Longtime Tahoe family doctor closing private practice to work out of Reno | SierraSun.com

Longtime Tahoe family doctor closing private practice to work out of Reno

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — People in need of a family practitioner can still see Dr. Emily Smith at her private Incline Village practice — but that won't be the case for much longer.

North Tahoe Family Care, located in the Lakeside Medical and Professional Center at 889 Alder Ave., is scheduled to close April 1 after providing health care to area residents for nearly 20 years.

"This has been an incredible experience, and there are things that I will greatly miss about it," Smith said during a recent interview at her practice (Suite No. 205). "It's been an honor to serve the community, truly, and I have wonderful patients, and that part I'll miss."

Since opening her practice in April 1998, Smith cared for thousands of individuals, ranging from infants to adults for a wide array of needs, everything from vaccinations and regular checkups to diabetes and hypertension.

“It was a huge decision. This has been my entire life for 20 years.”Dr. Emily SmithIncline Village

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While caring for patients still takes up a significant portion of her work, in recent years, she has had to devote more time toward paperwork in light of changes within the national heath care system.

"Medicine has gone through many, many changes over the last 10 years, and there are more regulations, more requirements that don't have anything to do with practicing medicine, but are more paperwork," said Smith, who graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno's School of Medicine in 1991.

Filling out an increasing amount of forms, along with handling business operations, seeing patients and carrying emergency room shifts at Incline Village Community Hospital has "just become too much," sie said, often requiring working 80 to 90 hours a week.

"It was a huge decision," Smith said, referring to closing her Incline practice. "This has been my entire life for 20 years."

'She's well worth it'

While Smith will continue to see patients down the hill in her new South Reno office at 10085 Double R Blvd., Suite 120, in association with Renown Medical Group, Incline residents expressed sadness this week about the local closure.

"It's just unfortunate that she won't be able to continue her practice up here," said Incline resident Michele Koch, who has been a patient of Smith's for roughly 19 years. "It will be sad to see them (Smith and the office staff) go."

Of her three employees, one will join her at the new office, another will go work for her husband, Incline resident Dale Smith and his Smith Design Group firm, and the other will retire.

"As a boss, Emily has been outstanding," said Malanie Musick, a nurse who has worked for Smith for 19 years. "She is ever thoughtful and kind to us as staff and our families."

When asked about the importance of her employees having other opportunities lined up prior to the practice's closure, Smith said: "Everybody having a home was a huge part of it, because we are a family."

Being part of a larger medical organization will allow Smith to see patients, without having to devote time to filling out newly required paperwork — that will be someone else's job.

"I'm excited," said Smith, who has lived in Incline for 26 years and will remain a local resident. "Change is good, and as medicine is changing, I think this is the right choice for myself and my family, so I'm excited about that side of it. I'm not excited about commuting, but that's OK."

A number of Smith's roughly 4,000 active patients have vowed to follow her down to Reno.

"I'm going to travel to Reno to continue to see her," said Incline resident Julie Bradt, who has been a patient of Smith's for 11 years. " … I'll have to travel more, but she's well worth it.

"She couldn't be a better family practitioner. When in an examine room, she is 100 percent focused on you. That focus — you don't see that much anymore in health care. I think her diagnostic skills are exceptional — knowing when to treat and knowing when to refer."

'They will be missed'

In Reno, Smith will continue to be a family physician, but only doing outpatient care.

Meanwhile, she will continue to carry a few emergency room shifts each month at Incline Village Community Hospital.

Between that and working out of Reno, Smith estimates her schedule will be reduced to a more "manageable" 50- to 55-hour work week.

With that, Smith said she plans to spend more time with her family — along with her husband, she has two daughters — and enjoy Tahoe by doing more hiking and kayaking.

"I'll still be living here and being part of the community, but it'll be a different kind of role," she said. "All day I talk to people and see people and hear their stories of their life, so I'm very connected with the community in that way.

"Some of my patients will follow me down the hill, so I will still get to hear that, but there are patients I see every month and not seeing them and hearing their stories, it will be difficult."

Over the years, Smith and the staff have seen area patients at their best of times and worst of times, Musick said, celebrating successes and mourning those who lost their battle with disease.

On the cusp of Smith's private practice closing, Bradt said: "I would like to thank her and her office for their contributions. They are an integral part of this community, and they will be missed."