Sunnyslope High graduate and English teacher Yarden Tahan has come home again. But this time it’s as Yarden Tahan, MD, family practitioner at HonorHealth’s Seventh Street Medical Group, where starting Nov. 1 she’ll see patients of all ages.

I really like the variety of people you see in family practice,” Dr. Tahan says, “and I like the fact that family practice gives you the opportunity to know your patients so you can provide the kind of care that best meets individual needs.”

It’s coming home in so many ways.

Dr. Tahan moved to the North Central Phoenix neighborhood from the West Valley when she was a pupil at Richard E. Miller Elementary School. After attending Royal Palm Middle School, her first community service came as the high school student member of the Sunnyslope Village Alliance.

That was the same time she discovered her gift for communicating with patients. She worked as a high school volunteer at Bryan’s Center, the skilled nursing facility formerly owned by John C. Lincoln Health Network. “I made the rounds, taking magazines or other items to patients, but mostly just visiting with them, providing social support,” she says. “I loved it.”

Still, she was pretty sure she wanted to be a teacher, so went to the University of Arizona and earned her degree in Education and Political Science. In the summers, she worked in the radiology file room at John C. Lincoln Medical Center.

She returned to Sunnyslope High as an English and student government teacher – “I painted S Mountain four years in a row,” she smiles. “I really liked my students and I liked the challenges and rewards of teaching.”

While teaching, she continued community service and was asked to join as a community member of the John C. Lincoln Hospital Ethics Committee. There she learned about some of the inner workings of the hospital and saw, first hand, the struggles that many families experience during a loved one’s hospitalization and end of life.

Then, when serious sickness hit her family, personally illuminating the importance of doctors, she knew she wanted to do more than teach. She wanted to become a doctor, to be able to help people in more profound ways.

I took the necessary pre-requisite science classes – physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and others – at night and during summers while I was teaching at Sunnyslope High,” she says. “Then I decided to truly pursue medicine as a career and joined the second class of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus.”

Graduating four years later, she entered Banner/University Medical Center’s three-year Phoenix Family Medicine residency program, which she completed in September.

Along the way, she found time to meet the man who became her husband, Veterans’ Administration gastroenterologist Hugo Panillos, MD, and to make a home in their North Central neighborhood for him, their six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.

I have a lot of energy,” she laughs. “I love variety and I love challenges. But mostly, I love teaching and helping others reach their goals, whether that is in a classroom or a clinic. That is why I chose Family Medicine.”

It’s all about relationships, she explains. “When you develop long-term relationships with patients, when you really listen to them, and hear what’s important to each of them as individuals, you can help them choose the best health care options that will meet their personal priorities.

There are almost always choices in health care,” Dr. Tahan says. “It’s rare that there’s only one answer. The key is being able to give patients the most appropriate options for them that fits their wants and needs.”

The variety of patients in primary care family medicine also offers challenges and rewards, she says. “It’s like having 30 students in a classroom – you learn from each of them and what you learn from one gives perspective and helps when you work with others.

Connecting with patients comes naturally for me,” she says, “and that does go back to my experience as a volunteer with Bryan’s on the John C. Lincoln Medical Center campus. A lot of it is still all about teaching, now teaching people how to be more healthy. And I love teaching.”