Touro University doctor's love of children pushes him to protect them from disease

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer

"Fun" is usually not synonymous with a flu pandemic. But Dr. James Foy, a Touro University professor and pediatrics physician, used that very word as he was in his element during the 2009 swine flu scare.

In Vallejo, Foy ran numerous community clinics which gave out more than 4,000 vaccinations to help both young and old keep from contracting the sometimes deadly flu virus.

Best of all during the flu scare he spent lots of time helping and consoling his favorite people -- children.

"It was lots of fun," Dr. Foy said.

Today, Foy's enjoyment of vaccinations, immunizations and children has by no means waned.

The Touro pediatric physician treats children at the now-merged Touro University / Solano County health clinic on Tuolumne Street. It opened April 1.

He also helps ensure that children are vaccinated against whooping cough, which has claimed the lives of 12 children under 12 months old in California.

In addition, he stages annual celebrations of the county's high immunization rate.

Immunizations are an interest dating back to his boyhood. He remembers vividly the plight of the mother of his best childhood friend who contracted paralytic polio and became bedridden.

 "I was very stricken by the image of a formerly active mother, who could now not walk and was always in bed," he said.

Foy was about 5 when the polio vaccine became available, and he was among the first to get a sugar cube with the dosage on it, he said.

While his friend's mother couldn't escape polio's ravages, the vaccination allowed the disease to virtually disappear in his generation and future generations, Foy said. 

Keeping up with the latest immunizations and viruses they are meant to fight, plus his quest to boost immunization rates among children, remain enormous goals. 

Solano County's 98 percent childhood immunization rate is good, but not perfect, he said.

"Our folks here in the county, the school districts and the nonprofits, are doing a good job. We'd like to make it 100 percent," Foy said.

He also serves as a medical advisor for the Vallejo City Unified School District in the running of two school-based clinics -- at Pennycook and Elsa Widenmann elementary schools.

Children who come to school sick, get injured on the playground or need their exams and immunizations before attending classes often find their way to the student health centers.

Kathy Hahn, Vallejo school district coordinator of student health services, said Foy is focused on creating family resource centers and full service health clinics at the school.

"We see a lot of kids who have no health insurance or access to health insurance," Hahn said. "He puts kids at ease. He makes everyone feel cared for and important."

The school-based clinics were instrumental, Foy said, in a huge reduction in the "exclusion rate," or the number of children unable to attend due to lack of physical exams.

"By providing the physical exams at the school-based health center, we were able to keep the children in school, and decrease the exclusion rate by 74 percent in four years," Foy said.

Foy would like to expand the health centers to other Vallejo schools, and is also interested in working with other Solano County school districts to open similar facilities.

A native of Los Angeles, he secured his medical degree in Des Moines, Iowa. He did his residency in Ohio and worked for awhile in the pediatric division of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo.

While at Kaiser, a former teacher, pediatric physician Dr. Ben Cohen, became the dean of the Touro University's College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo. He hired Foy to develop Touro's first medical facility in Vallejo.

These days in the Touro / county clinic, Foy is on the front lines of many health factors hitting children, such as childhood obesity and asthma. The hard economic times have resulted in many children needing mental health services, he said.

As Foy's interest in medicine developed as a young man, he went straight into pediatrics, he said.

"I like kids. They are straightforward," he said. Further, he said, a good diagnosis and treatment in childhood can prevent more debilitating and costly ailments later in life.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Dr. James Foy
Age: 64
City: Benicia
Occupation: Touro University professor and pediatrics physician at the merged Solano County/Touro health clinic.
Family: Wife, two grown sons, five grand children.
Quote: "I like kids. They are straightforward. If they are sick they are sick and if they are not they are not."

Dr. James Foy runs the Touro University health clinic, and is involved with the Solano County health clinic, which is operated in conjunction with Touro. Foy's latest goal is to improve the immunization rate of children in the county. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)
Dr. James Foy runs the Touro University health clinic, and is involved with the Solano County health clinic, which is operated in conjunction with Touro. Foy's latest goal is to improve the immunization rate of children in the county. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)