GONZALES — Community doctors are like local celebrities. If they stick around long enough — decades in some cases — they become like members of the family and are respected individuals across town. They might even know your spouse better than you do.
The Sievers Clinic has a new doctor that looks to fit that mold. Sean Hattenbach is a Texas native, having been raised in Houston. He comes to Gonzales to be closer to family after a stay in Lubbock, and he is intent on connecting with and helping families here just as his begins to adjust.
“Family medicine is really good,” Hattenbach said. “To me, it's the best form of medicine. It treats the whole patient, and it treats the whole family.
“That's what I enjoy. Interacting with my patients and helping them in different aspects of their life,” he continued. Talking to patients only during office visits limits the care that he can administer, he explained. He’s looking for a more well-rounded approach that encourages chats about health even when he’s out and about in the community away from his office.
“If I can help you in a way that bridges the gap between your visits, I'm going to try and do that,” he said. “That's where I really think medicine can succeed in helping patients, not just during the visit.”
The doctor became interested in medicine as a Boy Scout. One of his favorite duties was administering and teaching first aide to fellow scouts. He took that interest to college where he worked with physicians in their labs to find out what field of medicine he was most interested in. After six years of shadowing and learning, he decided to jump into family practice.
Hattenbach attended medical school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. After a three-year residency there, he packed up and came here to the Sievers Clinic. Although it has been just a couple of months, he already sees what the overall health of the Gonzales community is.
“Gonzales has many of the same problems that rural Texas at large has, those being obesity, diabetes, poor health literacy — where people don't understand their medical conditions — and poor access to care to an extent,” he said.
“The bigger things that are challenging Texas are challenging America,” he continued. “Obesity, poor health, poor access to good foods sometimes, poor knowledge of what the right foods to eat are, and a poor knowledge on how much physical activity is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those problems are common across America and they're common here as well. But there are things we can address and they are not insurmountable problems.”
More healthier ways to dine are what he stresses.
He explained that the biggest pitfall that a small town has is the ease and frequency of eating fast food. Those foods are notorious for being high in fat and carbs, he said, and eating those on a regular basis can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. People will have to “re-learn” eating habits such as ordering a salad or grilled option when possible and avoiding bread, he said.
Insurance is often a worry that low-income residents have to fear, but Hattenbach says that should never deflect one from a doctors visit. All questions need to be asked about personal health, and often Hattenbach can find ways to get inexpensive medication from pharmaceutical companies through various programs they may offer.
“You should never be afraid to ask a question. I always will look for programs to help people afford the treatments, medications, the testing they need,” he said. “There's always a way to do it and we'll find a way or we'll find a way around it and we'll still get to the root of whatever the problem is.”
When he’s not taking care of patients, he’s taking care of himself and his family. He and his wife have two boys — both in Cub Scouts — and another on the way. They are living a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle, and he is looking forward to becoming a part of the community.
“I'm just glad to be here,” he said. “Gonzales has already been great to my family and I am looking forward to being great for Gonzales in any way that I can. If patients have specific concerns, I'm here to address them and maybe present them a new face for medicine in case that is what they need.”
Hattenbach can be reached at the Sievers Clinic at 830-672-8502 or visit www.gonzaleshealthcare.com.