of the largest health centers in the North Bay – Marin Community Clinics, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, West County Health Centers, and Clinic Ole in Napa, to name a few.

Of the total member clinic patients, more than 109,000 are in Sonoma County – in other words, one out of every six residents across the four-county region and one in every four residents in Sonoma County, according to data from the Office of State Health Planning and Development.

Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez completed her residency at the former Community Hospital – now Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa – through the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency Program. The program has always been instrumental, but its role is perhaps even greater now, Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez said.

Rita Scardaci, director of health services for Sonoma County, said the Health Coalition is indeed a perfect fit for Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez.

“Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez’s experience as Sonoma County health officer is a perfect fit with the goals of RCHC and will strengthen the primary care system in preparation for health care reform,” she said.

“I’m very happy to be working in this new position,” Dr. Maddux-Gonzalez said. “It’s just a great group – very committed to equity, access and quality medical care.”