Potash Hill

Lara Knudsen ’03: Pioneering Happy Medicine

In medical school at George Washington University and her residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Lara Knudsen experienced a typical schedule of rapid-fire, 10- or 15-minute slots with patients. She found that physicians typically don’t have much control over how many patients they see, how many are double booked, how much time to allow for thoroughness. 

“It’s a common theme that many primary care physicians are not very happy with their jobs, and end up feeling quite burnt out and drained,” says Lara, who opened Happy Doc, in Salem, Oregon, with her husband Chris Jones ’05 in 2013. Part of a new wave of “micropractices,” where the patient-physician relationship comes first, Happy Doc is Lara’s inspired answer to many of the things that are wrong with the current health care system.

“In a more typical clinic there tends to be a lot of pressure from the administrators to see more and more patients, because that’s the only way to generate income to pay for all the salaries, and the big, fancy buildings,” says Lara. She finds that getting back to the basics of one doctor and one patient, the relationship is strengthened and there is more time to be thorough.”

Even in response to the recent coronavirus outbreak, Lara has managed to reach more people in her community with compassionate care through a partnership with a nurse practitioner at another family practice. With support from government agencies, they formed the nonprofit Alluvium, which provides a mobile unit to reach underserved parts of the population and provide COVID-19 testing and education, taking the burden off of Salem’s only emergency room.

Get more information about Happy Doc Family Medicine.