Tending the Mishaps of Weekend Warriors and Others



Dr. Bill Anderson with Monica Zajac, middle, and Maria Lisek, right.

Imagine having just hit the sand for that long awaited Laguna Beach vacation. The kids are in the water and then mayhem strikes. His first time bodysurfing, Junior has limped out of the surf, clutching his shoulder. Now what?

For small medical emergencies, help is near on Ocean Avenue at the Sleepy Hollow Medical Group Urgent Care Center owned and operated by William C. Anderson.

The inveterate surfer knows all about healing the plethora of mishaps that can befall itinerant beach-goers and about saving vacations. Two part-time physicians and three medical assistants help him run the place smoothly, seven days a week.

Anderson’s independent medical practice celebrates its 20th year this week. “We treat vacationers, people from out of the area who don’t have a regular doctor here and also hotel and restaurant personnel that become injured on the job,” said Anderson. “We work at keeping people out of hospital emergency rooms.”

“Bill is the epitome of what dedicated, caring doctors are all about. He has been a part of my life without being intrusive,” said resident Sally Forbe. “I went to him for an emergency and asked to become a regular patient. He stood by me when I lost my home in the ‘93 fires and after the death of my husband. He really is a man for all seasons.”

Born in Chicago in 1943, Anderson graduated from Loyola University School of Medicine and spent two years as a Navy flight surgeon at the now defunct El Toro Marine Air Base. “At the time of the Vietnam War, doctors were drafted,” he explained. While tending base personnel, meager military pay compelled him to moonlight as an emergency physician at local hospitals. “Instead of standing watches, I worked in hospital emergency rooms and fell in love with that branch of medicine,” he recalled.

During the two-year stint, California also worked its magic: Anderson discovered beach life, including surfing and ocean swimming.

But he puts aside his stethoscope to pick up a pen. Anderson has written short stories and prose and a book about Laguna’s firestorm, “A Season of Flames.” “I write all the time; I always have a journal with me,” he said. Aside from an innate desire to help people, his inspiration to become a doctor also sprang from a book, Sinclair Lewis’ “Arrowsmith,” the story of a scientist whose work became his life, but at a cost.

Every Saturday, though, finds Anderson in the company of surfing buddies Jim Sadler and Paul Bernard.

“Bill is a man who is packing at least three lives into one: he writes and sketches, travels and enjoys good food and wine,” said Sadler. “We started surfing together because of our kids. They lost interest. We are still at it and for old surfers it’s great to have a doctor around.” Anderson raised five children in Laguna.

“He’s a Renaissance man,” added Bernard. “He is into music and art and helping others. The only thing I don’t understand is that he’s a Chicago Cubs fan.”

Except for two years in Big Sur, Anderson’s private practice has been spent on Ocean Avenue. He also maintains privileges at two local hospitals and volunteers at the SOS Medical Clinic in Costa Mesa. “We operate Sleepy Hollow Medical like an old-fashioned, private family practice,” he said.

Facilities are streamlined and functional, with computer screens and gleaming gadgets absent. Anderson eschews databases and gratuitous testing for in-depth talks with patients. Paperwork is kept to a minimum. “I don’t believe in putting patients’ information on data bases and relying on web technology. It compromises their privacy and has completely eroded doctor-patient relationships,” he said.

While Anderson prefers private, cash and carry patients, he does accept some insurance, Medicare and even some who are uninsured, though he mostly refers the latter to emergency rooms and community clinics.

“I need independence to make my own medical judgments,” said Anderson, who has the luxury of a client base that allows his office to be self-supporting.

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