Sutter Health Family Practice Albany


Albany Care Center 500 San Pablo Avenue Albany, CA 94706

  • Family Practice Physicians as of Summer 2023: Nina Birnbaum, Ella Khan, Katrina Koslov, Aditi Shastri, Fumi Suzuki, Andrew Wallach

Reviewed below but no longer at the practice: Kenneth Gjeltema (moved to Monterey), Mamiko Kawai (deceased), Catherine Whinnery (retired)

I see Dr. Deepika Ram at the Sutter East Bay location in Albany, she is a family doctor so trained in both pediatric and adult medicine. I’m in my late 30s and I would guess she is a few years younger than I am. I’ve only seen her 2 or 3 times but have had a positive experience thus far and she is in network on my Anthem/Blue Cross plan.

I like the office of Dr. Andrew Wallach near Albany Bowl. I usually saw the nurses rather than the dr because it was faster to get an appointment.


My primary doc is Nina Birnbaum in Albany and she is wonderful. She had no problems referring me to an endocrinologist (new onset Graves' disease).

I'm sure she's been recommended on this site before, and may not be taking new patients, but I wholeheartedly recommend Nina Birnbaum. She's in Albany and is smart, thorough and compassionate.  She is often overbooked, however, and I don't always get to see her.  But when I do, I know that it's worth staying in her practice. She's great.

Doctor Amal Sawries at Sutter Health is very good.  She helped me navigate through a major surgery treatment last year.

I really recommend my doctor, Nina Birnbaum, with one giant caveat: you probably won't get to see her very often.  She is guiding me through a recent diagnosis and she looked at my chart and said, "Oh, I haven't seen you since 2013!"  Of course, I have had to see other docs in the practice since then, because Dr. Birnbaum is so overbooked.  But she is smart, thorough, thoughtful and sympathetic, so if you are lucky enough to be seen by her, you will be in good hands  All that said, she may not even be taking new patients.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

    Nov 2014

    Have you used pediatrician Dr. Gjeltsema (550 San Pablo, Albany) for a child in your family, or heard about him and the group practice he is part of? For 11 yo boy who has just moved here, we need a good pediatrician whose practice accepts Medi-Cal, and we have come across Dr. Gjeltsema's name at some point, but know little about him. (Albany location would work well for us, but is not essential). Characteristics we are looking for is light, engaging style, psychological-mindedness (for complex family situation that has created great stress for child), and someone good for boy at cusp of adolescence. Does Dr. Gjeltsema meet these criteria? or who comes to mind? Thanks!

    We see Dr. Gjeltema as adults and recommend him: respectful, calm, knowledgeable. I would take my kids there. Kiwi Peds is another good option. Grateful for trusted docs

    I went to Dr. Gjeltema some years ago when I lost my regular MD who practiced in the same building; I believe all her patients were referred to him. He told me that he saw his job as helping patients live past 75 without succumbing to the three big killers in the US (heart attack etc). This seemed strange to me. What about those with other less common health issues? (I have always been very healthy, so this is not a me-specific concern.) Later, when I mentioned that my fingertips had been turning blue lately, he remained in his seat and said ''maybe you have CREST syndrome, like your mother.'' I do not have CREST syndrome and never thought I did, but that isn't the point. Every other MD I've ever seen would have gotten to his or her feet and actually looked at my hands. So, I went elsewhere.

    Sept 2009

    Re: Looking for good general practioner in E. Bay
    Both my husband and I are patients of Dr. Kenneth Gjeltema in Albany (Sutter East Bay Medical Fdt, formerly Albany Family Practice). He has an absolutely wonderful manner, listens carefully, helps assuage any fears you have, and will dig deeper with a test when it feels appropriate (which always makes me feel better). I absolutely love him. They will always see us fairly quickly at SEBMF -- even if Dr. Gjeltema can't see us directly, the other doctors and nurses (and staff) there are nice, professional, and competent. Alissa

    March 2008

    Re: El cerrito doctors
    Dr. Nina Birnbaum practices in El Cerrito. She is a great and conscientious doctor. Her practice may be full, but she works on San Pablo, at a group clinic, I think it is called Alta Bates Medical Group...near the bowling alley. She always runs late but she is worth the wait if you can get on her panel. Jennifer

    March 2008

    Re: Looking for Another Family Practice
    Hi - My husband and I just switched the other day to Dr. Kenneth Gjeltema and Dr. Catherine Whinnery, respectively, at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, formerly called Albany Family Practice. Both doctors came highly recommended on the BPN, and when I called I was easily able to get appointments for both of us within two weeks. I have also heard it is very simple and quick to see a nurse practitioner there. We haven't had our appointments yet, but I just wanted to give you very recent information on how friendly the staff was, how easy it was to make appointments, and how highly recommended they both are. 500 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706. happy with SEBMF

    Feb 2008

    Hello, My husband and I are looking for a new family practice. Does anyone have any recommendations for Dr. Catherine Whinnery? She's at the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation (formerly Albany Family Practice), and is the only woman physician in the group accepting new patients. If you have any thoughts about the practice in general, that would be helpful, too (lots of great recs already on BPN for Dr. Kenneth Gjeltema). Thank you!

    Dr. Whinnery is a wonderful Doctor in every sense of the word...She had a private practice for many many years ,despite her youthfulness, and was not taking new patients....SHE MOVED AND NOW IS IN A LARGE MEDICAL GROUP AND HAS BEEN TAKING NEW PATIENTS SO YOU ARE VERY FORTUNATE TO BE ABLE TO HAVE HER A S A PHYSICIAN....I have been a patient of hers for many years and she is so wonderful..She also treated my mother for mnay years.......she is caring and listens to you and very knowledgeable... jeanne

    Dr. Whinnery was my primary care physician for more than 15 years until this year, when I had to switch health plans. So, my only experience with her was at her former practice in El Cerrito and I have no knowledge of others in her new group. I was very pleased with Dr. Whinnery. Granted, I had no major medical issues, but whenever I saw her she was caring and thoughtful and not rushed. The downside is, she probably provided this attentive style to all her patients and therefore was almost always running behind in her appointment schedule. For me, this was a worthwhile tradeoff for someone I felt comfortable with and trusted. Anon

    Although I haven't seen Dr. Whinnery a lot, during the times I have seen her, she has been very pleasant and knowledgeable. She really took the time to answer any questions I may have. She came referred with rave reviews by my Aunt who sees her often and whom I totally trust her opinion on service, feeling comfortable, etc. anon

    June 2007

    I'm a parent and grandparent and I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear that the best Doctor I ever had died tragically on Monday June 17,2007. This Dr. saved my life with her medical advise to me and she was the best doctor at the Albany Family Practise. She never rushed you. She will be greatly missed. from: Her friend. Cheryl

    I heard about Dr. Kawai from Berkeley Parents Network and she was my primary care physician. She died tragically on Monday. Ben

    Jan 2007

    Nina Birnbaum has been recommended to me as a general medical practitioner. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has experience with her. In particular: How does she feel about non-Western medical practices, such as acupuncture? What is her personality like? How well-organized is her office?

    I go to Nina Birnbaum and have been just thrilled with her. I like her for so many reasons. She is young and enthusiastic. When I go in, she always asks if there's anything else I have questions about. She takes her time with me. I have never waited for more than 10 mins to be seen. The staff is friendly. I've seen a nurse practioner in the practice when Nina was out and was perfectly happy with her. My husband sees another physician (male) in the practice and is also very happy with them. I like her enough that I've recommeded her to many friends, too, who have been happy with her.

    Dr. Birnbaum has a great bedside manner, but please note that she works part-time. It can be difficult to get an appointment with her. If you don't need to see your PCP that often, it works-out well. But if you need to get appointments often and with short-notice, you might find yourself a little frustrated. Good luck! Anon

    Nina Birnbaum is fantastic. She is thorough, energetic, and kind. She is open to alternative therapies and does her best to help with referalls. Dr. Birnbaum has several kids and is empathic. Dr. Birnbaum's staff are wonderful. She has had the same medical assistants for years and they actually follow-up with referalls, reminders, and test results. I recommend Dr. Birnbaum and her organized office highly! Anon

    May 2006

    I just read some great reviews on the PN for Drs. Birnbaum and Kawai in the Albany office. I am considering switching myself and my teeange daughter to their practice because of my insurance changing. Can anyone comment on how open they, and the other practitioners in the office are to alternative medicine (accupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, etc.)? I don't expect them to be extremely knowlegeable but would like to be comfortable talking about using alternatives, and not feel like I was a weirdo from outerspace! Also, does anyone have teenagers seeing practitioners in this office? What do they think? Thanks! anon, as usual...

    Hi, I can't directly answer your question about Dr Kawai, but my husband and I have been at that practice for the last two years or so. I've seen a couple of the nurse practitioners there and they were great. However, every time I call, no matter what time of day, I've been put on hold for way too long. I've been at the office too and watched the receptionists answer call after call and just leave people on hold for too long. Another problem I have experienced a couple times is not being able to get a timely appointment. One time I has what ended up being a bad infection... I called early in the morning and still not been able to get a same day appointment. In another case, when I needed a medical ''check-up'' for some important work-related issue, I couldn't get an appointment for two months even though I was open to seeing any doctor/nurse. I'm currently looking for another practice (the OB-GYN and Pediatrics practices that we go to are also big and I have never experienced anything like what happens to us at Dr. Kawai's office). Frustrated patient

    Dr. Kawai has been my doctor for 10 + years (since I was fresh out of high school). She is easy to work worth, and supportive of all kinds of medicine. However, I do not believe she is taking any new patients (our son born in 2004 was not able to have her as his primary car doctor.). Dr. Gjeltema is also very easy going, and I do not believe would give you troubles over alternative medicines. I am not familiar with Dr. Birnbaum as she is fairly new to the practice. The one time I had an appointment with her, she was very nice, and I think she'd be a good fit too. No experience with the teenage side, other than when I first started seeing the group. I have been very happy with my care and my son's care though. satisifed patient

    Feb 2006

    Re: Female Berkeley Doc HealthNet HMO friendly
    Nina Birnbaum in Albany is great-smart, responsive, caring. The office is very friendly also.

    Feb 2006

    Re: Non-corporate, breastf'g friendly Family Practice
    My son (1st child) sees dr. gjeltema of albany family practice (well formerly, dr. g just sold it, and the new name is summitt or sutter? medical foundation? or something similar). I've been going there for 10+ years myself (dr. kawai). So far they are still the same family practice I have come to know and love. They are located in Albany. They've been very supportive of breast feeding (still going at 15 months, and they gave me no trouble about it at his 15month check-up.). And I feel like they are a small own practice (they know me when i walk into the office, say hi even though they are vey busy, always ake time to answer ALL questions, etc. contact me if you need more info. kukana

    Oct 2004

    Re: Health Net Primary Care Physician
    Dr. Kenneth Gjeltema is wonderful. He's a family practitioner who is very gentle, caring, and respectful. I know this because he was my mentor when I was in medical school, supervising me as we both volunteered at a homeless clinic in Berkeley. He was definitely a role model for me on how to be a good physician, not just in terms of medical knowledge, but also bedside manner. local pediatrician

    Oct 2004

    Re: Health Net Primary Care Physician
    Dr. Gjeltema is my primary care physician. He is very friendly and calm...great 'bedside' manner. Once in his care, you can also see his partner doctors or nurse practitioners, all of whom I've liked. happy with doc

    April 2004

    Hi, I am searching for a new family practice, now that my current doctor has retired. I looked on the website for info on Dr. Kawai and got a sense of her personality. Can her patients let me know: Is the office staff good? Is she generally on-time (around 15-25 min wait)? Is she a good clinician? (accurate diagnoses? good treatment?) Any other point that you consider important? I don't need a lot of warmth and touchy-feely hand-holding. I am looking for a doctor who is smart, capable, and who I can get in to see w/o waiting 30 minutes before even getting to an exam room. I would be driving from Redwood Heights, so I want to make sure that the switch is worth the extra drive time this would entail. I appreciate your information as I make this important choice. denise.

    Dr. Kawai has been my doctor for the last 3 or 4 years and I am very happy with her. The office staff is great and her main support person has been the same. She is not only very nice, attentive and helpful, whenever I call now, she instantly recognizes me and I feel I am getting much personal attention, for example with getting the right appointment times or getting questions answered or even reaching Dr. Kawai (several times she went to Dr. Kawai while I was on the phone to get an answer to me)

    When Dr. Kawai does need to call me back she always does on the same day, sometimes twice if she does not reach me. I went through first a pregnancy and then through a painful on/off/on/off/on miscarriage last year and Dr. Kawai was very available and supportive to me. Not the touchy feely type but still warm, very attentive, taking as much time as I needed and getting me into labs and to specialists very quickly. She also checked up on me by herself and that means a lot. She is not intrusive which means that when I see her now, she does not bring up the miscarriage unless I talk about it. She lives in the El Cerrito Area and sometimes we run into her and her children which is really nice. She comes up to us when I don't see her which is so nice. (I always think the last thing doctors want to do is talk to their patients when they run into them in a restaurant, but she truly seems to like having a few minutes of conversation) Her daughter goes to my daughter's school (Harding) so I see her at parent events and she just always seems like a well rounded, caring and thoughful person and mother. I see her through my HMO and I always expect things to be difficult (getting appointments, having enough time with her, getting the medical care I need and I ask for) but I truly have never had any trouble seeing her when I needed to - even the same day, she has emergency slots in her calendar - her staff is great, access and parking is easy and most importantly there is never a sense of rush when I am in the examination room with her. She takes all the time we need. I hope to stay with her for as long as I can.

    I have had her for 5years and I like it. She is not touchy-feely type at all but very precise, pretty much on time (10-15 minutes), good at phone consultation, and good staff at the office.

    I've been a patient of Dr. Kawai's office for about 4 years now and have only met her once (not that I go in often anyway). When I saw her, it was for a cosmetic reason (skin tags on my neck) rather than for a medical reason. I get the impression that much of her focus is on cosmetic treatments (please see this attached link on her ''other'' business) - So I can't comment on her medically, but I can say that I adore her nurse practioners (particularly Mary Liz) and her staff - all very friendly and professional. I usually have a 5 - 15 minute wait before I'm seen. The parking lot is very convenient and if you need any blood work, the lab is right there, too. anon

    I just signed Dr. Kawai on as my new doctor. The wait was only 5 minutes for me and Dr. Kawai seemed personable and knowledgeable. My only complaints I would have is that her visit ended rather abruptly - she seemed to have a very full schedule & not as much time as I would have liked. I got a referal to a physical therapist pretty easily from her but the office staff never called me back to let me know whether my insurance covered it (and they said that they would call me in 7 working days). It's been hard to find a doctor who has enough time nowadays! new Dr. Kawai patient

    In response to your posting needing a new PCP, I highly recommend Dr. Mamiko Kawai at 500 San Pablo Ave in Albany. She is AMAZING! Super smart, kind, caring, thoughtful, scientific. Sometimes she does run a little late, but that is because she is a very thorough doctor. The office staff is wonderful, as well. She will squeeze you in if its an emergency any time. She has two children of her own and also sees children as part of her practice. Hope this helps! Stephanie

    I have seen Dr Kawaii a couple of times (she became my primary doc last year). I have found the office staff fine. I liked Dr Kawaii because she was thorough in my routine physical and, as a result, ordered two specific tests based on abnormalities she noted. Both tests came out fine, but I like that she was cautious and ordered them in the first place. Tracy

    April 2004

    I am 30 weeks pregnant with my first baby (a boy) and am starting to look for a doctor. I was most interested in the Albany Family Practice at 500 San Pablo Ave. because I live very close and walking there for routine visits very much appeals to me.I also need a doctor for myself, as mine moved her office. I wanted to know if anyone can give tell me about the doctors at that office, most specifically for babies. I have not read anything about Dr. Andrew Wallach, Susan Eagle, RN, NP, or Vicki Steele-Woodall, RN, NP. Any info would be helpful! Thanks, Crissy


    Nina Birnbaum is a wonderful doctor who just moved to the Albany Family Practice. She is smart, reasonable, funny, and a great doctor. She is also well respected in the medical community. She has three kids of her own, so definitely has a good perspective on being a parent. My kids do not see her, as they had already developed a relationship with their pediatrician before she moved here, but I have many friends whose chilren see her and all seem very happy and at ease with her. doctor ref

    Dr. Kenneth Gjeltema at Albany family practice is very nice, and a good doctor. He is a family practitioner, so he sees adults and children. I highly recommend him. a happy patient

    March 2004

    Re: Lesbian-friendly MDs
    I really like my doc, Nina Birnbaum. She moved in January from right near Alta Bates to an office way out San Pablo in Albany, and I almost switched because it was so much less convenient for me. But then she told me that she moved to that office because the morale was great among the staff, and because this practice made her schedule fewer patients per hour, so she could spend more quality time with them! So obviously her heart's in the right place, and also she's young and funny and smart. heidi

    March 2004

    Re: Hill Physicians Primary Care Doctors
    I've been very pleased with Nina Birnbaum; she's part of James Eichel's practice (843-4544). radha

    Sept 2002

    I like both our doctors at Albany Family Practice (ABMG) very much. My husband is a patient of Dr. Kawai, and I have Dr. Gjeltema.

    That said I haven't actually seen either doctor for two years, because of referrals by them to an Allergist/Pulmonologist for asthma (Dr. Jim Nicholson, who is WONDERFUL) and an obstetrician (Huibonhua -- also wonderful, but he won't need to see her!). I urge your husband to consider seeing someone at Albany Family Practice -- Kawai has twice now diagnosed tricky things that no one we knew had heard of... this improved quality of life for my husband, and therefore for me. Dr. Gjeltema knows his stuff, and is thorough if not out and out gregarious. I like him too much to change to Dr. Kawai, even though she's a female dr., which had been my preference till now.

    One of the nice things about this office is that you can get in to see a nurse practitioner within about 24 hours if necessary. They take you seriously. Heather

    August 2002

    re: MD for teen daughter
    I recently just switched to Nina Birmbaum because I had to change medical groups. Although I've only seen her once so far I feel I can provide a good recommendation. She is very personable, thorough, and seemed to be quite knowledgeable. You were mentioning that you were hoping for someone young, which she is as well. I would imagine that a 19 year old would feel very comfortable with her. Hannah

    April 2004

    Re: Alta Bates Med Group - Primary Care Doctor
    In response to your posting needing a new PCP, I highly recommend Dr. Mamiko Kawai at 500 San Pablo Ave in Albany. She is AMAZING! Super smart, kind, caring, thoughtful, scientific. Sometimes she does run a little late, but that is because she is a very thorough doctor. The office staff is wonderful, as well. If you can not get in to see her, she has a partner named Dr. Birnbaum who is just as awesome! Hope this helps!! Stephanie

    Dec 2001

    I had my first baby 4 months ago and decided to go with Dr. Mamiko Kawai for my son, since my husband and I were already part of her practice. We've been seeing her for about 3 years. Dr. Kawai herself has a baby (8 months old now?) and a toddler, and I really like her staff, especially Mary Liz her RN, and Shirley the shot lady. The staff are friendly, professional, caring, and they love babies. In fact, the practice sees quite a few babies and young children. You have to make appointments about 1 month in advance for Dr. Kawai, unless its an emergency and she generally can fit you in the same day. I have gotten excellent care from Mary Liz as well. Best of all, Drs. Kawai and Gjeltema (sp?!) share a pager off-hours. Most pediatricians I researched direct you to Childrens Hospital Oakland outside of business hours. We've had to change health insurance plans several times over the last year, and Dr. Kawai's practice seems to accept all of them. I know most parents prefer a pediatrician for their children, but this family practice seems to work well for us. I really appreciate the fact that Dr. Kawai knows my whole family by name, came to Alta Bates when I delivered, knows my and my husband's medical histories, etc. My son doesn't have any unusual health needs (yet, knock on wood) but if the time comes, I'll get referred to the specialist pediatric care then. molly

    Dr. Kawai in Albany is my personal DR. and I really like her.

    I highly recommend Dr Kawai. I switched to her after having had a humorless older male doctor, and it makes a big difference. Dr. Kawai is matter-of-fact yet seems truly concerned about her patients, her office is busy yet always reacts quickly if you're ill, it's easy to get referrals from her, the office is new and clean and has an on-site lab, even my husband switched to her after they met! Plus, she does basic GYN exams, paps, etc. so I haven't needed to go elsewhere. NANCY

    My parents and I belong to the same practice as Mamiko Kawai (Dr. Gjeltema is our primary care physician), and we have seen Dr. Kawai on several occasions. She is very conscientious and thorough, and has recently had a child, so certainly can relate to children. I like her and find her easy to talk to, although she's not incredibly warm (more the reserved type). I don't know how many children the practice sees, and how easy it is to get same day appointments, so you may want to inquire closely about their sick child procedures. Helen

    Nov 2001

    Re: good MD
    I have seen Dr. Andrew B. Wallach in El Cerrito a couple of times recently. (I am a relatively healthy 38 yr. old male) He is a very caring doctor who has helpful suggestions in the HMO dominated medical field patients deal with today. Please e-mail if you want further information. Tom