Choosing a primary care physician (PCP)and maintaining the relationship
with regular visits is an important step you can take to protecting your
health, at any age.
When you get ill or injured, your primary care doctor— not a specialist—
is the person in charge of seeing that you get the medical care you need.
“Your PCP is trained to always look at the big picture,” explains
Torrance Memorial Physician Network Primary Care Physician Anna Mellor, M.D. “For example, they can
monitor an ultrasound for a thyroid nodule that’s probably benign,
check plaque in the carotid artery, or routinely order blood tests to
prevent pre-diabetes turning into diabetes. We also get to know you and
your family dynamics and possibly see signs of early dementia or depression
so that we can intervene earlier rather than later.”
What Do Primary Care Doctors Do?
Your primary care doctor’s responsibilities are divided into three areas:
Preventive care to help you stay healthy by offering advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle and providing health
screenings and immunizations when you need them.
Treating illnesses and injuries by diagnosing, treating or helping you manage common medical conditions
such as diabetes or high blood pressure; assessing the severity of medical
problems and referring to specialists when necessary.
Coordinating all your medical care as you age by keeping track of your health, including treatments and medications,
making sure you see the right doctors at the right times and communicating
with them about what’s going on with your health. They also serve
as the point person to make sure your medical treatments and medications
won’t interact dangerously with one another.
“A good primary care physician is the only one looking at how all
the parts of the body are serving the individual as a whole. Specialists
zoom down to the level of detail for each organ system,” says Torrance
Memorial Physician Network Primary Care Physician Mary Beth Miller, M.D.
“Primary care physicians also help the patient understand what goes
on with the specialist. Sometimes patients feel they are too rushed at
the specialist to ask questions about medication side effects or dosages.
We help the patient interpret what’s going on and can also intercede
with the specialist if necessary.”
Even your specialist will tell you how important it is to have a primary
“Specialists are trained to know their specialty very well in order
to assist primary physicians with specific and often difficult cases,”
explains Torrance Memorial Physician Network Rheumatologist Joe Gamboa,
M.D. “Specialists who may be well-versed in specialty medications
may not be comfortable prescribing medications commonly prescribed by
primary physicians. Therefore, it is very important that patients regularly
see their PCPs in order to get the best care possible.”
“I rely on the PCP to help monitor the big picture for my patients
so that I can focus on managing the complicated diabetes or other conditions
when I see them,” says Torrance Memorial Physician Network Endocrinologist
Hung Nguyen, M.D.
Need a Primary Care Physician? Contact our referral coordinators who can
help you select a physician, call 310-891-6717.