The Vaz Clinic isn't your normal doctors' office. The lime green paint job clues you in once you step through the door. But besides the quirky color scheme, it's the professional and warm staff that make a visit a calm one.
“The setting here is more like a home setting, and we function pretty well that way,” said Vaz. “There's a program called Patient Centered Medical Home that the American Academy of Family Practice has been promoting and so we have adopted that team approach with the entire staff involved in the patient's care. I am the team leader, and each person has a task that they need to perform. And it flows very well. Patients like it a lot.”
He said that patients are sometimes more comfortable talking to someone other than their primary care physician. They can communicate their issues with his staff, who in return relay the thoughts back to Vaz.
The doctor has been practicing in Gonzales for 26 years now, the past 10 with his own clinic on US 90A just east of town.
“I decided to start a clinic on my own so that I could serve the community the way I felt the community needed to be served,” he said. “We have different aspects of care here. We accept the government programs Medicare and Medicaid, although Medicare is not very lucrative for a primary care physician, and we also accept the Choice Program for veterans. Being a veteran myself, I seek to provide the best care I can for veterans.”
When asked what branch he served in, the doc said “the only branch there is, the Army,” and then broke into a warm chuckle.
“I was drafted back in '69 and served two years, did not get sent to Vietnam, got out and went back to medical school and went back in after I finished medical school. I was in the reserves for another 15 years,” he explained.
Veterans are appreciative of his work for them. For example, if they cannot get in to see their primary care physician in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system within 30 days, they can come see him. Offices in Austin and Victoria have been sending patients his way. And if a vet lives more than 40 miles from a VA clinic, they can get referred to come see Vaz.
The doctor takes special care in tending to servicemen that saw action before the military became an all-volunteer force.
“Those [veterans] are usually ignored pretty well, so I seek to find those people and get them all the benefits they can get,” Vaz said. “We recently had a veterans fair, and there were some old guys there that didn't realize the certain benefits they could get from this program.”
The Vaz Clinic also has a clinical research program sponsored by several drug companies. They work with several drugs that are on the market now as well as one that Vaz says will be “dynamite” for heart failure. He says this will be the first drug that works directly on the heart to prevent failure.
“We are very excited about that and very privileged to be part of it,” he said. “We are one of 200 centers in the world that are a part of this program.”
There are certain protocols that have to be met to enroll in the research program, he said. Those with heart problems should stop in and see him, the same with kidney disease and diabetic studies.
“If one feels like they may have one of these conditions or any concern that they might have about anything, from time to time we do have studies coming up,” Vaz said.
One in particular has to do with itching in relation to kidney ailments. A patient has a 75 percent chance of receiving the medicine they need as opposed to a placebo. The company that is working on the drug actually found a nerve center in the brain associated with this particular type of itching.
“It's extremely fascinating,” Vaz said. “We're kind of excited about the studies that we are doing.”
He's also glad to talk about his urgent care facility, which looks to give patients the best care while not busting their bank account.
“We do have an urgent care here and it's growing pretty rapidly,” he said. “Urgent care is actually set up to alleviate the pressure on a busy emergency care center. And the cost of going to an emergency care, like in a hospital here, is astronomical, sometimes 10 times what it is to go to an urgent care.
“Insurance companies are encouraging their insured to visit the urgent care rather than going to emergency rooms, and emergency rooms too are suggesting that they reserve the care there for emergent conditions. We've started an 'eight-to-eight' care here and we are going to be expanding within six months to a year. And the patients have been appreciative of it.”
With this quick chat over, Vaz picked up his clip board and headed into one of his exam rooms to see a young patient. Judging from the busy lobby, it appeared that he has quite the dedicated following.