When Dr. Salvador Sandoval's patients can't come to him, he goes to them.
The family practice doctor, who works for Golden Valley Health Centers, treats patients who live in homeless camps and at shelters.
That's no problem for Sandoval. He just packs up his medical bag and spends his day with the people who need him the most.
Sandoval grew up in Sacramento and did his residency in Merced. He had always wanted to work with farmworkers, and originally had set his sights on living and working in Yuba City. But after living in Merced during his residency, he realized he could do just as much here.
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Working at Golden Valley, Sandoval sees people who have no insurance and nowhere else to go for their health care.
"A couple of years ago Golden Valley started a homeless program, so I helped out," Sandoval said.
Part of the homeless program was a mobile van that Golden Valley used to go to shelters and encampments.
Then Golden Valley lost its funding for the homeless program. That didn't stop Sandoval.
"I had gotten involved with the homeless, I worried about them," Sandoval said.
Because there was no funding for the program, Sandoval took care of his homeless patients for free. He didn't just go to homeless shelters with the mobile van -- he also went to their encampments along Black Rascal Creek or anywhere the homeless congregated.
"I've got a couple of students who are helping me now," Sandoval said.
Golden Valley secured new funding for the homeless program, and now Sandoval treats as many of the homeless as he can.
"I got to the creek because some of those people just can't get to the homeless shelter, it's too far," Sandoval said.
Homeless patients deal with a lot of the same problems as anyone else, Sandoval said, but the homeless face problems others don't.
"In the summer, diabetics can't keep their insulin refrigerated," Sandoval said. "They have no real safe place to keep their medications."
Sandoval wants to make sure his patients are treated before they end up sick enough to go to the hospital.
"If someone is very sick, the hospital does a wonderful job," Sandoval said. "If we can help that person with medications before they get so sick, it's saving everyone a lot of money."
Sandoval said people shouldn't look at the homeless as an aberration. "I see people who have lost a good job, and now they are homeless."
Eventually Sandoval would like to see the mobile van expand its range, and he would like to develop a teaching program for students who want to help others.
Hope Perez, nursing supervisor for Golden Valley's mobile van, said Sandoval has notched a special place in this world.
"He's so dedicated to his patients, he goes to the people who can't get to the shelter," Perez said. "When you see him with his patients, he takes his time, treats everyone the same."
Perez said Sandoval understands the challenges his patients confront. "He has sincere, heartfelt compassion for everyone he treats," she said. "We are fortunate as a community, and as an organization, to have someone as dedicated as he is."
Sandoval said he just truly enjoys helping people.
"Doing these things reminds me of why I went into medicine," Sandoval said. "It's fun helping people."
Even if you have to meet them along the banks of a creek.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com.