Caring for Generations

History of Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group

It's 8 pm on a Saturday night. A little girl has a fever and is complaining of a sore throat. If she is a patient of Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, her family can thank the early health care pioneering efforts of Clarence Rees, MD, and Clair Stealy, MD, for founding the area's first multispecialty medical group practice. Their bold steps in 1923 were the first of many that focused on delivering high-quality care, convenience and the peace of mind that comes with services such as after-hours pediatric appointments.

Dr. Clarence Rees, a surgeon, and Dr. Clair Stealy, an internist, believed that patient care would be enhanced if doctors representing multiple specialties worked together. Physicians could obtain immediate access to consultation in other areas of specialization, vastly improving the diagnostic process. This approach allows physicians to collaborate in providing comprehensive, efficient and thorough patient care in a cost-effective manner, all under one roof. The expertise of many disciplines working together produced a new kind of teamwork that revolutionized medical care in San Diego.

The first Rees-Stealy office opened at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Grape Street in downtown San Diego in 1923. Soon, they hired an obstetrician, pediatricians, internists, an otolaryngologist, a urologist, a neurologist and a pathologist. Plus they added another story to their building. A true interdisciplinary approach was forming.

Both physicians were intimately associated with San Diego's growth during the 1920s. Concerned with the health and welfare of civil servants, Dr. Rees served as city fire surgeon, and one of his associates served as police surgeon. The group formed an early partnership for school health projects with the San Diego City School District and developed the Nursing and Physician Services program. Dr. Stealy was instrumental in initiating such innovative programs as the Doctors Service Bureau, a countywide answering and referral service. He was the first organizer of the teaching program at San Diego County Hospital and was the first chairman of the department of medicine. Both Dr. Rees and Dr. Stealy were among the founding physicians of the American College of Surgeons and American College of Physicians. Both also served as presidents of the San Diego County Medical Society.

Recognizing the medical group's unique position in the community as a source for comprehensive medical services, Dr. Rees and Dr. Stealy established the Rees-Stealy Medical Research Fund, the forerunner of the present research foundation. They believed that fundamental biomedical research and its relationship to daily clinical problems would clearly promote the advancement of medical knowledge.

In 1938, the Rees-Stealy Research Foundation was formed. That same year a second structure, built to provide additional space to perform outpatient surgeries, joined the original location. In 1942, Rees-Stealy opened its first on-site pharmacy so patients could receive care and obtain needed medications all at the same location. By 1947 the center added on-site full service radiology services.

Shortly before the onset of World War II, an allergist, ophthalmologist, general surgeon, obstetrician/gynecologist and another pediatrician were added to the staff. The practice experienced tremendous disruption during World War II. Of the 18 doctors, 9 were called into service. Dr. Stealy insisted that the drafted physicians be compensated with the proper share of the group's income to ensure that their families would be provided for while they were away.

In 1946, a fellowship program was established to provide the much-needed additional training opportunities to doctors returning from military service. Six fellows were appointed: four in internal medicine, one in surgery and one in obstetrics/gynecology. The program continued for four years, when hospitals could more easily meet the demands for postgraduate training. The fellowship program experience encouraged Dr. Stealy to assist in founding the American Association of Medical Clinics. He believed the art of medicine could be enhanced by improving the training of physicians in the day-to-day care of patients in an office setting.

In 1954, Rees-Stealy became one of the first medical clinics to use a computer in its practice. The IBM machine filled a 16- by 20-foot room.

Concerned about the need for quality medical facilities in San Diego's other communities, Rees-Stealy opened its first satellite medical office in Mira Mesa in 1976. In 1977, Rees-Stealy registered its 400,000th patient.

In 1980, recognizing the unique employee relations, financial and administrative issues facing employers, and the importance of federal and state regulations relating to employee health and safety, Rees-Stealy developed a specialized, dedicated occupational medicine program. Today, the program is staffed by specially trained physicians and support staff who serve more than 8,000 San Diego-area employers and register more than 120,000 patient visits annually.

In 1985, Rees-Stealy affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, making it the only multi-specialty physician provider in San Diego that is affiliated with an integrated health care delivery system. This venture was the first of its kind and attracted national attention. Sharp HealthCare is San Diego's leader in health care and is well known for cardiac care, women's services, senior care, rehabilitation, oncology care, diabetes management and orthopedic joint replacement programs. Sharp Rees-Stealy continued to grow with the opening of a 30,000 square foot medical office building in Chula Vista in 1987. A centralized call center opened in 1995; each year the friendly and knowledgeable patient service representatives help patients schedule more than 700,000 appointments.

The Sharp Rees-Stealy San Diego Medical Center opened on the campus of Sharp Memorial Hospital in 1996. In 1998, a weeklong series of events commemorated the group's 75th anniversary, recognized many achievements and celebrated the privilege of caring for generations of San Diegans.

Ever the innovator in the practice of medicine, Sharp Rees-Stealy continues to offer patients quality, service, convenience and choice. Sharp Rees-Stealy meets the needs of its patients' busy schedules by offering such services as same-day primary care appointments, 24-hour-a-day health care advice through Sharp Nurse Connection®, pediatric appointments until 9 pm daily and five urgent care centers open daily.

Nationally known for superior clinical practices and research, the group has been certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, an industry benchmark for quality of care and services. Sharp Rees-Stealy participates in significant collaborative studies with numerous medical institutions and research foundations in such areas as women's health, sinusitis and asthma. Sharp Rees-Stealy's history reflects not only the expansion of medical technology, but also its ongoing mission — to improve the health of the community through a caring partnership of patients, physicians and employees.