Articles / 2010
National search brings specialist to Camarillo center for family health
Rheumatologist helps ease the pain of arthritis
The Camarillo Acorn
By Daniel Wolowicz
Tammy Cheng Richard Reisman, a vice president with Ventura-based Community Memorial Health System, personally sought out Tammy Cheng in his search for a rheumatologist to bring to Ventura County.
As one of the lead doctor recruiters for CMHS, which includes Community Memorial Hospital, its sister hospital in Ojai and nine centers for family health throughout West Ventura County, Reisman sets his standards high.
“I do a lot of searches,” said Reisman, who is also a doctor. “We have recruiters look nationwide to find the best person.”
This time, that person was Cheng.
Reisman said that, along with Cheng’s credentials, he was impressed by the compassion she shows her patients.
“We wanted to get someone who was sensitive to their patients,” he said, “These are debilitating illnesses, and we wanted someone who had compassion toward those who had these conditions.”
Having earned her undergraduate degree at UCLA, Cheng attended medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where she was a resident at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She had a fellowship at Washington University and also was an instructor at the university.
Cheng said that although the move from Missouri to Camarillo brought her closer to her parents and sister, leaving her patients behind was not easy.
“It was definitely bittersweet because I’ve had the same panel of patients for the past five years, and I got to know those patients really well,” Cheng said. “There were a lot of joyful tears. People were very happy that I could move closer to my parents.”
What is a rheumatologist? “We’re a specialist with the immune system in the sense that we take care of any condition that is the result of an overactive immune system,” Cheng said.
Many of her patients, she said, come to her with arthritisrelated problems.
“If you’re having trouble doing the dishes or getting out of bed, those are the earlier symptoms of arthritis,” Cheng said. “By the time you have swelling, it’s definitely time to see a rheumatologist.”
She said it’s a common misconception that arthritis is a problem that only affects older adults.
“I see patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and people are always surprised to hear about that because they don’t think that young people get arthritis, which is actually not true,” Cheng said.
She said once she determines the severity of the arthritis she can then recommend a combination of medication and physical therapy to help prevent joint damage.
“A lot of people think that arthritis is not a treatable condition, but if the arthritis is getting to the point that it’s affecting your quality of life, I think it’s worth it to them to think about seeing a specialist,” Cheng said.
The doctor said that although genetics plays a role in the likelihood someone will have arthritis, it’s still largely unknown what causes the chronic disease.
In addition to treating arthritic patients, Cheng sees patients with lupus, inflammatory muscle conditions and sarcoidosis—a disease that causes inflammation in various parts of the body.
Cheng said she is working out of three of the centers for family health, including the Camarillo facility at 422-B Arneill Road.
“What I love about this clinic is that all the doctors are very caring and very professional and very knowledgeable,” she said. “I like the fact that I get to know my patients, to learn what their preferences are and to work with them to come up with the best individualized plan for care.”