Robert Plantz: ‘I have the opportunity to see patients get better and improve their quality of life’

Physician Assistant Robert Plantz is surrounded by his passions – health care, patients and nature.

“Family practice is a lot of fun, you get to do everything,” said Plantz, who embraces his role as the provider at Western Sierra Medical Clinic’s Penn Valley center. “You never know what’s going to come in the door.”

From annual exams to chronic conditions and minor procedures, the former Marine corpsman has three decades of health care experience – and helping patients in smaller communities and even halfway around the world. Regardless of where he helps others, Plantz says the most important skills are communicating and connecting with patients.

“My goal is to make patients comfortable with me,” Plantz said. “You have about 90 seconds of meeting a patient to establish that relationship and trust. You have to be open and frank, and let them know that I’m looking out for them. You have to develop a rapport.”

The rapport is critical because patients often come in for one issue – perhaps a nagging cold or cough, or persistent pain – but the real problem is something different.

“The chief complaint is often not the real reason why they’re coming in,” said Plantz, adding that many patients will later reveal other often more serious issues during a visit. “It can be hard and challenging to have people embrace the new norm of their life.”

Plantz knows all about the challenges and frustrations that many patients face, from battling a chronic condition or dealing with an injury. He was in a serious car accident that left him in a coma for several days in 1998 – and required a lengthy recovery.

“I understand trauma and pain, depression and anxiety,” said Plantz, who enjoys the role of advocate, cheerleader and, of course, provider. “I have the opportunity to see patients get better and improve their quality of life. The greatest success stories are the most satisfying.”

And Plantz has many success stories from a career that includes as a Senior Medical Officer for the U.S. State Department in Baghdad, Iraq, and as the Head of Education and Training for a Tank Battalion based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

“Medicine has always been intriguing to me,” said Plantz, who read medical textbooks while growing up in Vallejo and Marysville and planned to become a physician. “But the Navy just kept giving me more jobs that were fun and interesting.”

During the past decade, Plantz has been practicing medicine at rural clinics, from New Mexico to most recently in Mariposa, just outside of Yosemite National Park. He joined Western Sierra Medical Clinic in 2018.

Western Sierra, and more specifically the Penn Valley center, allows Plantz to work in a rural community and provide patients access to quality health care.

“It can be rather complex” working in a rural clinic, he said. “But it’s also wonderfully unique.”

Nevada County also gives him the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.