When Family Comes First: Dr. Silvia Diego, MD Is Changing The How The Valley Does Health Care
BY CRYSTAL NAY
It’s ten minutes until closing, and the front desk of Family First Medical Care is still abuzz with patients. From its humble yet bold beginnings, Dr. Silvia Diego, MD continues to lead this all-female, independent medical group as it defies expectations of healthcare, captures the hearts of patients and wins prestigious awards for service. It’s just another busy day for Modesto’s most sought-after family medicine doctor.
When you walk into the office of Family First Medical Care, you see rows of comfy, blue velvet chairs, light room colors, and clean lines. There are books stacked in the kids’ room, along with toys and a little table with chairs. Though it’s the end of the workday, the staff is still high energy and ready to accommodate. On a decorative table along the wall is a plaque that reads, “Every family has a story to tell. Welcome to ours.”
It’s clearly a place where the people here love what they do.
It’s been a long and exciting road for Dr. Silvia Diego, MD, of Family First Medical Care, a private practice medical group in Modesto. But, when she looks back on all that she and her team have accomplished together, all she can say is, “Wow.”
Dr. Diego, along with her business partner, Dr. Lisa Gil, MD, are the principal officers and cofounders of Family First Medical Care, which currently has a staff of 25 and sees about 180 patients in a day.
When the doctor team first started, they just wanted to deliver good healthcare, and often found themselves at odds with the larger medical groups, where doctors are often not in charge of the care of their patients. “When a doctor becomes an employee and has a patient quota they must meet, that’s where healthcare suffers,” says Diego, who knew that that model just wasn’t for her. “More doctor autonomy means better care for the patient. It’s important to stay connected with your patients.”
Tired of the status quo, Diego and Gil set out on their own, much to the dismay of colleagues and professional recommendation, who said they were bound to fail. “People said we would not make it, and that we’d go broke,” says Diego. “When Dr. Gil and I embarked on this, we just thought we’d deliver healthcare and have a little shop.” Unbeknownst to these women, they would have much more than just a little shop.
Dr. Diego confesses that she never thought she would get this far, but she also never began her medical career with this end goal in mind. “It’s amazing, and I’m very grateful. From the very beginning in medical school, they tell you very early on that it’s very difficult to go into private practice,” says Diego of her early education. “My mistake was not realizing sooner that I could practice medicine the way my passion calls to.”
But follow her passion is exactly what Dr. Diego has done, and much to the success of her entire team. It has taken her to levels she never anticipated, and garnered her much attention in the medical community by being awarded Stanislaus County’s 2018 Physician of the Year, and now California Medical Association’s Frederick K.M. Plessner Memorial Award, which is awarded to a physician who best exemplifies the practice and ethics of a rural practitioner, with special consideration for services for the indigent or charitable groups.
The awards have been an incredible experience for Dr. Diego, and for Family First Medical Care as a whole. “It’s just amazing to win the Plessner. It was amazing to win Doctor of the Year at the county level, so I never thought I’d win the Plessner, which is at the state level,” says Diego.
The phones are constantly ringing with new patients, and with current patients calling to express their congratulations. Everyone—doctors, staff, patients, and the family members of them— feels that they, too, have won, which creates a great celebratory atmosphere fostered around family, community, and great healthcare.
So, how does Stanislaus County’s physician of the year handle the influx of new patients, and alongside all the attention? “We work as a team,” says Diego. “Which allows us to see as many patients as possible. I have my partner, Dr. Gil, and fantastic physician assistants. We all practice medicine the same way, so seeing one of us is like seeing all of us. We keep patients with their doctors as much as we can, especially new patients, because we need that time to build memories with new patients.” As for the attention, Dr. Diego tries to ignore it. Medicine is her passion and her calling in life, so to tune out the attention on her success, she simply reminds herself what she’s really here to do and just keeps going.
“More doctor autonomy means better care for the patient. It’s important to stay connected with your patients.”
DR. SILVIA DIEGO, MD
“It’s so great to have a team,” Diego says in regards to maintaining a very busy practice amidst the press attention. “Things would be so much more difficult without them. You really need a good, solid team to get through medicine.”
As for the future of Family First, the sky’s the limit. Family First Medical Care will first and foremost continue to be who they are as a healthcare provider, and since they have created a method of healthcare delivery that works, this group of physicians will continue to expand. “There’s just so much need that we just can’t stop. There are not a lot of available doctors, either, so we continue to train medical professionals and keep our eye out for additions to our team.”
At the end of the day, when the interviews have ended, the awards shelved, and the patients have gone home, the staff of Family First remembers who they are. “We are family. At home and at work, and every family member of every staff member is a part of our family here,” says Diego. “We all gather together. We are always working on creating this family.”
Caring for family resonates with us all. It’s a refreshing sentiment that is witnessed within the practice, and outwards in the families of the people for whom they provide medical care.
“We are family. At home and at work, and every family member of every staff member is a part of our family here. We all gather together. We are always working on creating this family.”
DR. SILVIA DIEGO, MD