Best Doctors in the East Bay
From Botox shots and bionic pancreases to eye injections and DMARDs, peer-honored physicians share their insights on medical breakthroughs in their fields.
Christine Aguilar, M.D., Pediatric Rehabilitation, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.
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Doctors Doing Their Best
As residents of the East Bay, we not only live in a beautiful and diverse area, but we also have access to some of the nation’s top-ranked physicians. Yet even drawing from a large pool of talented and experienced medical professionals, finding a doctor who takes your specific insurance plan, has the right qualifications, and offers a good bedside manner can prove to be a challenge.
The staff at Best Doctors Inc., a Boston-based organization that conducts a massive, continuous independent study of the medical profession, can help take the guesswork out of choosing a qualified specialist. The doctors on the annual list are named through a peer-to-peer process where physicians are asked, “If you or a loved one needed a doctor in your specialty, to whom would you refer them?”
Doctors cannot pay to be on the list or vote for themselves. In addition, the staff at Best Doctors reviews each physician nominee for current licensure, board certification, and any malpractice suits, as well as their specific expertise, including special research and published works. All of the doctors listed are chosen not just for their résumés, but also for their continued clinical prowess and their interpersonal skills.
This year, we chose five outstanding doctors to profile from the list of 249 physicians identified by Best Doctors Inc. Spanning a wide range of specialties including pediatrics, neurosurgery, and endocrinology, this list offers a guide to some of the finest medical care the East Bay has to offer.
Christine Aguilar, M.D.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
Apediatric rehabilitation specialist who works with children diagnosed with brain and spinal cord injuries and conditions including cerebral palsy and spina bifida, Aguilar realized early in her medical training that she wanted to work with children. A Northern California native, Aguilar attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and went on to complete a residency at the UC Davis Medical Center and an internship at UCSF Medical Center. A married mother of two grown children, Aguilar, 56, is an avid runner and lives in the East Bay.
What types of cases do you primarily see as a pediatric rehabilitation specialist?
We treat a lot of children who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in automobile accidents, as well as patients with cerebral palsy and brain infections. We have an excellent team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists that work closely with families, and recently added art and music therapy to our program.
How has the field of pediatric rehabilitation evolved since you began working at Children’s in 1995?
Over the past 10 years, we have seen the use of Botox injections shift from wrinkle reduction to successfully treating muscle spasticity in children with cerebral palsy. Children with CP have very tight muscles, which get even tighter as the child grows, and most need multiple surgeries to lengthen their muscles. Botox can help us to avoid or decrease the number of surgeries and can also help many children walk.
You recently added a therapy dog to the rehabilitation program at Children’s. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, Trinity, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, is our Canine Companion facility dog and she lives with my family and accompanies me to work at the hospital each day. She joined our staff in May and works closely with our physical and occupational therapists. Trinity has been professionally trained and can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate patients with special medical rehabilitation needs. She also provides comfort and unconditional love to our patients and inspires our pediatric patients who are overcoming physical and cognitive challenges.
You became a runner several years ago and have gone on to participate in several races. How did you start a running routine?
When I was in my 20s, I said I wanted to complete a marathon by the time I turned 50. That didn’t happen, but when I turned 52, I set out to lose some weight and decided to give running a shot. I started walking on the treadmill, and worked my way up to running three miles. I competed in my first race with a friend. Since then, I’ve gone on to compete in five marathons. I’m not a super-fast runner, but I think that’s one of the advantages of becoming a runner later in life—I realize I’m probably not going to win, so I enjoy the race.