Ventura County's hardest worker: The doctor is all in
Originally posted on VC Star
If Dr. Sherilyn Wheaton only saw 20 patients a day, no one would deny the physician works hard. But the depth of her commitment to getting things done hits home when you realize through her volunteer work she helps thousands of patients she doesn’t know and will never see.
A family practitioner with Primary Medical Group in Ventura and director of the practice’s urgent care center, the Ojai resident won The Star’s 15th annual Hardest Worker in Ventura County contest among a field of eight overachievers extraordinaire.
Wheaton is a wife, mother of two daughters, the leader of two Girl Scout troops, a classroom volunteer, a potter and a tenacious advocate of using technology to make lives better. Among her volunteer gigs, she serves on Community Memorial Health System’s Electronic Health Records Physician Governance Group to develop and upgrade systems that allow medical providers to share patients’ records electronically to speed up and improve treatment.
“She wears a lot of hats. In her case, they are more like little crowns,” said Dr. Edward Banman, co-founder of Primary Medical Group and her boss.
Wheaton grew up in Pasadena in a family of strong women. Upon hearing a vaccine had been developed to prevent measles, her grandmother — the wife of a Navy master chief — marched into the admiral’s office demanding her daughters receive the inoculation. Wheaton calls her mother the hardest working person she knows.
“Anything that needs to be done, she does. And she gives 110 percent,” she said.
Her mom was a Girl Scout leader, and it was through a scouting program Wheaton found her calling. In high school, she worked at a camp for girls with disabilities in Kansas. Because their handicaps resulted from a host of conditions, Wheaton was introduced to a cross section of medical practices.
She studied biology at UC San Diego, on a Regents Scholarship. After graduation, she taught Spanish while applying to medical schools. She won acceptance at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, next door to Naval Station Great Lakes.
“I woke up every morning to Reveille,” she said.
Dr. Sherilyn Wheaton with Primary Medical Group in Ventura talks with April Mason, a medical assistant. Star readers voted the family practice doctor and medical director for an urgent care the winner of this year's hardest worker contest. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
And she was up and at it. After graduation from medical school, she completed the Family Medicine Residency Training Program at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles.
Although Wheaton herself didn’t mention this, she went on to earn a master’s degree in public health at Harvard. Primary Medical hired her four years ago, and she quickly became what Banman calls their “techie expert.” While other doctors might groan under quality documentation for insurance and Medicare, Wheaton sees the silver lining, Banman said. To her, it is an opportunity to crunch data to improve patient care.
“She is a cheerleader for what most of us find onerous,” said Banman, who has been practicing medicine in Ventura County for some four decades.
She also works with the labs that provide test results to make sure the patient is best served.
Wheaton has learned how to identify the right employee to work with. “It’s the person with the keys in their desk,” she told me.
It takes one to know one. Wheaton is driven, said Dr. Stanley Frochtzwajg, who works with her on that electronic records committee at Community Memorial.
“She doesn’t tolerate mediocrity,” he said. And she’s no fan of inertia, either, he added. In her role on the committee she has been tenacious in challenging her colleagues to provide better service, said Frochtzwajg, CMH’s chief medical officer.
He marvels at her stamina.
Dr. Sherilyn Wheaton with Primary Medical in Ventura confers with Joseph Diaz, a physician's assistant, outside her office. Star readers voted the family practice doctor and medical director for an urgent care the winner of this year's hardest worker contest. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
“She is a mother and a homemaker,” he said, “yet she attends weekly meetings, sometimes that start at 6:30 a.m. and other times at 6:30 p.m.”
While her co-workers say Wheaton pretty much is available around the clock, even she draws the line.
“When I am at Girl Scouts, I probably can’t be reached unless someone is actually dying,” said Wheaton, who leads troops that sold $12,000 in cookies.
She also volunteers teaching art and science at her daughters’ grade school. Along with that she developed a badge system that makes it easier for parents and grandparents to gain access to campus so they will volunteer more often.
I asked her, as I have the 14 Hardest Workers before her, “what makes you tick?”
For Wheaton, it is an admonition in the last line of the Girl Scout Law. It reads: “Be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
Only in Sherilyn Wheaton’s view, you don’t need to be a girl or a scout because she is always scouting ways to make the world better. And that merits a badge of honor.
Email Colleen Cason at firstname.lastname@example.org.