Words: Louie Hayward / Photos: Zach Cordner
Dr. Chris K. Guerin is a prominent physician at Tri-City Medical Center who’s a master in his field of Endocrinology. It’s a true blessing for Oceanside and its citizens to have Dr. Guerin to call it’s own.
Can you explain what do you feel your main role is in your profession?
My primary focus is to help the individual patient lead a healthier and more fulfilling life. During my 32 years as an Endocrinologist, I have seen many new advances in how we diagnose and treat patients with Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Thyroid diseases, and a host of less common, but still crucially important, problems related to hormonal disorders. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where I completed my training, stressed a “holistic” approach in patient treatment even before this term became popular, and this has been ingrained in me ever since.
What’s the most common condition people come in to see you for?
Diabetes Mellitus is probably the most common condition people see me for. Most people don’t realize the multitude of ways this disease presents, or that there are now hundreds of permutations available for treatment. When I started my practice in the early eighties, insulin and sulfonylurea were the only medications available.
Now there are over a dozen classes of oral agents, and at least an equal number of injectable agents, all of which deliver vastly better control of this disease. Despite these newer and easier methods of monitoring and controlling Diabetes, treatment still requires direct effort by patients to avoid long-term complications.
I’ve always enjoyed education, and with this, the challenge of determining the most effective ways to engage patients in their own active management of a disease, which, in its early stages, may not cause them to feel “sick” in ways they might expect. Diabetes is an insidious disease with serious long-term consequences if patients do not maintain an active role in their own treatment, and this requires patient motivation.
What’s the most rare, and/or most unusual diagnosis you’ve had, and were you able to help?
Over the course of 30-plus years, I’ve been privileged to work up and manage a whole myriad number of disorders from A to Z (Acromegaly to Zollinger Ellison syndrome!). I think one of the most rewarding was a patient who had seen a number of excellent doctors. She insisted that she was simply depressed. When she came to me, I realized that she hadn’t been checked for Hypercortisolism (Cushing’s Syndrome). We ran tests, which confirmed that diagnosis—she had Pituitary surgery, and was eventually cured. Unfortunately, not all rare diagnoses are that easy to make.
What do you think is your biggest challenge and your greatest reward?
My biggest challenge and my greatest reward are intertwined. My greatest reward came recently, when I was given the honor of being elected President of California American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists—we’re the largest chapter in the nation, with over 500 members. My biggest challenge is that, while 500 might sound like a large number, there’s a severe shortage of clinical endocrinologists in California, and this is expected to worsen in coming years.
Many older Endocrinologists are retiring early, in frustration over what they feel is an increasing, inappropriate intrusion of bureaucracy on their practice of medicine. These days, about one-third of a provider’s available practice time must be dedicated to compliance with new government and insurance mandates. While these mandates were well intentioned, and may eventually become beneficial, the collective effect of this new workload is a counter-productive reduction in time available for actual patient contact and treatment—the time necessary for helping patients develop and maintain optimal management of their condition has also become compromised. Many Endocrinologists are also frustrated by a lack of access to some of the exciting therapies, medications, and devices which in the long-term can ultimately decrease both the cost and complication of patient care.
Outside of your profession, do you have any other hobbies and/or interests and is there anything you’d like people to know about you?
I believe in practicing what I preach. I’m an avid windsurfer, mountain biker, runner, and have been practicing yoga. I feel a mostly plant based diet would do wonders in the fight against obesity and improve the environment. The fact that a billion people on this planet are starving to death, while another billion people are getting heart disease, cancers, and diabetes due to overconsumption—is a tragedy. On a personal level, my wife and two children are even more important than my life’s work in Endocrinology. I’m so fortunate to work and live in Oceanside and North County.