Dr. Sandoval has served Merced community for 35 years
He shares bond with field workers, homeless and elderly
He’s one of few area doctors who still makes house calls
BY ANA B. IBARRA
The words in Spanish atop Dr. Salvador Sandoval’s business cards are simple, but the message is profound: “An old-fashioned doctor, but with modern practices.”
Sandoval’s old-school work ethic has led him to take his up-to-date techniques and equipment out to those in need, just like doctors of long ago who made house calls.
The 65-year-old physician operates the Medical Outreach Mobile, better known as the MOM mobile, run by Golden Valley Health Centers.
On Tuesdays, he spends the first half of his day seeing homeless patients out of the mobile clinic stationed outside the D Street Shelter in Merced.
He offers basic medical checkups, but also has picked up psychiatric skills by necessity.
“(The homeless) population has a higher percentage of mental health problems. Many of them get diagnosed here (at the mobile clinic),” he said, noting ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression as some of the most common issues.
Sandoval volunteered to operate MOM because of his interest in reaching out to the homeless. “I just didn’t know if anyone else would do it, and (the homeless are) a population that needs services,” Sandoval said.
Most of Sandoval’s 40-year career has been spent with GVHC, with his work focused on serving Merced’s most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, the elderly and migrant field workers. He is one of the few doctors in Merced County who still makes home visits.
I met Sandoval last week at the Binational Health Week kickoff event in Merced, where he was invited to speak about his work with the underserved.
His stories reflected decades of community service, and his subtle humor hinted as to why he’s become a patient favorite.
Sandoval, a Sacramento native and longtime Merced resident, sees patients out of the GVHC office in Planada. He is well-known for his work with migrant farmworkers, whom he occasionally visits at camps in Planada, Atwater and Livingston.
Sandoval believes he has a special connection with field laborers. Growing up, he worked in the fields, earning 15 cents for each bucket of tomatoes he picked. He understands the health concerns that arise from such intensive labor and empathizes with their limited access to medical services.
Juan Villa, a social worker and homeless program coordinator with GVHC, is on-site at MOM on Tuesdays. He helps patients start the enrollment process for health coverage and connects them with other basic resources.
Villa has worked alongside Sandoval at the MOM mobile for about four years. In this time, the duo have seen hundreds of homeless patients. Some, chronically homeless, and others who were able to jump back on their feet after a stint on the streets.
The success of the mobile clinic, Villa believes, is due partly to Sandoval’s magnetism. The doctor makes patients feel comfortable and welcomed to return, he said.
NO MATTER THE SITUATION, HE IS THERE FOR THE PATIENT. (SANDOVAL) IS VERY COMMITTED TO THE MOST VULNERABLE.