Dr. Christopher Fagan has seen everything, and his Big Bear Clinic has too
Broad experience was borne from time spent in emergency rooms. Dr. Christopher Fagan understands that his general practice in Big Bear often has to act as a broader center of care in the tight-knit mountain community: Sometimes, it means treating patients with cancer and not long ago it was saving a woman’s life as she waited to see the doctor. The woman had stopped into Bear Mountain Family Practice with shortness of breath, but no chest pains. But then, her “heart stopped in our lobby, she was resuscitated and now she’s alive.”
As trying as that moment had been — rescuing a woman in full cardiac arrest — it also reminded Fagan of his three decades working in emergency rooms in Big Bear and metropolitan Los Angeles: “You kind of have seen everything there.” In between, he practiced in a rural Montana town of about 6,000 people before returning to Big Bear for the sake of his children. His oldest daughter works at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland; another runs track and field at Big Bear High School. The combination of experience working as a physician in hectic ERs and practicing in tinier communities — Fagan graduated from medical school in Mobile, Alabama — has expanded his view of the profession. “I think it gives you a bigger perspective because you’ve seen all that,” he says, “and then you can apply that to how you work on people in the small, rural community.”
Over the past three years, his Big Bear clinic has seen an increasing number of cancer patients — they don’t treat the disease, but perform much of the related tests — and Fagan notes that the clinic is far more “labor intensive” than the days he treated flus and colds in Montana.
He took over the Big Bear clinic 18 years ago. “Since then, we’ve just continued to grow,” he says, seeing 50 to 60 patients a day. They hired a new nurse practioner two years ago to keep up with the “large demand” as the clinic routinely performs diagnostic evaluations and lab tests.mHaving treated four generations of patients in the scenic town, Fagan is used to running into many of them outside his practice on a regular basis: “You do see them at the grocery store; you see them at the gas station.” Stripping the bureaucracy from his role, he said it was not uncommon for patients to visit his home and he has written prescriptions for patients he has seen out in public so they didn’t have to seek out care. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, horseback riding, Elk hunting and ice fishing — hobbies which he picked up while in Montana.