Staffing News

OLE Health Names New Medical Director for Up Valley Sites

Adds Additional Providers and Services to Significantly Expand Access in Calistoga and St. Helena

NAPA, CA – October 19, 2022 – OLE Health announced today that Elias Banuelos, MD, has assumed the role of Medical Director for its Up Valley sites. Fluent in both Spanish and English, Dr. Banuelos comes to OLE Health with more than 20 years of experience in primary care, specializing in family medicine.

“We are so thrilled to welcome Dr. Banuelos to OLE Health as a provider and a leader for our Up Valley health centers,” said Dr. Teresa Shinder, Chief Medical Officer for OLE Health. “I know that Dr. Banuelos will be an incredible resource to this community and a great addition to our medical leadership team.”

Dr. Banuelos will have an expanded team under his leadership, as OLE Health has added several providers and services Up Valley as well. Dr. Denise Pinon, a family physician, will be transitioning from the North Napa health center to St. Helena, and Karen Merzenich, Certified Nurse Midwife, will be providing prenatal care for patients in Calistoga. Finally, two providers, Dr. Timothy Dowling and Leah Riha, Family Nurse Practitioner, have been added in St. Helena to offer same-day access for acute care needs on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

“The health centers in Calistoga and St. Helena serve some of the most rural parts of our communities, and there is a serious lack of primary care providers,” said Dr. Shinder. “This will be a significant benefit to those living Up Valley, especially for pregnant individuals on Medi-Cal, who previously would have to travel to Napa or elsewhere for prenatal care.”

Dr. Banuelos grew up in California and attended medical school at Stanford University. He completed his residency at San Jose Medical Center in 2001. After residency, Dr. Banuelos spent several years practicing in the South Bay, before relocating to Florida in 2007. During his time there, he worked in a variety of health care settings including hospitals, nonprofit clinics, and private practice. As Medical Director, Dr. Banuelos will oversee the medical providers in the St. Helena and Calistoga health centers. He will also be the primary physician for patients seen in Calistoga.

Dr. Pinon has been with OLE Health at our Napa Valley Vintners North Napa Campus since 2018. She specializes in family medicine and is fluent in Spanish and English. Karen Merzenich is a certified nurse midwife who started at OLE Health in 2021 and is also fluent in Spanish and English. She specializes in perinatal and gynecological care and will be offering services in Calistoga on Fridays. This addition to the Calistoga health center means pregnant patients on Medi-Cal no longer have to travel to Napa or other areas for prenatal care. In addition, Dr. Timothy Dowling and Leah Riha, FNP, will be offering same-day access for acute care on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays in St. Helena. These providers will join Dr. Teresa Shinder who provides pediatric care twice a month in Calistoga and Ramiro Zarate, FNP, who sees patients 4 days per week in St. Helena.

OLE Health’s Calistoga facility, located at 911 Washington Street, provides care to 1 in 3 Calistoga residents. The St. Helena Health Center at 1222 Pine Street, Suite A, sees a wide variety of patients as other provider offices have closed in the area. Both of OLE Health’s Up Valley sites offer fully bilingual medical, dental, nutrition, and behavioral health services. Combined, the health centers have approximately 20,000 patient visits annually, largely serving individuals on Medi-Cal and Medicare as well as those without insurance.     

OLE Health has six facilities in Calistoga, Fairfield, Napa, and St. Helena. For more information, please visit the website at


About OLE Health

Since 1972, OLE Health has provided comprehensive care to all individuals regardless of insurance or ability to pay. OLE’s Health offers primary care, dental, optometry, and behavioral health services and embraces a patient-centered model of care. By emphasizing care coordination across departments, as well as referral and enrollment services, we ensure all the patients’ health and well-being needs are met. OLE Health serves 40,000 patients annually and has six clinics across Napa and Solano Counties. It is the only nonprofit health center in Napa County and the only non-governmental federally qualified health center in Fairfield.