Healthy Trends 2014

Dr. Cummings uses 25 years of experience to make music out of gastroenterology

By From page HT4 | January 24, 2014


DR. DANIEL R. CUMMINGS is a gastroenterologist in Placerville with a "heartfelt concern" for his patients. His 25 years of experience have created a wealth of knowledge he shares with patients from as close as Placerville to as far as San Francisco. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

What does the esophagus, stomach and colon have in common with ragtime piano?

Dr. Daniel Cummings, of course. (He also likes classical.)

This well-known Placerville gastroenterologist practices medicine for a living, music for relaxation, and does each with thoughtful style. After all, both disciplines operate on rhythms and both are essential for greater harmony. Only one, however, is truly an art form, the other is lots of notes.

A gastroenterologist is a physician specializing in disorders of the alimentary canal, the food path descending from one end of the body to the other. The main organs of vulnerability therein are the esophagus, stomach and colon. The gastroenterologist practices diagnostics, not surgery.

From acid reflux to ulcers, from gall stones to colon cancer warnings, Dr. Cummings brings considerable diagnostic capability. His 25 years of practice came after 12 years of education, internship and residency. That unique skill set can be significant comfort to the troubled patient with little or no understanding of a possible developing condition.

“But, what underlies the medical knowledge,” according to wife Annamarie Cummings, the practice administrator, “is a heart-felt concern for the patient. This doctor invests himself in the whole person, although he doesn’t try to replace the primary care physician.”

For the past 25 years Dr. Cummings and Annamarie have called Placerville home, where they raised their daughter, now a college student studying bioengineering. Their office is on Golden Center Road across from Walmart, but patients come to the doctor from lake Tahoe to San Francisco.

Although Dr. Cummings’ type of medical practice generally relies on referrals from primary care physicians, these days most of his patients are self-referred. People know when there’s something really wrong in their alimentary canal.

“Patients who have noticed anal bleeding or excessive diarrhea, heartburn, difficulty in swallowing, ulcer-type pain or chronic indigestion can see their primary, or contact us directly,” said the physician. “That often depends on the underlying insurance, which is another fluid issue these days. Self-education through the Internet or magazine articles, while often helpful, can lead to self-therapies which can easily miss something quite important.”

Annamarie, a former biomedical engineer, agrees. “The No. 1 preventative issue by far is colon cancer screening — now, not later. That said, it’s helpful to know your doctor as well as he or she knows you.”

Medical bloggers support this. “Stay compliant,” posits one specialist. “The key to the colonoscopy experience is trust in the doctor. Whatever the outcome, there’s no need to panic, it’s not an automatic diagnosis or prognosis situation.”

If there is a cancer threat, it may be time to see an oncologist, or perhaps the patient should consider realistic alternatives. Dr. Cummings strives to understand the patient thoroughly enough to recommend a custom course of therapies which have proven successful in many cases over the years.

Mrs. Cummings said, “Why burden the system with automatic surgeries if a more finessed line of action bears equal or greater promise?”

For someone in Daniel Cummings’ line of work, days are always long. He rises early to review patient histories in order to optimize the valuable face-to-face time. Then he runs a few miles, a regimen he has followed since his cross-country workouts in high school.

“At 60 he’s still slender and in shape,” gushed Annamarie. “A great role model for all of us, including the Boy Scouts he supports.”

Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but he rarely arrives back to his Shingle Springs ranch before 9 p.m.

The administrative burden in any medical office can be crushing, even with electronic records management.

“Or especially with ERM,” noted the administrator wryly. Beside Mrs. Cummings, there is the perpetually exuberant office assistant, Brandi Morales, a walk-on candidate for the open position years ago. “Her energy and inherent brightness appealed to us,” Annamarie recalled. “We knew immediately she was right for our patients, and she’s been wonderful.”

“I love the patients like family,” Morales enthused, “Each one is unique and so special.”

The Internet reviews on Dr. Cummings are uniformly positive. He is described in composite postings as thoughtful, sincere, kind, compassionate and competent — certainly understandable for a Scott Joplin wannabe who considered the seminary as a young man.

Dr. Cummings graduated Stanford University with an undergraduate degree, attended UC San Diego for his MD, interned and performed residency at UC San Diego Medical Center, and did his fellowship hospital work at the UC Irvine Medical Center. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

His office is located at 4300 Golden Center Drive, Suite F in Placerville. Call 530-344-2060 for more information.

Peter Tyner

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