Our 2010 Top Doctors

Expert physician-researchers select the desert’s 74 top doctors in 35 specialties

Steven Biller Health & Wellness, Top Doctors

When looking for the right doctor, a strong recommendation from a trusted friend goes a long way. To that end, Palm Springs Life has partnered with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a physician-led research firm based in New York, to independently survey the Coachella Valley and reveal the crème de la crème.

How the firm makes such sensitive decisions — which often become your referrals — requires some explanation. Below, we answer questions asked frequently about the resulting list.

In short, doctors nominate other outstanding doctors in a variety of clinical specialties. Castle Connolly’s medical research team vets the nominees based on stringent selection criteria.

Its physician-led study involves more than 1,300 board-certified physicians, including medical leadership of leading hospitals. Using mail and telephone surveys and electronic ballots, they ask physicians and the medical leadership of leading hospitals to identify highly skilled, exceptional doctors. The review includes, among other factors, scrutiny of medical education, training, hospital appointments, administrative posts, professional achieve-ments, and malpractice and disciplinary history. 

Physicians selected for inclusion in this Palm Springs Life feature may also be listed online at www.castleconnolly.com or in one of Castle Connolly’s guides, such as America’s Top Doctors or America’s Top Doctors for Cancer. The books are available online (www castleconnolly.com), in bookstores, or by calling 800-399-3627.

Castle Connolly is a healthcare research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president. The firm’s principals and its publications have been recognized by Good Morning America and 20/20 (ABC), 48 Hours (CBS), American Morning (CNN), and Fox News, as well as in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Herald. Magazine coverage has included Fortune, Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Money, New York, San Francisco Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, and many others.

No. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled.

Probably not. Castle Connolly does not claim to identify every excellent physician.  The physicians identified are clearly among the very best, but there are always other fine physicians not identified by Castle Connolly. That is why the firm’s books and websites describe a process whereby you can identify excellent physicians.

The specialties reflect those most commonly sought by readers in the Coachella Valley. In some specialties, very few doctors practice in this region. For example, the Plastic Surgery category omits subspecialties in the field, particularly dermatologic, ophthalmic, gynecological, and facial plastic surgery. In this particular instance, Castle Connolly operates America’s Cosmetic Doctors (americascosmeticdoctors.com). For additional information, please call Castle Connolly at 212-367-8400.

Please call Castle Connolly at 212-367-8400 to request a print or electronic ballot.

The listings are updated annually. Additionally, as Castle Connolly researchers learn of changes to doctors’ information, they immediately update the doctors’ profiles.

Top Doctor Profiles – See Entire 2010 Top Doctor List


Real-Life Risk Management
Dr. Ralph Steiger provides life-saving solutions for mothers and their unborn babies

Every pregnancy has inherent risks, but certain conditions can create life-threatening circumstances for the mother and fetus. High-risk situations can arise from pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or from the mother’s age or obstetric history. No matter the cause, consulting an expert like Dr. Ralph M. Steiger at Desert Regional Medical Center can help turn a perilous situation into a joyous delivery.

Steiger was a first-year medical student at UCLA when his interest in obstetrics first sparked. An assigned mentor who was an obstetrician showed him the field’s academic ropes, but it was his time in a labor and delivery room that solidified his eventual career choice.

“I stayed in that labor and delivery room until well past midnight because I found it so fascinating,” Steiger recalls. “Although stressful at times, this is ultimately a very rewarding specialty.”

Compassionate by nature, Steiger says his days are filled with emotional highs and lows. “In some instances, I have to deliver the worst news imaginable about a developing fetus,” he explains. “Calmly exploring options seems to help, and the thrill of helping people achieve their dream of having a healthy baby outweighs the more difficult situations we encounter.”

Steiger’s role as a high-risk pregnancy consultant affords him the opportunity to work closely with patients and physicians. The in-demand doctor joined Desert Regional Medical Center seven years ago. Today, he fills the position of director of perinatal services — a role that leaves him little time for leisure. But when he’s not juggling his heavy caseload, he has no aversion to getting his hands dirty.

“I enjoy gardening, and I think people are often surprised to learn that one of my hobbies is woodworking,” he says. “I find it very relaxing.”

Steiger has two adult children who have pursued dental and law careers, accomplishments for which he takes little credit. “I have my wife to thank for my children’s success,” he says with a laugh.

Maternal & Fetal Medicine
Maternal Fetal Medicine Center
Desert Regional Medical Center
1150 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92263

Residency: Harbor UCLA Medical Center, Torrance
Fellowship: University of California, Irvine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Board Certification: American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine    
Hospital Affiliations: Eisenhower Medical Center; Desert Regional Medical Center
Professional Memberships: Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, California Medical Association, Riverside County Medical Association

The Pain Chaser
Dr. Roland Reinhart brings a new approach to an old problem

Dr. Roland Reinhart aims to eliminate pain and the side effects of standard treatments. He brings fresh meaning to the phrase “Show me where it hurts,” preferring to locate and treat the source of pain using alternative methods, such as therapeutic nerve blocks, trigger point treatments, cold laser therapy, and permanent nerve sleep.

“The trick is to figure out what’s causing that pain, what nerves are involved, and if there’s a way to put those nerves to sleep or to trick the brain into thinking it no longer has pain,” he explains.

With attention to individuality and patient comfort, Reinhart believes pain should be treated with the urgency of an emergency and typically sees patients within a day or two.

Board certified in anesthesiology and pain management, the Southern California native is endlessly fascinated by how individuals perceive and tolerate pain. While he acknowledges cultural stoicism and socially induced gender variables (big boys don’t cry), he notes than when it comes to how an organism responds to pain and medication, no two reactions are alike.

A 1987 graduate of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Reinhart relocated his family to the desert after completing a residency in anesthesiology and pain management. He started his practice in 1991 at Eisenhower Medical Center, where he served as chief of anesthesia for two years before choosing to concentrate specifically on pain management.

“In anesthesia work, you put the patient to sleep; you wake the patient up. It’s routine,” he says. “With pain, you have a patient who’s awake and you’re trying to eliminate pain without blocking their brain so they can function.”

In 1998, Reinhart opened his solo practice, followed in 2000 by a state-of-the-art surgical center, Advanced Pain Management.

When not chasing pain, Reinhart enjoys tennis, swimming, and biking. Also a shutterbug in his off time, he admits he probably wouldn’t have made a living as a photographer.

“I don’t know what I’d do,” he says of alternate careers. “Maybe a snow-ski instructor?”

Pain Medicine
39700 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
1080 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Undergraduate Education: University of California, Los Angeles
Medical School: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas
Internship: Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Irvine
Residency: University of Texas, San Antonio
Board Certifications: Anesthesiology and pain management
Professional Memberships: American Society of Anesthesiology, American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians  

Improving Quality of Life
Dr. David Waldman helps patients of all ages breathe easier

As one of the valley’s foremost allergy and immunology experts at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Dr. David Waldman wields an advanced arsenal of solutions for sneezing, wheezing, rashes, and other allergy-induced maladies. Double board certified in allergy and pediatrics, Waldman is especially adept at alleviating allergy symptoms in children.

“Too many kids with allergies, infection, and asthma go to adult allergists who are unable to administer the correct dosages of medicines to children, which can result in sedation and behavioral changes,” Waldman explains. “With my pediatric background, I’m able to prescribe allergy solutions that improve school and athletic performance, minimize illness-related absences, and help kids enjoy proper, restful sleep and a better quality of life.”

Waldman’s work at the Mayo Clinic and UCLA led to the early success of inhaled steroids for asthma and intravenous gamma globulin for patients with compromised immune systems. When not seeing patients, he remains an in-demand lecturer on the topics of allergy and immunology.

When it comes to personal pursuits, his interests are as diverse as the allergies he treats. He and his oldest son breed jumping horses, while he partners with his younger son to produce rock recordings at their Palm Springs music studio. Avid art collectors, Waldman and his wife, Diane, enjoy loaning their work to museums and staying active in the international art community.

Passionate about patient care, Waldman has hosted free allergy clinics at Eisenhower Medical Center for the past 25 years, testing and treating more than 5,000 Coachella Valley residents. “Chronic allergies really limit your enjoyment of life,” he says.

“It is especially rewarding to help someone return to the activities they enjoy and live free from disabling allergy symptoms. That’s why I love what I do.”

Allergy & Immunology
Eisenhower Medical Center
39000 Bob Hope Drive
Wright Building, Suite 100
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Medical School: New York Medical College, Westchester County, N.Y.
Internship: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Residency: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Fellowship: UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
Board Certifications: American Board of Allergy/Immunology, American Board of Pediatrics

A Ray of Hope
Dr. Judy Jackson destroys cancer with pinpoint accuracy

Dr. Judy Jackson devotes most of her days to something she hates. But hating cancer, she says, is what makes her a good oncologist.

“I do this every day for the patients. I adore them,” she says. “That’s what brings me in here when I’m sick, miserably sad — whatever it is. I just push through, because I’m never as sick as my patients.”

Interested in medicine since she was a tot, Jackson originally headed toward plastic surgery, with a focus on pediatric facial reconstruction. But another doctor who knew of her mathematical prowess and genetic predisposition to physics (her father was a government physicist) introduced her to radiation oncology.

As medical director of Radiation Oncology Services at Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jackson works with the center’s surgeons and chemotherapy team to destroy cancer with radiation while saving healthy tissue. Jackson excels in performing advanced therapies, such as stereotactic radiosurgery, intensity-modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, and brachytherapy.

Prior to coming to the desert in 2008, the mother of six (including two sets of twins) founded cancer centers in Las Vegas, most notably one where she trained doctors in Gamma Knife radiosurgery on brain tumors. She also developed programs for indigent patients with little or no insurance.

Jackson can zap a cancerous cluster of cells smaller than a pencil tip and not miss. She’s learned how to apply the technology behind bloodless brain surgery to anyplace in the body, irradiating tumors without a hospital stay. But it’s more than the cutting-edge technology that radiation oncology employs that attracted the Indiana University graduate to her profession.

“It’s that I fell in love with the patients,” she says. “I don’t save nearly as many as I want to. I would give anything to be out of a job, but I’m not.”

When not zeroing in on disease, Jackson spends time with her family — hiking and cleaning house. Of the latter activity, she says, “It’s got to get done, and it’s a good lesson for them.”

Radiation Oncology
Comprehensive Cancer Center
Desert Regional Medical Center
1180 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Suite E218
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Education: Indiana University, chemistry and nursing
Medical School: Indiana University School of Medicine
Internship: Ball Memorial Hospital, Muncie, Ind.
Residency: Indiana University Medical Center
Fellowship: Radiation oncology at University of California, San Francisco
Board Certification: Radiation oncology  

Problem-Solving Surgery
Restoring sexual function and self-esteem is all in a day’s work for Dr. Steven K. Wilson

When it comes to correcting erectile dysfunction, you could say Dr. Steven K. Wilson wrote the book. Co-author of Ending E.D., A Comprehensive Guide to the Cause and Treatment of Impotence, Wilson has helped thousands of patients recover from impotence and incontinence. Although he established his private practice in Indio just five years ago, his decades-long career and surgical prowess attract patients from around the world.

“We specialize in fixing broken implants and those that have been inserted incorrectly,” Wilson says. “I’ve performed over 10,000 procedures, and my experience allows me to repair problems that have often gone unresolved for years.”

An impassioned researcher, Wilson invented or pioneered many of the devices and procedures that are now industry standards. He holds a patent for the Wilson Scrotal Implantation System and has received numerous awards for his medical contributions. A former clinical professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Wilson lectures and trains internationally on the diagnosis and treatment of impotence.

“When you think about it, this is one of the most rewarding medical fields,” he says. “Helping someone overcome erectile dysfunction or incontinence transforms their self-image. A lot of my patients purchase new wardrobes or get their teeth fixed because the surgery renews their self-esteem. I’m glad I can play a role in that transformation.”

A Yale graduate, Wilson has a longstanding love affair with his alma mater’s mascot. He jokes that his life revolves around his prized bulldogs Minnie and Cooper, noting that his wife’s vehicle of choice, a Mini Cooper, is not coincidental. When not pampering his pooches, Wilson enjoys a good game of golf, although “good” doesn’t accurately describe his time on the green.

“Unfortunately, I have been playing for over 50 years and have not gotten a bit better,” he says.

Prosthetic Urology
Wilson Urology Associates, P.A.
81719 Dr. Carreon Blvd., Pod C
Indio, CA, 92201
Fellow: American College of Surgeons
Member: Societé Internationale D’Urologie
Medical School: Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
Residency: Vanderbilt University Medical School, Nashville, Tenn.
Board Certification: American Board of Urology 

Realigning Spines
Dr. David Tahernia uses conservative modalities and surgical innovation to restore health and hope

Back pain is no laughing matter, especially when surgery is advised. But an engaging sense of humor and relatable bedside manner go a long way toward putting the apprehensive at ease. Dr. David Tahernia, director of the Comprehensive Spine Center at Desert Orthopaedic Center, attributes at least part of his “top doc” status to his patient-centered demeanor, viewing surgical candidates as individuals, not X-rays or MRIs.

“It comes down to practicing the art of medicine,” he explains. “I always look my patients in the eye and communicate complex topics using simple terms. Establishing a positive doctor/patient relationship builds trust, an important component in the healing process.”

With nearly 4,000 spinal surgeries to his credit, Tahernia has achieved significant success in his 12-year medical career. He was raised in Tulsa, Okla., by a pediatric cardiologist (his father) and registered nurse (his mother). He sensed his own calling to the field as a young man after a beloved teacher of his fell ill.

“I was asked to help teach an eighth-grade social studies class for a teacher who had Lou Gehrig’s disease,” he recalls. “I felt great compassion for this teacher’s situation and decided I wanted to become a physician.”

Actively involved in clinical trials, Tahernia serves as the division chief of orthopaedic surgery at Eisenhower Medical Center, the second hospital in the country to perform vertebroplasty using quartorze, an effective type of bone cement that adapts to the bone and can help stimulate bone growth.

Married for 13 years, Tahernia has four children, ages 11, 9, 7, and 19 months. He considers himself somewhat of a sports fanatic, with a talent for accurately rattling off everything from pro and college football stats to the latest PGA wins. Those close to him would consider such attention to detail indicative of the passion he displays in every area of his life. 

“I always strive to be better and improve personally and professionally,” he says. “If you become complacent, you limit your potential for growth.”

Orthopedic Surgery
Desert Orthopaedic Center
39000 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Medical School: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Residency: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Fellowship: University of Colorado, Denver (spinal surgery)
Board Certification: American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
Hospital Affiliations: Eisenhower Medical Center, Desert Regional Medical Center
Professional Memberships: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, North American Spine Society, American Medical Association, California Medical Association, Riverside County Medical Association