“For the almost two dozen years we worked together, Dr. Anderson kept saying she was going to retire. It’s hard for me to believe she really meant it this time,” said Sharon Cordova, Office Supervisor at the Family Health Center in Patagonia, part of the Mariposa Clinic group headquartered in Nogales.
Well, it seems she did mean it. The end of December marked Dr. Molly Anderson’s last day of regular shifts at the clinic. After 28 years of caring for this small community, Anderson will no longer see patients in Patagonia.
Cordova praised Anderson for always giving her patients 100%. “She was often at the clinic long after closing to finish up her notes,” she said. “She took as much time as a patient needed. There are many people in our community who will feel a great loss that she will no longer be there to care for them.”
Tim Penniston, Family Nurse Practitioner at the clinic, has worked with Anderson for 14 years. He admired the way she attended to patients, especially in delivering test results quickly and personally to them.
“People can feel quite anxious when they are waiting on a blood test or image they’ve had taken,” he said. “She always made sure to call them as soon as she could. She is a great doc, and we will miss her here.”
It was the conversations with the patients that Anderson loved the most and will miss more than anything else. “In talking to them, I really learned their concerns and needs,” she said.
Anderson said that Cordova helped her immeasurably by sharing information about family connections and the ins and outs of Patagonia life. “What I really needed was a giant family tree on the wall,” joked Anderson, “with the Quirogas and a few other names at the top.”
A native of Phoenix, Anderson attended the University of Southern California, where she earned a bachelor of science in biology. By the time she graduated from the University of Arizona Medical School as an MD, she knew her path.
“I debated family medicine versus internal medicine but finally chose family medicine because I really liked the people I met in the field,” she said. “Every doctor walks into the patient room with the same question: ‘Why are you here to see me?’ But primary care doctors have a second question: ‘Why do I want to see YOU?’ In other words: ‘Are you fully vaccinated? Have you done your cancer screenings? Does your family history put you at risk? If you have chronic medical conditions, what are we doing to prevent long term complications?’ This is where you can really impact patients’ lives and it’s where I get my satisfaction from the work.”
Anderson started her career at El Rio Health, a Community Health Center (CHC) in Tucson. CHCs are facilities that receive government funding to ensure that all people can be cared for, overcoming barriers such as cost, lack of health insurance, and language. She has ended her career at another CHC, practicing with Mariposa Family Health in Patagonia since the mid-’90s.
The change became necessary after the 80-hour work weeks at El Rio got to her, and the pace at Mariposa Clinic has suited her well. Anderson’s husband, Morris Farr, a three-term State Senator in Arizona in the 1970s, retired from his position as Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering at the U of A. The couple moved to Sonoita and the job in Patagonia became available, starting at one day a week and growing from there.
Coming towards the end of her career, Covid brought special challenges to the clinic. Anderson remembers the early days of the pandemic in 2020, when visits dropped off, as no one wanted to come to the clinic for the usual tests and consultations. The makeshift tent set up outdoors became a place to see patients safely, in full personal protective equipment.
“In the first few months we had no diagnostic tests, and it was over two years before we had effective oral medications to treat the infection,” she said. “We are blessed now to have two oral medications that greatly reduce the likelihood of serious infection or hospitalization.”
In her personal life, Anderson has never been at a loss for something to do. In the coming years, the couple hopes to fulfill a long-held goal of completing the Arizona Trail. Anderson says she is glad they have tackled the high-elevation sections in the San Francisco Mountains and left some of the easier ones for later.
They are also great U of A fans and hold tickets for a wide range of Wildcat sports from basketball to baseball, the latter being their favorite to watch.
Anderson has put her heart into political activism and limerick writing, though she doesn’t mix the two, saying, “There’s nothing too funny about politics these days.” As a longtime officer in the Santa Cruz Democratic Party, she has engaged in issues ranging from southern border immigration to the benefits of the American Care Act (known widely as Obamacare), which she saw great evidence of in her practice. Her limerick writing leans to the irreverent and salty (see example below).
With Anderson’s departure, the clinic has welcomed Dr. Joanne Cardinal, MD, who will be in the office Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Dr. Cardinal is a family practice physician with over 20 years of experience.
Small Town Doc
By Molly Anderson
Being the new doc in town, a lot of people could identify me while they looked only vaguely familiar to me. I actually had the experience of having a woman cross the street to avoid meeting me because I had done her pelvic exam. My thought when I heard this was, “Have we met???” Hence this limerick.
In the best of all worlds, I suppose,
I should have recognized you by your woes.
But if you’re from Patagonia
It’s more likely I’da known ya
Had you presented yourself