Dr. Andrew Fenton

Dr. Andrew Fenton is the emergency room medical director at the Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Andrew Fenton, MD, FACEP, is the medical director of the emergency room at the Queen and a full-time emergency physician with Napa Valley Emergency Medical Group.

Fenton said one of the things he likes most about is job is that “I never know what I’m going to see when I walk in the door.”

In the ER, he sees patients from newborns to people facing the end of life with “every problem you can imagine — from head to toe,” he said.

It’s a team effort, he said. “I love that about it.”

The FACEP after Fenton’s name stands for Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Fenton became a medical doctor in 2003.

1. Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

Steven Spielberg — he is the greatest storyteller of my generation.

Joe Biden—both Obama or Trump would be the obvious choice but I think Vice President Biden would make the dinner banter much more interesting.

Steve Kerr –A great basketball player and coach who has experienced the heights and depths of human existence.

2. What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: I studied marine biology in college and love to scuba dive. I thought this would develop into a career doing research on sea life and our oceans. Luckily, I can still dive as a hobby.

Not try: Police officer/deputy sheriff. I have so much admiration for our police officers and deputy sheriffs. Their jobs are incredibly hard, and I am continually impressed how they perform their duties in such a professional manner and am thankful they keep our community and my family safe.

3. What was your first job?

I got my first paperboy job in seventh grade in my hometown of Modesto. I enjoyed it, especially getting my first paycheck. But Sundays and the day after Thanksgiving were days I always dreaded.

4. What’s the worst job you ever had?

I was an outdoor landscaper at E & J Gallo in Modesto for two very hot summers in high school.

Some days were great but I also remember one day working gloveless digging into hardpan with posthole diggers for eight hours. I bought gloves for the next workday but the next two weeks with those diggers weren’t much better.

When you work that hard (especially for $4.25/hour) then every job after seems like a piece of cake.

5. How did you get into this business?

I was a high school biology teacher, and though I loved it I wanted a higher education. I worked with my brother, now a UC Davis family physician, on a research project at UC San Francisco and decided on medical school.

After my UC Davis residency, I did a health policy/advocacy fellowship at the capitol in Sacramento.

That is where I met my partner, Dr. Paul Kivela, and he lured me to Napa, which was not a difficult sell.

6. What’s a common question you get from someone when they find out you work in an emergency room?

They always want stories.

I have a few stories but in reality the job is intense. Some of the stories that have moved me the most are not the kind of stories you tell at a cocktail party. They have to do with people at their most vulnerable moments.

It’s an exciting job, but it is very personal.

7. What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?

We are always in a constant battle with health insurance companies to pay the bill for patients who need to come to the ER.

The physician charge portion of an ER visit is not that different from a visit to an auto mechanic or a home visit from a plumber. One difference is we deliver the service and never ask for compensation until after.

But many health insurers companies like to play games, underpay the bill, say the patient should not have gone to the ER, or delay payment. They are in the business to make a profit while we are in the business to take care of patients so we will likely always have this challenge.

8. What’s on your to-do list?

We are still raising funds to renovate our emergency department.

Our ER has been in use every second of every day since it was built 20 years ago. It needs a redesign to make it more efficient for doctors and nurses along with a refresh so it is a more optimal healing space for patients.

9. If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?

The fact that the electronic patient has become more important than the actual patient in our health care system.

I now spend twice as much time with the “iPatient” health record at the computer than I do sitting down talking to and examining the actual patient.

People cannot be reduced to a few electronic lines of medications/medical problems, and patients require a human interaction and understanding.

The designers of electronic medical records are not clinicians and have not yet figured out how to make the documentation of the electronic medical record efficient and less burdensome.

10. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

After college I was unsure of my future and took a job selling mattresses. Within a few months I was managing the store.

A few months after I was managing five stores and the region. I still believe we all spend a third of our lives in bed and too many people sleep on inferior mattresses.

Fenton can be reached at 707 257-4014.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.