Top Docs


This past summer, Sacramento magazine asked more than 3,000 area physicians—from a list provided by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, including society members and nonmembers—this question: If you or a loved one needed to see a physician in the following specialties, whom would you choose?”  :  In this anonymous and confidential survey, the physicians were asked to name doctors who they feel are outstanding (based on their professional skill, knowledge and patient relations) in 39 specialties ranging from allergy to vascular surgery. Only original surveys were counted—no faxes, no photocopies. We tallied the votes and now are pleased to reveal the list of doctors named “the best” in their fields by fellow physicians. Top docs represent all four large hospital groups in the region: Kaiser Permanente, Mercy Healthcare, Sutter Health and University of California, Davis Medical Center. In addition to the list, we present interviews with several of the top docs, and stories about how to take charge of your health and when to know it’s time to find a new doctor.

This listing provides no guarantee that these physicians are accepting new patients or that they take all health plans.

ALLERGY: Bradley E. Chipps, M.D.*
Capital Allergy & Respiratory Disease Center
5609 J St., Suite C
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 453-8696

ANESTHESIOLOGY: Jeffrey Anderson, M.D.
Folsom Anesthesia Medical Group Inc./Mercy Hospital of Folsom
1650 Creekside Drive
Folsom, CA 95630

Sacramento Bariatric Medical Associates/Mercy San Juan Medical Center
5769 Greenback Lane
Sacramento, CA 95841
(916) 338-7200

CARDIOLOGY: Patricia A. Takeda, M.D.
Regional Cardiology Associates
3941 J St., Suite 260
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 736-2323

Cardiac Surgery West Medical Corp./Mercy General Hospital
3941 J St., Suite 270
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 733-6850

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-2014

CRITICAL CARE: Gregory P. Marelich, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-4821

DERMATOLOGY: Emil A. Tanghetti, M.D.*
Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery5601 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 454-5922

EATING DISORDERS: Ann L. Gerhardt, M.D.*
5025 J St., Suite 203
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 457-3466

Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center
1600 Eureka Road
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 784-5396

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-4644

FAMILY PRACTICE: Thomas Balsbaugh, M.D.
UC Davis Medical Group
Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center
4860 Y St., Suite 1600
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 734-3630

John F. Gisla, M.D.
Mercy Medical Group
1700 Prairie City Road
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 351-4800

Roderick V. Vitangcol, M.D.
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
Point West Medical Office Building
1650 Response Road
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 614-4040

Don Yokoyama, M.D.
Mercy Medical Group
3000 Q St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 733-3440

FERTILITY: Kenneth Vu, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
Point West Medical Office Building
1650 Response Road, Suite 1A
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 614-5200

Sacramento Gastroenterology Medical Group
3941 J St., Suite 450
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 454-0655

GENERAL SURGERY: Christian A. Swanson, M.D.
Mercy Medical Group
3000 Q St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 733-3333

GENETICS: Arthur W. Grix Jr., M.D.
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
Point West Medical Office Building
1650 Response Road
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 614-4075

GYNECOLOGY: Alexander Locke, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-2055

HEMATOLOGY: John J. Fisher, M.D.*
Sacramento Center for Hematology & Medical Oncology
Sutter Cancer Center
2800 L St., Suite 300
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 454-6700

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-6119

500 University Ave., Suite 111
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 929-2526

Scott M. Wigginton, M.D.*
500 University Ave., Suite 112
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 570-2850

Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center
1600 Eureka Road
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 784-4190

NEPHROLOGY: Kai-Ting Hu, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-6988

NEUROLOGY: John Schafer, M.D.*
Mercy Medical Group
6555 Coyle Ave., 3rd Floor
Carmichael, CA 95608
(916) 536-3670

Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
2025 Morse Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 973-5490

NUCLEAR MEDICINE: Andrew S. Klonecke, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
2025 Morse Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 973-7007

OBSTETRICS: Christine Jang, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente Elk Grove Medical Offices
9201 Big Horn Blvd.
Elk Grove, CA 95758
(916) 478-5000

ONCOLOGY: Kristie A. Bobolis, M.D.*
Capitol Hematology Oncology
Sutter Roseville Medical Center
2 Medical Plaza Drive, Suite 200
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 782-5106

OPTHALMOLOGY: James B. Ruben, M.D.*
Kaiser PermanenteSacramento Medical Center
Point West Medical Office Building
1650 Response Road
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 614-4015

Sutter Medical Center
2801 K St., Suite 500
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 733-8710

Scott Gherini, M.D.
1580 Creekside Drive, Suite 100
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 984-5216

OTOLARYNGOLOGY: Richard S. Isaacs, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
7300 Wyndham Drive
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 525-6350

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-2302

PEDIATRICS: Don R. Van Schenck, M.D.
2 Scripps Drive, Suite 310
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 924-8754

1600 Creekside Drive, Suite 2400
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 984-3430

Marian E. Te Selle, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
2025 Morse Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 973-6729

PSYCHIATRY: Linda C. Schaffer, M.D.*
1455 34th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 452-1504

Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center
1600 Eureka Road
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 784-4190

Gehan Devendra, M.D.*
Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
2025 Morse Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 973-7618

Norman Chow, M.D.
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-4821

RADIOLOGY: Lawrence G. Davis., M.D.
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-2029

RHEUMATOLOGY: Kenneth B. Wiesner, M.D.*
Sacramento RheumatologyConsultants Medical Group
107 Scripps Drive, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 922-7021

UROLOGY: Brian N. Naftulin, M.D.*
Urology Associates (Radiological Associates of Sacramento)
1561 Creekside Drive, Suite 170
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 983-5557

VASCULAR SURGERY: Victor M. Rodriguez, M.D.
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center
6600 Bruceville Road
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-2014

*Member of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

Specialty: Bariatric surgery, Sacramento Bariatric Medical Associates/Mercy San Juan Medical Center
Medical school: University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, Calif.)

Why bariatrics? Primarily because bariatrics is a very interesting field of surgery that can impact so many areas of a patient’s life. Not only the medical aspects, like putting diseases like diabetes into remission, but it can also have a profound effect on a person’s self-esteem.

You seem to have a real empathy for weight issues. I can really relate to my patients because I’ve been heavy myself and I know how your weight can impact all areas of your life. At my highest I weighed 238, and I now weigh about 160. I almost qualified for the surgery myself, but instead I followed the recommendations I give my patients to follow after surgery—protein supplements and a high protein, low carb diet.

What’s important to know about bariatric surgery?
That it’s not a magic bullet that allows a patient to eat whatever they want. Part of what makes bariatrics different is the long-term monitoring—that’s really an important part of my work. Patients need the long-term support.

What do you say to the naysayers who say “These people don’t need surgery—they just need to eat less”?
What I say to people like that is that it’s a very oversimplified way of looking at a very serious medical problem. If you had high blood pressure, you would have no hesitation taking BP meds because that’s the best treatment for it. And with many patients, surgery is the best treatment for obesity.

Do you think there will ever be a magic pill for weight loss? 
I think a magic pill is many, many, many years away, if at all possible. Obesity is a multifactorial disease, so what are you going to do, take a bag of pills every day so you’re not as hungry? It’s just not plausible.

On a lighter note, do you really use staples for stomach stapling surgery?
(Laughs) Well, it’s not the office stapler—not at all. But we do use staples—surgical staples—in gastric bypass surgery to both seal and divide tissue.  

Do you cringe when you see deep-fried Twinkies at the State Fair?
Yes (laughs). It’s just, c’mon, do we really have to fry everything?

My first bariatric surgery Laura L. Machado, M.D., bariatric surgery, Sacramento Bariatric Medical Associates/Mercy San Juan Medical Center

Was I nervous the first time I performed bariatric surgery? Oh, yeah—any time you do anything for the first time in surgery, it’s a combination of nervousness and excitement. But I had a great assistant, Dr. Bruce Wolfe from UCD, so I had one of the world experts across the table from me. It was actually an older patient—she was 60—who had been refused surgery at another place because she was “too old.” She was also a two-time breast cancer survivor. But surgery was successful. It was a real exciting operation for me.

Specialty: Family Practice, UC Davis Medical Group
Medical School: Jefferson Medical College (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Why family medicine? The doctor-patient relationship was the thing that drew me to medicine. I liked the idea of knowing people over time—the longevity of the relationship.

Ever consider a different specialty? I thought about becoming a pediatrician. But I also liked adults and the idea of taking care of a whole family, so I didn’t want to limit it to just kids. The wide spectrum of problems you can manage as a family physician is more challenging.

More challenging, but also more difficult—right?  You’ve got to do your homework, and you’ve got to have some humility. You need to be able to admit you don’t know, on occasion, and know when to refer someone to a specialist.

Best thing about your work? I love seeing a patient get better. I also love knowing the things about a patient that are totally unrelated to their problems—the things that make them who they are.

Worst? Updating charts at night, during my off hours.

Which television doctor are you most like? I’m definitely not House. I’m not gruff enough. I do like the guy from “Scrubs”—I think he’s funny. What’s his name again?

Funniest thing a kid ever said to you? I once overheard a child say, “I can’t wait to see Dr. Golfball.”

What do you think your patients say about you behind your back?
“When the sign says he’s on time, he’s really 20 minutes late.”

Specialty: Emergency medicine, Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center
Medical School: Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center (Des Moines, Iowa)

Why would you choose a life of chaos in ER? I started out as a pediatrician in the military, before ER medicine was really its own specialty. Once ER became better established, I started gravitating toward it. It’s fast-moving, you have to think quick, see multiple patients at a time. That’s kind of my personality.

I think of it like 7-Eleven, open 24/7. It is 24/7. I carry my phone and beeper phone with me at all times. I never know when my day begins and when it ends. I do know when my shift starts and when it ends. This morning it started around 7:30 a.m. and now it’s finally ending at 6:30 p.m.

What does it mean to be chief of ER [at Kaiser Roseville]? There’s got to be somebody who’s responsible for operations of the emergency department. I’ve been in leadership for the last 16 years, getting more involved with the administrative side.

So you’re juggling that with hands-on ER? I try not to mix the two. When I am scheduled to work my clinical shifts, I’m there to do clinical shifts—take care of patients—not my administrative work.

You see so many tragedies in ER. Is it hard to contain your emotions? Sometimes it’s important to show your emotions—not emotional like completely breaking down, but it’s OK to shed a tear, to show that you are affected by the loss of someone’s loved ones. It’s only human.

Is there any such thing as a typical day in ER? There is no typical day. But there are patterns. You can expect that on Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, you’re going to see more alcohol and drug abuse. There are a lot of psychiatric disorders, now more than ever because of all the stress we’re going through [with the economy].

Is it anything like the TV show “ER”? On that show, everything is drama, and then of course you have the social drama—all the sex things going on. I’m sure those things may exist, but if it does I’m oblivious to it.

Specialty: Anesthesiology, Mercy Hospital of Folsom
Medical School: Loma Linda University (Loma Linda, Calif.)

Why anesthesiology? I never thought I would go into this area of medicine. But I had a great instructor as a third year medical student, Dr. Bernard Brandstater, who was very enthusiastic, very kind and very motivating. The second part is that in med school, I really did like the pharmacology and physiology aspect.

How do you develop a rapport with patients when you see many of them only once? I actually really enjoy one-on-one relationships with patients. I try and talk to every patient the night before [surgery] and give them my time—not just to get their medical history to minimize the possibility of risk, but also to help to assure them that we’re going to get through this.

It must be an anxious group. I think there’s a certain healthy level of anxiety that patients should have, because even though anesthesia is very low-risk for the healthy population, for a patient, it’s a total loss of control. I actually worry about patients who don’t have anxiety.

Two words: Michael Jackson. Your reaction?
As these things leak into the press, I’m hesitant to make a judgment because you don’t know how much of it is true. But I was shocked that someone would use propofol to treat long-term insomnia. If I used propofol to sedate you every night for three months, six months or a year, without a ventilator, the outcome would be inevitable. Sooner or later, you’re done.

Is Michael’s story a hot topic with patients? Some have been asking, “Are you going to give me the Michael Jackson drug?” And the answer is very likely yes; propofol is a fantastic drug. It just has to be used under the right circumstances—and closely monitored.

What other kinds of questions do they ask?
They range from “How many patients have you lost?” to “What kinds of medications are you going to give me?” to “What are the possible side effects, complications or risks?”

Any funny questions? I don’t know how funny this is, but some patients ask, “What do you do while I’m asleep?” I guess maybe they’ve gotten the idea from television that the anesthesiologist steps out on the deck to have a smoke in the middle of surgery. But I have to tell you, we’re in the room and we’re not going anywhere. We’re sitting there, right next to the patient.

My first medical heartbreak Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., anesthesiology, Mercy Hospital of Folsom
It was either Christmas or Christmas Eve, and I was a resident at the time, in the trauma center of a hospital in Southern California. I was paged to the ER, and it turned out to be a beautiful 6-year-old girl who had been hit by a car. There was bleeding in her chest, and there was a quick decision to take her into the operating room. I remember telling her father, “I’m going to get your daughter through this.” But it turned out that she had torn her aorta, and we were unable to save her. It was the first time I couldn’t deliver on a promise to a family. It just pains me to even think about it. Even though it happened about 21 years ago, I still think about it every Christmas.

Specialty: Psychiatry, private practice, Sacramento
Medical School: University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, Calif.)

Why psychiatry? In medical school, I realized that psychiatry would allow me to take full advantage of my medical education. I’ve also always had a particular empathy for emotional pain.

How did you come to specialize in bipolar disorder? The short answer is that my interest evolved in the process of trying to understand how to help people with mood disorders feel their best.

Describe your approach with patients. I’m big on tailoring prescriptions to the individual. I also spend a lot of time with patients and their families. I’m pretty driven that people do better. I’m pretty persnickety about that.
In social situations, how do people react when they find out you’re a psychiatrist? Does it weird them out?
People usually get self-conscious or uncomfortable. Many have odd ideas about psychiatry—they seem to think I’m analyzing them. Freud and his couch seem embedded in the media.

What does it take to be a good psychiatrist? An open mind is tremendously important, and you need a high tolerance for ambiguity. If you don’t have a tolerance for ambiguity, this is not a fun job.


Specialty: Oncology, Capital Hematology Oncology/Sutter Roseville Medical Center
Medical School: University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)

Why would a person choose oncology, one of the most emotionally wrenching specialties of all? In medical school, I liked working with the oncology patients best because you can connect with them on a deeper level. Their priorities are different. They know what’s important.

Has cancer hit your family? That was another reason I chose this specialty. My aunt developed breast cancer, and I remember going to medical appointments with her and watching how her physicians didn’t really communicate with her very well. I think that was the most powerful reason that I chose oncology.

Do you frequently work with breast cancer patients? Probably the majority of my practice are people who are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and go through treatment. I follow them through the years, so a lot of people I follow are survivors. That’s the nice part of what I do.

So it’s not all doom and gloom? There’s always some hope. You can always hope for a miracle. You can always hope for something to get better.

Have you seen miracles? I certainly have seen miracles—people who, by the books, you did not expect to be cured. It’s pretty neat. I have a patient I just saw yesterday who seven years ago was as sick as you could get, but he’s still here, and for every year we celebrate an anniversary, he brings me a charm for my bracelet.

But what about delivering bad news? Does it ever get easier?
The news doesn’t get easier to deliver, but you learn how to take cues from your patients. It’s all about getting permission, making sure they’re ready to hear what you want to share. Some want you to be very honest, and others want it in small doses.

How do you manage the stress? I try not to get overloaded. I try to take care of myself first, try to keep some balance in life. And I have a very supportive husband.

My first mitral valve repair surgery Allen S. Morris, M.D., cardiothoracic surgery, Cardiac Surgery West Medical Corp./Mercy General Hospital
“This cannot be fixed, this cannot be fixed” was what I kept thinking the first time I watched mitral valve repair. This was in the late ’80s, when the understanding of mitral valve repair was very rudimentary and we were still doing it the historical way—not using the minimally invasive treatments we have today. I was a resident at the Cleveland Clinic at the time, first assisting [Dr.] Delos Cosgrove, one of the giants in the field, which was a tremendous honor. When I saw how very complex the procedure was, I would have bet hard cold cash that it could not be done. But watching Cosgrove go at it, step by step, carefully and methodically, instilled upon me the fact that this really can be done. It was astounding to me, and watching Cosgrove taught me how to think like a heart surgeon.

My first time watching neurosurgery Mark W. Hawk, M.D., neurosurgery, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center
I was a medical student when I watched a neurosurgeon perform a tumor resection [removal] and saw the brain for the first time, and all of a sudden, bam—that was it. I knew immediately this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was like your first love, or something. It was an epiphany. If you’re going to spend your entire life on some project, you want it to have some complexity, some significance, and the brain is forever complex. You’re never going to quite figure it out. To operate on the brain—what an honor it is.


The days of the passive patient are gone. Today’s savvy consumers know that it’s their body and ultimately their responsibility, and that good health begins with them—eating right, exercise, yada yada, yada.

But when you’re barely keeping up with the demands of work and home, sometimes health takes a back seat. It’s been three years since your last mammogram? Oops.

We asked two of this year’s Top Docs what patients can do to stay on top of it all.

Make a list and check it twice. Before visiting the doctor, make a list of all your health concerns and questions. Hand the list over to your doctor so you can review it together.

Bring your medicine chest along. “Bring in all your med-ication bottles and tubes,” advises Scott M. Wigginton, M.D., an internal medicine doc in private practice in Sacramento. Wigginton says it helps him determine whether someone is overmedicated or may be at risk of drug interactions.

Use the Internet—but wisely. Part of being a savvy consumer is being an informed consumer, and the Internet can be a big help, says Christine Jang, M.D., an OB-GYN for Kaiser Permanente. On Kaiser’s website,, “there’s a ton of patient education information regarding diseases and treatments,” says Jang. But she guards against using just any website. “Just because the information is out there doesn’t mean it’s reputable or true,” she warns. Wigginton thinks it’s great that patients are becoming better informed via the Internet, but adds, “sometimes they do frighten themselves.”

Try a spreadsheet. OK, so it sounds a little too much like work. But Wigginton says some of his computer-savvy patients keep track of their appointments, test results, diagnoses and other medical matters on a spreadsheet, and that it’s very helpful in terms of staying organized and seeing the “big picture.”
Question everything. If you’re feeling wobbly about your doctor’s diagnoses or treatment plan, take matters into your own hands and get a second (or even third) opinion. “Second opinions are always encouraged,” says Jang. “It makes people feel more comfortable with their care—and besides, there’s always more than one way of doing things.”


“Should I stay or should I go?” It’s a question most patients have asked themselves at some point. But how do you know when it’s time to leave your doctor?

If you ask Margaret Parsons, M.D., she’ll tell you to look first at the big C: communication.
“It’s just like any relationship,” says Parsons, a local dermatologist and past president of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society. “If communication isn’t there, things aren’t going to work.”

That door swings both ways, she adds: Doctors can fire patients, too. (She’s occasionally done it herself.)
That said, you may want to walk (or have a talk with your doc) if:

Your concerns are not being addressed. But before you blame the doctor, make sure you’re providing all the information she needs, suggests Parsons. “Sometimes patients don’t give the doctor the information they need in a way the doctor can put it all together.”

You don’t feel heard. If your doctor isn’t a good listener or your questions are not welcome, move on.

Your physician acts inappropriately. If that happens, run, don’t walk out the door. If you wish to file a complaint, the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (916-452-2671) provides a confidential review process. Another resource is the California Medical Board’s complaint unit at (916) 263-2382 or

Your doctor doesn’t think outside the box. “Thinking outside the box is important,” says Parsons. True, especially when it comes to tricky diagnoses or when your treatment isn’t working. Try letting your doctor know you’re frustrated, says Parsons, and ask, “Can we try something else?”

Getting appointments is a nightmare. But first, try leaving a message on the office manager’s voice mail. If not, talk to the doc. “If someone has problems scheduling an appointment or other problems with my staff, I would appreciate knowing about it,” says Parsons. “I can’t fix it if I don’t know about it.”

You just don’t click. Sometimes, it’s just not a love match. In that case, you know the drill: Try, try again.