Dr. Bob Uslander, “Dr. Bob,” has been practicing medicine for more than twenty-five years, currently as a concierge physician leading a team of holistic practitioners serving the elderly, those experiencing complex illness and end-of-life. He is dedicated to helping people live with joy, and without fear and struggle, at any stage of life, and especially in the face of challenging or terminal illness. To Dr. Bob, there is no group of people more deserving of and desperate for this type of care than those facing these challenges and the people who love and care for them.
Dr. Bob received his BS in Biology at the University of Illinois (Summa Cum Laude), and is a graduate of the UCLA School of Medicine (AOA Honor Society). He completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois Affiliated Hospitals. Dr. Bob is board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is a member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the California Medical Association and the San Diego County Medical Association.
While his training was in emergency medicine, his career has evolved toward taking care of the elderly and those nearing the end of their lives. Since 2003, he has focused on creating and working with practices and programs that help the elderly and clinically complex members of the community receive excellent health care. In 2003 Dr. Bob created Sierra Housecalls Medical Group to provide medical care to the homebound and elderly members of his Northern California community. In 2004, he helped form Seniority Life Care at Home, a provider of non-medical in-home care for seniors, which allows them to remain in their own homes more safely and independently. He was a founder and past president of Sierra LifeNet, a non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the frail elderly, including the operation of a local Adult Day Health Care program.
Dr. Bob has been married for 27 years to Sandy Uslander. Together they have 3 children – Eric, Carly and Levi. He enjoys many outdoor activities such as snowboarding, hiking, rafting, cycling, running, and golf. His favorite pastime is watching his nine-year old son Levi play baseball.
I’d like to begin by telling you that this is not your typical “About Me” page … because I want you to know more than just “about” me.
I want you to feel like you really know me.
I don’t want to just list my degrees and qualifications. I want you to know what inspires and motivates me, and why I do what I do.
I’m Bob Uslander, MD, and it is my life’s purpose and mission to transform the experience of LIFE in the face of illness, aging, and dying, for everyone involved. What does that mean, exactly?
It means I help people move beyond fear and discomfort in the face of serious illness or the end of life … so they can experience all the joy and meaning of life – living as fully, as presently, and as peacefully as possible, until their last breath.
Now, it wasn’t always this way.
I spent 22 years as an Emergency Room physician, helping people avoid death. I took care of people of all ages, with every imaginable illness and injury, in a number of different geographic locations. It was fascinating, fulfilling and important work, and I developed a reputation as a kind, caring, and knowledgeable doctor.
Being an Emergency Room physician allowed me to relieve the suffering and struggling of people, but …
I felt I could do MORE.
I wasn’t sure what, until I experienced a true epiphany:
I was at a celebration of life for a friend’s daughter, in La Jolla, California. Sitting on a bluff overlooking the ocean, I suddenly felt a jolt of light – of energy – shoot through my body.
I was fully awake, and totally tuned in (and honestly, it was a little scary!).
At that moment, I felt, rather than heard, these words in my mind:
“I’m supposed to help people die.”
What?! A bit startling, for someone who had spent almost 3 decades helping people avoid death.
At the same time, this message wasn’t completely out of the blue. You see, I’d had a brief, though intense, experience with hospice several years before when I helped my good friend Darren die at home after a battle with melanoma. Since then, I’d occasionally thought about how rewarding it would be to care for people facing the end of their life, and to work with the amazing angels who do hospice care.
THIS was the moment that changed the trajectory of my life, and everything began falling into place.
The very next morning, my son and I went to a local festival. As we were heading back to the car, I walked by the vendor booth of a local hospice agency. Remembering the events of the day before on the bluff, I went over and began talking to the lady behind the table. Mary Ann and I shared an immediate connection. I told her about my epiphany, and she told me about her long history as a hospice nurse.
We exchanged numbers and email addresses. After a few more conversations and email exchanges, I became the medical director for a wonderful company that provides palliative care and hospice for people in their homes.
Ever since that moment overlooking the ocean, I’ve committed myself to caring for people with serious illnesses and those nearing the end of their lives. These people (and their families) typically experience intense levels of fear, stress, overwhelm, and struggle, and are in the direst need of compassionate and loving support. They need honesty, clarity, and even a little humor in their lives.
This is my calling – and it aligns with my core values:
Connection, Family, Wisdom, Joy, and Freedom.
I want you to know that I’ve also experienced the transition of death in my own family, so I understand this sacred journey firsthand, as well.
She was struggling so much each day and was so unhappy. And it was taking such a toll on my father. I felt guilty when I had these thoughts, but they still came. One of my mother’s greatest wishes was to see her oldest grandson, my son Eric, graduate from college. She made the trip to Santa Barbara with us, but the night before the graduation she was taken by ambulance to the hospital because she was having difficulty breathing. She wasn’t able to be at the ceremony, but she watched a live feed of it on a computer from her hospital bed, and actually had a better view of Eric receiving his diploma than I did. She was transferred to a hospital in San Diego, where she spent 10 days.
After considerable discussion, we made the decision to not do any aggressive treatment of the cancer and bring her home under hospice care. I expected her to live another few weeks, or even months, but that first night home she aspirated some food and her ability to breathe became even more compromised. We medicated her to keep her comfortable, and waited. My mom died peacefully at home 3 days later, surrounded by all of her family. It was a beautiful transition for an amazing woman.
Through this experience, I gained incredible insight into the fears and anxieties that family members feel in the middle of the night, when their loved one is struggling. I also understand, so much more than I ever had, how important it is to have a guide (me, in this case) to advocate for the patient and make sure they receive the best care and enough medication to eradicate their pain and fear, and ensure their comfort.
At the time of his diagnosis he was a vital 81-year-old man, working full-time at a job he loved and spending most of his free time with his 8-year-old grandson (my son). After the diagnosis, he agreed to undergo a seven-week course of treatment. Soon after completing it, he embarked on a 3-week trip with his eldest grandson through Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It was a magnificent trip, but upon his return he was so weak that he went straight to the ER, where tests showed his cancer had spread throughout his body. He died 2 weeks later.
My belief is that only a powerful spirit could have kept him going through the duration of his international travel. My father had declined further treatment once the extent of the disease was known, and lived by the mantra, “It is what it is,” during the last 2 weeks of his life. I assured him he’d experience no pain or distress as his life came to a close.
As a palliative care and hospice physician, I knew I had skills and resources to help with this … but I was still a bit afraid of what the end might be like for him. I so badly wanted him to have a “good” death, and was completely and fully committed to doing what I could to ensure it. Dad was proud of his life and his legacy, and was sad to leave us, but he wasn’t afraid. And to my great relief, it turned out that he had about as perfect a death as anyone could ever hope for. He just slipped away, surrounded by his sons, most of his grandchildren, and his younger brother. No fuss, no pain, no distress … just love.
Even in the final moments of his life, my father was my greatest teacher and guide, helping me understand how powerful and in control the human spirit can be. He had already shown me how to create the gold standard of a life. After witnessing how he died, I now have the gold standard to shoot for when I assist families as they endure serious illness or prepare for the end of a life.
A serious illness doesn’t have to mean the death of the spirit.
No matter what stage of an illness a person is at, it is ALWAYS possible to experience a deep sense of peace and innate wellbeing.
Death can—and should—be a beautiful transformation.
I believe effective care goes beyond simply “keeping the patient comfortable”; in fact, I believe it is vital that a team works together to address ALL of a person’s needs—emotional and spiritual as well as physical—in order to ensure the best possible experience. This is something the seriously ill and the dying are often deprived of, and it’s become my mission in life to change it.
My work involves fostering deep connections with patients and families going through major health and life challenges and struggles. I guide them in making decisions about their care so they enjoy the best possible quality of life – and the greatest sense of peace and wellbeing – while they go through the stages of serious illness, up to and including the taking of their final breath.
I collaborate with other physicians on behalf of my patients and families, and often bring families together in their understanding of the situation and the best ways to support and honor their loved ones.
My team members and I take a “village” approach to providing healthcare, and concentrate on what matters most to our patients and their families (rather than what’s the matter with them), so the journey becomes comfortable, safe, and enriched by a focus on LOVE and PEACE. We focus on integrating all areas of a person’s care, including physical, emotional, and spiritual, so that life is as rich and fulfilling as possible.
If you would like to learn more about how we can guide you through this important time, with the greatest amount of love and compassion (and the best possible quality of life), contact me for a Complimentary Consultation by clicking on the button below.