The clinic, which is run in conjunction with the Center for Adolescent Health at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, offers primary care specifically geared toward those aged 12 to 18, with eight full-time physicians on staff who are board-certified in adolescent medicine.
Castro Commons, which has been operating since 2004, is a place where teens can come for both their basic health care needs and attention to problems — including emotional and mental issues — that often first arise in the teenage years.
The clinic has been expanding its services in the last year, adding a nutritionist and a social worker to its staff, and patients can receive basic counseling or be referred to the center's eating disorders or weight management programs.
According to Neville Golden, M.D., director of the clinic, connecting to teens and thoroughly addressing their health concerns all boils down to the approach.
"The first time someone comes in, if it's for a regular check-up, we're going to spend more than an hour with them," he said. "Maybe they're here for a sore throat, but we'll ask them about their friends, social life, substances, are they sexually active, safe at home, do they exercise, and on and on."
Taking the time to sit down and really talk to patients is key to getting a candid and accurate picture of an adolescent's life, Golden said.
"It takes much longer to draw out teenagers. Often the pediatrician is rushed or busy, and just doesn't have the time to put into it," he said.
Kira Wallace, 17, first visited the clinic this year, and can vouch for the thoroughness of its services.
"They spent a lot of time going into detail, a lot of it was very specific and personal. They asked me about everything, up to questions about my road safety," she said.
Wallace said she liked the confidentiality of the exchange. The clinic offers its patients a private, comfortable place to speak about issues they may have trouble broaching with mom and dad.
"Fifty percent of teens are sexually active, but many can't speak to their parents about it," Golden said. "We can listen to them and offer advice, whether it's about abstinence or protection."
But parents aren't completely left out of the loop. Wallace's mother, Lynn Klamkin, said the doctor made sure to step into the waiting room to visit with her as well.
"In very general ways she gave me a sense of what is going on with her. It really made me feel very included, but her privacy was respected," Klamkin said, adding that she was "incredibly impressed" by her daughter's visit at the clinic.
Klamkin is one of a growing number of parents who prefer doctors specializing in the health needs of adolescents. She said she drove her daughter down to the clinic from San Francisco, where they live, based on the referral of a physician in the city.
There are only a handful of such clinics operating in the Bay Area, Golden said.
Dr. Christine Litwin, a member of the Mountain View-based Women's Physician Group, which has had a teen program in place for several years, said current trends in the medical community tend towards finding more effective and comprehensive ways to cater to teens.
"The concept of having a place just for teens to go is relatively new," she said, adding that teens "get lost in the medical care system. They're beyond childhood immunizations, so they don't have regular check-ups. But they're beginning to deal with many health issues, including their sexuality, and girls have developing reproductive needs."
Back at Castro Commons, the waiting room is filled with magazines and posters geared towards its teenaged patients. Wallace said she and her mom have already recommended the clinic to friends who they believe will benefit from the personal, individualized approach.
"Never in my life have I seen a physician take that much time with a patient," her mom said. "It was just unbelievable."
The Castro Commons teen clinic is located at 1174 Castro St., Suite 250. The clinic can be reached at (650) 934-7808.
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