Roots of Medicine: Robin P. Knauss, MD
Lots of children have a toy stethoscope and envision being a doctor when they grow up. Young Robin Parker had a whole hospital to inspire her. That hospital, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, was known in those days as Goleta Valley Community Hospital. And Robin’s father, the late Dr. Robert Parker, was the first general surgeon to practice there.
“I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, there was no question,” says Robin—now Dr. Robin P. Knauss. “My earliest memories include holding hands with my father and walking into the ICU. I’m one of five daughters in the family, and together, all dressed up, we would march into the hospital on the way home from church so dad could do his Sunday rounds. I have very warm feelings about the hospital and the people there. it’s always been my second home.”
Her roots are so embedded in the Santa Barbara community that not only did Dr. Knauss know from early on that she’d be a physician, she knew wholeheartedly that she wanted to care for this community. “Everything I did in medical school, every choice I made was focused on getting back here,” Dr. Knauss recalls.
Robin Parker Knauss, MD
Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital
After her undergraduate studies at USC, Robin came home and worked as a medical office manager and as a patient care technician at GVCH. it was during that time that she honed in on her specialty interest: emergency medicine. by then she was ready for medical school, and she headed east. She went to Wisconsin for her degree and then was thrilled to return to California to complete her residency at Loma Linda University and to be reunited with her husband—a fellow Santa Barbara native whom she met in high school and married during her first year in medical school.
Loma Linda, she says, brought her one step closer to home and offered her the perfect balance for learning both trauma medicine and community medicine. With her medical training complete, she and her husband finally returned to Goleta.
“Coming home, I was well prepared for the range of cases I’d see here. Emergency medicine is a little of everything. We’re the ultimate generalists. We see every type of patient and treat every type of problem, so I never know what to expect . . .” and that’s just fine, says Dr. Knauss.
OVER THE HILL AND INTO THE VALLEY
For the past decade, Dr. Knauss has been an integral part of the medical staff at GVCH, where she served as chief of staff. but in September of 2008 she took on a new role for GVCH —medical director of emergency services at Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital.
True to her self-described “short attention span,” she continues to diversify her duties. She still serves on the medical staff at GVCH, working two shifts a month. (“I can never break my ties to GVCH,” she says. “it means too much to me.”) and she also works half a shift each week at the UCSB Student Health Center, another tie she values.
Each day in the Santa Ynez Valley brings new challenges for Dr. Knauss, and she revels in this work that puts her at the edge of suburban and rural medicine. “Though we’re not exclusively practicing ‘rural medicine’ here—it’s sort of a hybrid of rural and suburban—we do see many rural-related accidents and incidents. and when people come to the emergency department at SYVCH, by percentage they are generally more seriously ill or injured than patients who visit urban emergency departments. the ranchers especially…they’re tough. they usually don’t come in till their wives drag them in by their suspenders!” laughs Dr. Knauss.
Practicing medicine in the Valley has given Dr. Knauss notable new respect for horses, too. “We see lots of horseback riding injuries here. I thought I understood the size and strength of a horse, but it still sometimes amazes me how powerful they are. It makes me extremely vigilant about diagnosing possible internal injuries when I see a patient who’s been hurt horseback riding.”
SYVCH: BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Dr. Knauss became chair of emergency services at SYVCH just in time to witness a milestone fund- raising campaign and the beginnings of the hospital’s renovation and expansion project. and she marvels at the great sense of owner- ship that Valley residents have in their hospital.
“The primary care physicians here are extremely dedicated. They know their patients well and take great interest in their care,” she explains. “It’s easy to understand why residents want their hospital to thrive, and they take it upon themselves to help. They’ve been speaking with their pocketbooks. They understand that supporting their hospital means that they can get excellent medical care here in the Valley. And that’s where they want to be.”
To that end, more specialty physicians are signing on to spend part of their time treating patients in Santa Ynez Valley, often reserving one day a week to work in the physician offices there. the community is so welcoming of these specialists that more and more doctors are making regular commutes to the Valley.
“We have excellent specialists scheduling office hours here. . . pulmonologists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, orthopedists and hand specialists. and the cardiologists are amazing. Patients recognize it as a real treasure to have these highly trained specialists provide care in a community of this size,” says Dr. Knauss. “it’s an absolute privilege to be working at SYVCH, for a community that is so involved and supportive of its hospital.”
BY COLETTE BRIERE / PHOTOGRAPH BY MONIE DE WIT
In 2008, SYVCH received a VHA “top performer” award for outstanding patient satisfaction. To learn more about the medical services at SYVCH, click here.
Read other stories from the Summer 2009 Cottage Magazine here.