Planting roots in Santa Barbara County to build trust in health care


Physician brings local knowledge and international expertise to patient care.

The doctor-patient relationship can be complicated. For some patients, trust in their physician grows when they find one that has spent time and effort becoming part of their community.

It’s a factor many Californians are taking into consideration as they seek convenient and high-quality care during the 2021 open enrollment period.

UCLA Health primary and specialty care expanded into the Montecito area in August of this year, providing experienced physicians, flexible appointments and access to the hospital network of more than 180 medical practices across Southern California.

Amanda Scott, MD, primary care physician at Montecito Primary and Specialty Care, is no stranger to the communities of the Montecito area.

She attended UC Santa Barbara and began to put down roots – volunteering and shadowing doctors at every opportunity. After attending medical school abroad, she returned to complete her residency at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

She also spent three years as medical director at the Santa Ynez Tribal Health Clinic, where she worked to build trust with residents who had endured generations of historical trauma.

“It takes a while to gain their trust. This is also true with other small communities,” who have suffered from disparities in health care, she says.

She adds that the key to forming that foundation of trust is for doctors to step back, slow down and listen.

“Once that relationship is there, patients will feel comfortable talking about their medical concerns, but also their concerns about their living environment or concerns about life,” Dr. Scott says.

“All of that goes into actually improving their medical care.”

Besides listening, trust is built from being considerate to patients, getting to know them and paying attention to the little things, the physicians at Montecito say.

“I actually make up my own patient handouts,” says Dennis Hughes, MD, primary care physician specializing in internal medicine. Originally from Indiana, Dr. Hughes completed his residency at Northwestern in Chicago after graduating from New Jersey Medical School in Newark. He is exploring Montecito by jogging and hiking, an interest he shares with many of his patients.

Having practiced medicine for 21 years, he finds that sending patients home with familiar instructions is more helpful than issuing handouts with generic terms or information.

“Dr. Scott and I both love what we do and I think that our patients pick up on that,” he says.

For convenience, Montecito Primary and Specialty Care provide same-day appointments and extended weekday and weekend hours for new and established patients.

Beginning in November, Susan Ahern, DO, will begin seeing patients on a monthly basis; her specialties include endocrinology, diabetes care, gender health and weight management. Cardiologist Stephen Vampola, MD, is also on site to provide interventional cardiology services.

Learn more about Open Enrollment and the health care questions you should be asking with our “how-to” guide.