After 20 years, Sleepy Hollow still wide awake

It's 10:15 a.m. on a Monday and people are already beating a path to Sleepy Hollow Medical Group, an urgent care facility in downtown Laguna Beach.

One man has a painful foot problem and is placed in a room for treatment. An older gentleman walks in, hails Dr. William Anderson, the facility's founder, and, after some pleasantries, requests a referral to a dermatologist. Anderson writes down the name and phone number of a local dermatologist, from memory, and sends him on his way.

A third man comes in the door, holding up a bandaged finger. He thinks he might need a tetanus shot but is not sure. He has been bitten by a dog. The man is quickly shown to a room, seen by the doctor and in short order a nurse is dispatched to administer the shot.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary at the location, Sleepy Hollow has an unassuming façade at 364 Ocean Ave., but inside the facility is bustling. It is open seven days a week, and appointments are not necessary.

"This is how it goes," Anderson said. "Sometimes there's nothing for an hour or so and then everything happens at once."

Anderson, a graduate of the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago, started a private practice in the early 1980s in Laguna Beach, after serving as a U.S. Navy flight surgeon at the old Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and as director of student health services at UC Irvine. He has also served as an emergency room doctor and is a board-certified ER physician.

"My background as a flight surgeon and ER doctor is a perfect one for urgent care," he said.

A flight surgeon's job is to make sure pilots are physically and mentally fit to fly; as part of his training, he was given flight lessons, but confined his aeronautical career to a single solo flight.

Loving the ocean and surfing, the Chicago native first opened his doors at Sleepy Hollow, on South Coast Highway, in 1980 and lived in an adjacent beach house.

After a few years, he migrated up the coast to Big Sur, where he practiced medicine for a few years amid the lush forests of the mountainous area, but eventually found the opportunities for a thriving medical practice to be limited in the remote coastal location. So he returned to Laguna Beach, and on Sept. 9, 1991, he opened his "walk-in family care" facility on Ocean Avenue, naming it Sleepy Hollow in honor of his first location.

He marked the anniversary Sept. 9 with a festive open house.

After 20 years in Laguna, Anderson says he still swims in the ocean every day throughout the year — without a wetsuit — and surfs.

He has the demeanor of an old-fashioned country doctor — occasionally even making a house call — and has an impressive art collection garnered from local artists who have given him their work in exchange for services. On his website, he emphasizes his practice of medicine with "a personal touch."

When Anderson isn't at the office, two part-time physicians, Dr. Stan Wasbin and Dr. Perry Sheidayi, fill in, so a doctor is always in.

Aside from locals, Anderson's practice also caters to visitors who suffer everything from a bite or sting to a cardiac incident while on vacation. He can treat broken bones, sprains, lacerations, flu and fevers and such.

For more serious ailments, such as a heart attack, he will arrange for treatment at a local hospital. He has privileges at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach and Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

He says his business is on a friendly footing with the Laguna Beach Community Clinic, each serving a distinct clientele. The Community Clinic, funded mainly by donors and government grants, generally serves the uninsured or those who pay on a sliding scale basis. Anderson particularly admires the Community Clinic's treatment and monitoring of the city's HIV-afflicted population.

"We are self-supporting," Anderson said, not without some pride.

Sleepy Hollow accepts private medical insurance, plus Medicare. Anderson says his facility helps out the clinic by providing low-cost X-ray development services and in other ways.

However they find their way to his door or however they pay, "The patient comes first," Anderson said.

Having raised five children in Laguna Beach, he plans to stay at the helm of his small but thriving medical facility for the foreseeable future — or at least as long as the ocean beckons.

Sleepy Hollow is open for walk-in services from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at 364 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach. For more information, call (949) 494-3740.

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