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American Canyon's Malik Ghiden, left, is defended by Wood's Michael Wudel during the boys' MEL vs. SCAC All-Star Boys Basketball Game at Fairfield High on Friday night.

Napa Valley College festival a hit with community, students

Napa Valley College’s 75th Anniversary Festival and Open House was part community day, part career fair, part student resource fair and plenty of fun. With four “zones” filled with activities spanning across the campus, prospective students and community members were able to get a feel for the college.

“I feel a really great vibe today,” Rafael Manzo, current performing arts student and Associated Students president, said. “This is the first time they’ve ever done an open house of this level.”

Manzo, who was part of the event’s planning committee, said planning the festival and open house has taken most of the academic year. And, he said, it turned out better than he imagined.

“I honestly have never felt so connected even with just the other departments on campus.”

Manzo said the day went so well that he suspects the college will make the festival and open house an annual event.

Manzo and two other students from the performing arts department acted out an “Othello Rap” – just one of the many entertainment options available for the day.

Cal Bouwer, who wielded a sword made out of duct tape, PVC pipe and yoga mats during the performance, said the entire festival felt “welcoming.”

“I think it’s going really well,” Bouwer said before noon on Saturday. The open house was a great opportunity for everyone to see what the college has to offer for both the community and the students, he said.

In addition to the student performances, there were musical and dance performances, engineering and drone demonstrations, facility tours, a criminal justice and public safety career fair, bounce houses and appearances by Batman, Spider-Man and Captain America.

“This is a must go-to event for us,” said Detective Thomas Rosina of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Rosina said his department has hired recruits from Napa Valley College in the past and is looking to hire more. On Saturday, he said, he had spoken to at least six people who seem like they would be a good fit with the department.

After a few on-the-spot interviews, Rosina said he hopes he can hire all six.

Officer Sarah Perez, a community liaison officer with the El Cerrito Police Department, said her department also came to the event in order to find some potential candidates for employment.

“We’re interested in anybody interested in law enforcement,” Perez said, noting the department’s great diversity.

Vanessa Avina and Bibiana Mejia, both 14, don’t know exactly where they will be going to college or what they’ll be doing afterwards, but they both said they appreciated what the day had to offer.

“We’re just looking around,” Avina said while gathering information from one of the many law enforcement agencies represented at the event. The Harvest Middle School student said it’s not too early to be thinking about college.

“There’s a lot of options,” she said, but she’s thinking about UC Davis or the University of Southern California. “We’ll see.”

Abimael Leyva, 18, just started at Napa Valley College this past spring, so he found the open house very helpful. He even manned a table and handed out information on the college’s arts and humanities department.

“I just wanted to be part of the events here at the college – get a feel for it,” he said. “It’s pretty fun, meeting lots of people, learning about the different programs the college has.”

The lives of Napans: What happens when a doctor is married to a doctor?

Dr. Cheryl Thomas Peters and her husband Dr. Jim Peters hear a frequent comment when they go out together in public.

Here come the double doctors.

Not only have the two Dr. Peters’ been married for 23 years, they also work together at Adventist Health St. Helena hospital.

That means that patients, instead of his spouse, sometimes come first, said Jim Peters. Family meals or personal time may be interrupted or take a back seat to work – by either partner.

“This is the profession we’re in,” he said. “We don’t take it personal.”

The Peters’ aren’t the only double doctors around. It turns out there are a number of married doctor/physician couples who live or work in Napa County.

There are both challenges and benefits when a doctor is married to another doctor, they said.

“If we are both working full time, sometimes it’s like two ships passing in the night,” said Dr. Adam Kaplan, M.D. who is married to Dr. Jill Freeto Kaplan, M.D.

“What I love about it is that I have someone who speaks the same language,” Adam Kaplan said.

“It’s really great (that) we do the same job,” said Dr. Heather Hagerman, M.D. of her anesthesiologist husband Dr. Alex Fisher, M.D.

“We can help each other out,” or substitute for each other when needed.

However, “It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Fisher. “The reality is the logistics of it make it dauntingly hard to have two people working full time as physicians and with kids.”

“We are able to talk about the emotional difficulties of taking care of patients,” said Dr. Mark Gardner, M.D., spouse of Dr. Barbara Gardner, M.D.

Being a physician “can be very, very trying emotionally,” he said. “Having a partner that is totally sensitive to that is a fantastic thing.”

Yet, “The challenges in marriage are just the same whether you are a physician or not,” said Barbara Gardner.

Working side by side in St. Helena

Dr. Thomas Peters – who has a DCN (doctorate in clinical nutrition) — and Jim Peters, M.D., co-direct the TakeTEN lifestyle medicine program at St. Helena Hospital.

“We met professionally (first),” said Thomas Peters. “It makes it easier for us. We started that way.”

The two seem to truly relish sharing the work and personal life.

“We have this noncompetitive respect and trust for each other that is the foundation for being successful,” she said. “He’s always cheering me on and I’m always cheering him on.”

Thomas Peters said because she’s often familiar with the patient her husband may be helping, she doesn’t feel excluded from their work relationship.

“I’m part of this experience,” said Thomas Peters. “I’m not on the outside.” If she wasn’t also a doctor, “I think it would be harder,” she acknowledged.

And while they do make sacrifices to their personal life, “it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice,” to them, said Thomas Peters.

One common misconception about being married to a doctor is that people assume the two have “got it made” financially, said Thomas Peters.

“People think you are wealthy,” she admitted. “You get judged,” she said. “I don’t like that part.”

She tries to avoid telling merchants she’s a doctor when buying certain things like a car or even a house. People want to charge you more, she said.

“You can’t negotiate the same way.”

Thomas Peters said her family isn’t driven by money. For many years the couple did mission work with their church.

“We spent a lot of time working at a very low wage.” They live in less expensive Lake County, instead of Napa County.

“We stay very humble,” Thomas Peters said.

Gardners grow marriage and careers

Mark Gardner is a cardiologist at St. Helena Hospital. Barbara Gardner is a pediatrician who works at the Lakeport Adventist Health clinic. The two have been married for 33 years.

Barbara Gardner said that one advantage of being married to a doctor is that “we understand each other,” especially when it comes to the inevitable work-related interruptions and delays.

Mark Gardner said one benefit of being a doctor couple is that “we are able to talk about the emotional difficulties of taking care of patients.”

“We can vent to one another. And also tell each other about when something great happens and understanding where the feeling is coming from. Having a partner that is totally sensitive to that is a fantastic thing.”

And then there are other perceptions.

Barbara Gardner said when their kids were younger other parents might have thought that because the two are physicians that the Gardner kids only ate healthy foods and watched “wholesome” TV shows.

She laughed when recounting the time a classmate stepped on a rusty nail at their son’s birthday party.

“I didn’t have a tetanus shot in the house,” she said. If she had, “I would have been tempted,” she said with a laugh.

Some people might have the idea “that maybe that we’re not ordinary folks. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Mark Gardner said.

Being physicians, “really doesn’t carry past our life at the office,” said Mark Gardner. After work “That hat comes off and we’re just Mark and Barb.”

Physician couple does double duty at the Queen

Anesthesiologists Heather Hagerman and Alex Fisher live in Napa and work at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

They’ve been married since 2004.

Hagerman said she gets the same misconception about doctors living a “cush” life.

“A lot of people think that — unless they are other doctors and they know it’s not true,” said Hagerman.

Due in part to significant changes in the healthcare system and how much physicians are reimbursed for care, “doctors used to make a lot more money” than they do now, she said.

“And they don’t realize how much we have to be available to the hospital,” said Hagerman. “We don’t work 8 to 4. We are tied to the hospital.”

Fisher said that when people find out he’s married to another physician “they aren’t terrible surprised because most people know you spend a good chunk of your younger years at hospital,” he said.

As a young doctor, “You’re not really part of the regular social mix,” where 20-somethings typically meet each other.

“People like to refer ‘Grey’s Anatomy’” TV show when imagining romance and matchmaking on the job, said Hagerman with a laugh. “It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.”

Kaplan and Freeto Kaplan: A young family in medicine

Adam Kaplan is a urologist on the medical staff at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. Jill Freeto Kaplan is a hospitalist on the medical staff at a sister facility, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. They’ve been married since 2009.

“I think the common misconception is that we’re rich and money-driven,” said Adam Kaplan. “But really we’re just a young family trying to get by (working) high powered, interesting jobs.”

“Medicine isn’t what it used to be,” he noted. “We’ve been working really hard at training for many, many years. You have debt and no savings.”

Adam Kaplan said being married to another doctor means that “I have someone who understands my day, and my life. And my patients and my commitments.”

His spouse is “someone who is caring and thoughtful and really takes pride in her work and who is incredibly intelligent. It’s fun to have a partner like that.”

“It’s a very busy lifestyle but we have a lot of appreciation,” for what each other does, said Freeto Kaplan.

Freeto Kaplan said because the two met in medical school, “We knew what we were getting into before we married each other.”

“We know it’s not going to be a set time when someone is home or is going to leave.”

Being a family of doctors has also rubbed off on the Kaplan children.

“Our children are all very comfortable with all of the different medical devices out there,” said Kaplan. “They all know how to use the stethoscope and otoscope and what a heart sounds like.”

Kaplan said at bedtime, his 5-year-old daughter will often ask to talk about how the physiological system of the body works.

For example, “’How do you make pee?’ She wants to know all about that stuff,” he said.

Freeto Kaplan said one common question she gets about being a doctor married to a doctor is what the family talks about at the dinner table.

“We talk about medicine a lot,” she said.

Napa traffic signal gauntlet on a congestion roller-coaster ride

An infamous Highway 29 traffic signal gauntlet past Trower, Wine Country and Salvador avenues is losing whatever congestion-busting gains it has made in recent months, but the regression should be temporary.

City of Napa officials say Caltrans tried a signal synchronization pattern through the gauntlet at the city’s request that cut down on wait times for motorists. They hope motorists noticed a difference in recent months.

A city study shows the northbound average travel time through the signals during morning rush hour dropped from five-and-a-half minutes to three-and-a-half minutes.

But now Caltrans is doing a Highway 29 repaving project that is taking the signal timing back to the bad old days, city officials said. The improved signal regime should return when the project is finished.

“I just don’t want the public to get discouraged,” Deputy Public Works Director Eric Whan said. “What you saw was real.”

Highway 29 in north Napa has three traffic signals within seven-tenths of a mile. This area has much cross-traffic, especially when parents are bringing children to schools on both sides of the highway. There are related traffic signals along the Solano Avenue frontage road.

“It’s a very complex set of intersections in close proximity,” city Engineering Assistant Ed Moore said.

In 2016, a new Napa Valley Vine Trail segment was built just west of Highway 29. The need for pedestrians and cyclists to safely cross streets led to the replacement of stop signs with traffic signals along Solano Avenue at Wine Country and Salvador avenues.

These new signals started operating in spring 2017 and changed the entire, interrelated traffic signal situation. Citizens started complaining about rush-hour traffic snarls both along the highway and on Solano Avenue.

“When the signals first started working, the complaints went through the roof,” Whan said. “It was calls to public works, it was calls to city council members, the mayor, the city manager. It was bad.”

The original idea had been to take the traffic signal pattern at the Trower/Solano/Highway 29 intersections and replicate it at the new signals. But Caltrans discovered broken traffic sensors beneath the highway pavement, so instead went to a “maximum recall” signal timing.

“It assigns times to all phases, whether there’s a car there or not,” Moore said. “It’s the safest thing if your detection system is not working.”

But it’s a less-than-ideal scenario for traffic management.

Caltrans had a staffing shortage and fixing the traffic detection loops wasn’t a priority, Moore said. The city pushed to change this and Caltrans late last year fixed the loops, leading to congestion improvements.

Signals at the three intersections were still running independent of each other. The city wanted a coordinated signal timing plan that Caltrans implemented in February.

“Travel time went down,” Moore said. “Delays went down, how much unnecessary time you’re sitting there. And average speeds went up. Instead of an average speed of less than 20 mph, our average speed went up above 30 mph.”

Now comes the Caltrans project that will repave Highway 29 from near Sierra Avenue in Napa to south of St. Helena. As an initial step, drainage and curb repairs are underway at intersections. The work is damaging traffic sensors and playing havoc with travel times at the gauntlet.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Moore said. “It’s going to get as worse as it was last summer, probably for several weeks.”

In exchange, motorists will end up with a smoother, 15-mile stretch of Highway 29. Caltrans is to do the repaving work through May.

Resident Philip Pyrce travels the gauntlet and said he didn’t notice a big improvement in the traffic signal congestion in recent months. That may be in part to the recent Caltrans work on the drainage and curbs, he said.

Also, he uses Solano Avenue. Before the traffic signals at Salvador and Wine Country avenues came, motorists could simply stop at the stop signs and go. Now they must wait for the green light, he said.

Some drivers on Highway 29 still exit the highway to take Solano Avenue as an alternate route to avoid congestion, Pyrce said. Still, he said, he’s happy to have the Vine Trail that necessitated the new traffic signals.

“We’re just grinning and bearing it these days,” he said. “That’s all we can do. It is what it is.”