Live & Practice: Small Towns 2019

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2019


Small towns and rural areas are often characterized by their natural beauty and genuinely friendly neighbors, but they aren’t lacking in culture or history, either. In fact, they are brimming with it. With care centers that boast big-city amenities and multispeciality practices, these towns and regions fuse professional opportunity with great work/life balance. They could be called the best-kept secrets, but locals take such pride in their communities that there is simply no chance of that.

Gallipolis, Ohio

Small towns are known for neighbors and acquaintances who go the extra mile for each other, and Gallipolis, Ohio, is no different. The town sits on the scenic Ohio River, with the main medical facility positioned on the town’s rolling hills. History, culture and agriculture are all important to the people of Gallipolis, and the thriving hospital network serves the small, tight-knit community.

Joshua Bryant, D.O., grew up in Pittsburgh— so he knew living and working in a small town would be an adjustment. After earning his degree at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Bryant began residency at the Holzer Family Medicine Residency Program. Now in his third year, Bryant likes Gallipolis and Holzer so much that he has decided to stay.

“Holzer has a fantastic teaching and mentorship program that really helps to educate future doctors,” says Bryant. “I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.”

As a family medicine specialist, building relationships with patients is part of Bryant’s job. That is especially compelling work in a small town, where doctors have the opportunity to get to know their patients in the community, too. When he is not at work, Bryant teaches exercise and dance classes at the Holzer Therapy and Wellness Center.

“Our physicians feel appreciated and respected while wearing a white coat at the clinic or wearing a little league T-shirt while coaching a T-ball game,” says Ginger Canaday-Thompson, physician recruiter at Holzer Health System.

And when they are at work, physicians experience a similar tight-knit, supportive environment. As a nonprofit, physician-owned, community-led organization, Holzer Health System is focused on improving quality of life for its patients and physicians alike.

“Holzer takes care of their physicians,” says Joshua Bryant, D.O. He decided to stay with the group after doing his residency there. – Photo by Chris Jackson

“Our community will continue to receive the very best health care in their own backyard,” says Canaday-Thompson. The phrase, “the patient is the center of all we do” was coined in 1909 by the organization’s founders, she says, and it still stands true over 100 years later.

Holzer operates a main hospital in Gallipolis with 266 beds, plus a critical access hospital in nearby Jackson with 24 beds. There is also the Holzer Center for Cancer Care, the new Holzer Therapy and Wellness Center, and 13 outpatient clinics, to name just some of the many care centers. A new wound care center will be built soon, and physicians also have access to a new linear accelerator in the cancer center and a da Vinci robot. Across its facilities, the system employs over 160 providers in over 30 areas of expertise.

The health system is currently recruiting physicians for endocrinology, family medicine/internal medicine, gastroenterology, hematology/oncology, neurology, OB-GYN, plastic surgery, urgent care and urology.

“We practice big city medicine in a small town,” says Todd Miller, vice president of satellite operations. Because of the organization’s multi-specialty focus, physicians can pick up the phone and ask other providers within the health system for assistance. “Working together and emphasizing a teamwork approach is highly valued inside the system,” adds Canaday-Thompson.

There are also numerous teaching opportunities available to providers, thanks to the organization’s GME program, which accepts medical students from both the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

There are also teaching opportunities in the Family Medicine Residency Program, which opened its doors three years ago. Four of the current family medicine residents, including Bryant, have signed on to begin permanent employment at Holzer once their residencies are complete, which is a testament to their positive experiences.

“Holzer takes care of their physicians,” says Bryant. “They’re very kind and supportive. There are some amazing teachers that have really helped me become the physician that I am today. They really want you to succeed.”

That same sense of support exists outside the hospital, too. Holzer Family Practice Medical Director Lance Broy, M.D., notes Gallipolis seems to embrace young families with open arms. When Canaday-Thompson talks to candidates, the family-friendly culture is something she emphasizes.

If you happen to be coming to the area on your own, do not fear. Your neighbors, who will often be willing to go out of their way for you, can become like family.

There is plenty to do in Gallipolis, especially around the holidays, when the Gallipolis In Lights event “takes you back to days goneby,” says Canaday-Thompson. There are also classic car shows, fairs and festivals, some of which celebrate the region’s farming culture.

Venues for the arts and history include the French Art Colony, the Bob Evans Farm and Homestead Museum, and the Ohio Valley Symphony at the Ariel Theatre. An undercurrent of history also runs through the town, with the fleur-de-lis adorning downtown architecture and serving as a reminder of the French and Welsh populations that settled the region in the 1790s.

Locals and visitors who want outdoor recreation do not have to go far at all. With just a quick drive, you can find “some of the best skiing and whitewater rafting in the eastern United States,” says Canaday-Thompson. The region also has opportunities for camping, kayaking, hiking, cycling, hunting and mountain biking.

Bryant says he particularly enjoys learning about the agricultural aspect of the community. He interacts with farmers and livestock owners and appreciates how knowledgeable they are.

Futhermore, he enjoys hearing the local lingo and being affectionately called “Bub.” He has gotten to know people in the community not only through the hospital and his dance and fitness classes, but also his church group. For Bryant, Gallipolis was the right place to do his residency, and now, it is the right place for him to live and work. He has a sense of purpose as a physician at Holzer.

“I feel that I can make a difference, and I am part of something special,” he says.

Asheville, North Carolina

A picturesque small city situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina, is a draw for outdoor enthusiasts. With just under 90,000 inhabitants, its patient populations are both city-dwellers and residents of the surrounding counties. People flock to Asheville not only for the outdoors, but also for the burgeoning entrepreneurship opportunities, the farm-to-table food and the cultural offerings.

Asheville, North Carolina, was not a place Adam Kaufman, M.D., just ended up. Instead, it was a place he sought.

After attending medical school at Harvard University, Kaufman went on to do his residency at Duke University. Durham and Asheville are over three hours away from each other, but Kaufman says he and his wife spent a fair amount of time exploring the smaller city.

“Given the amazing access to outdoors, fantastic people and wonderful environment, we knew it was an ideal place to settle and raise a family,” he says.

Adam Kaufman, M.D., came to Asheville for the outdoors lifestyle it offered. In his off hours, he enjoys hiking, fishing, running, camping and more. – Photo by Derek DiLuzio

An orthopedic trauma surgeon, Kaufman also completed an orthopedic trauma residency at the University of Maryland. Throughout his training, he was always drawn to the technical aspects of orthopedics; he likes the variety of patients he sees and the acuity of the problems.

“It is sometimes daunting to meet patients after a major injury, but it provides an amazing opportunity to help them reach their fullest potential for recovery,” he says.

Kaufman is employed by Mission Health, the state’s sixth largest health system. According to Misti Dixon, senior physician recruiter at Mission Health, Mission operates six hospitals, the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center, and numerous outpatient and surgery centers, among other services. It has the distinction of being the only North Carolina hospital to be named one of the nation’s “Top 15 Health Systems” by IBM Watson.

Kaufman says he feels fortunate to be at a place like Mission, and that the people are “outstanding.”

According to Dixon, Mission’s ability to grow, thrive, and continue to serve the people of western North Carolina is what makes it attractive to candidates. There’s a new tower dedicated to advanced medicine that’s under construction, and she sees this as an emblem of Mission’s role in the community.

“I think providers are not only interested, but encouraged by this construction as this is a reflection of growth, stability, need and commitment,” she says. “All of these things make our health system even more attractive to the physician and advanced practitioner population.”

Mission Health is currently recruiting for community medicine, cardiology, anesthesia, trauma, pulmonology and critical care, emergency services, behavioral health and oncology, among others.

“The list goes on, which is another reflection of growth,” says Dixon.

Providers at Mission also have the opportunity to see a wide variety of patients from both rural and urban populations, given that the organization serves a wide geographic area. Mission’s size means that providers and their patients get the best of both worlds.

“Providers are able to work within a medical community that is patient-centric and sophisticated enough to handle all complexities of care, yet small enough to maintain that personal touch,” says Dixon.

Often, she does not have to do much convincing when she meets with candidates; they are already sold on Asheville. The city’s reputation as a great place to enjoy the outdoors precedes itself, but she likes to convey to candidates that Asheville has a lot to offer in addition to its natural beauty.

“We place a lot of emphasis on our schools, which have an excellent reputation,” she says. “We have quite a few breweries in town, which is fun for beer enthusiasts. Asheville is lively and it’s thriving, and there’s a lot of really good energy in this town.”

There is also an exciting culinary scene, thanks to a growing interest in the community around food, says Erin Leonard, director of communications at Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have a lot of small independent restaurants that have embraced farm-to-table,” she says.

Overall, the ability to have work/life balance in Asheville draws people to the area. And, says Leonard, when at play, you can easily explore both cultural and outdoor opportunities. “We have the city and all the great things it has to offer, plus easy access to hikes and outdoor activities in the mountains of North Carolina,” she says. Plus, with a river that flows through town, residents find recreational opportunities just footsteps away on the multi-use greenways.

Destinations within the city include the Folk Arts Center and Shindig on the Green, a folk festival that had its 52nd season this summer.

Asheville’s entrepreneurial spirit is another important aspect of the region. “People decide to move here and say, ‘let me figure out how to create a job,’” says Leonard. Because the city is an attractive place for multiple reasons, there is a mix of people who live there. That dynamic results in varied cultural opportunities with something for just about everyone.

Kaufman, who came to Asheville for the outdoors, says he has not been disappointed, nor has his wife or two sons. “Everything you could want to do, from whitewater kayaking to rock climbing, is all right here.” When he is not working, he enjoys hiking, fishing, trail running, camping and “tiring out my boys off the beaten path.” He and his family are also very involved in the religious community in Asheville, and he regularly volunteers at the Western Carolina Rescue Ministry.

Above all, he is happy he landed in Asheville and at a place like Mission Health.

“The road of medical training is long and brings a trainee to a number of different hospitals and clinics,” he says. “I have been extremely fortunate to work in great institutions with very talented staff. I can honestly say I have never been at a place where people are as caring as at Mission Hospital. I am privileged to be a part of this team.”

Walla Walla, Washington

Scenic Walla Walla, Washington, is known for its wine production, an aspect of the region that has been booming over the past couple of decades. Walla Walla is situated in a largely rural area, so you might not know about the robustness of the medical community or its higher education opportunities. Small town friendliness is a way of life here, and residents enjoy the area’s laid-back vibe while never running out of things to do.

While it might not look like a regional hub at first glance, Walla Walla was at one point the largest community in the territory of Washington. The gold rush brought many settlers to the area during the mid 1800s, and the Walla Walla of today reflects the historical significance it had over a century ago. It is a small city of approximately 32,000, but the cultural and professional opportunities are considerable.

“What struck me regarding the job here is that though Walla Walla is quite rural, it really had a rather remarkable medical community,” says Timothy Davidson, M.D., chief executive of physician services at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

A Portland native, Davidson attended medical school at Oregon Health & Science University before completing his residency in internal medicine at University of Colorado Denver, when he decided to specialize in pulmonary and critical care. He then did a fellowship at the University of Washington. Though he was not set on a specific location for a permanent position, his wife, a California native, had some ideas. Seattle felt too gray, and when they moved back to Portland for a short time, that did not feel perfectly right for them either.

“In that time, I really developed a better understanding of what I wanted in a practice,” he says. “I was working at a multispecialty clinic owned by an outside, for-profit entity, and there were some aspects of the job that didn’t seem optimal. Likewise, we were looking for a little different type of lifestyle to raise our family.”

He found Providence Health & Services and Walla Walla, and he knew it was a fit.

“There is a very robust medical community here. It serves as a referral center for northwest Oregon and southwest Washington,” he says. “That attracted me, coming from bigger cities where I was used to having a lot of subspecialties around me. I was struck by that.”

In Walla Walla, Providence Health & Services operates the 142-bed St. Mary’s Hospital, which also has a 14-bed ICU and eight beds for in-patient rehab. There are also primary care and specialty clinics throughout Walla Walla, says Providence Provider Recruiter Amy Knoup.

The mission of Providence Health & Services is to care for the poor and vulnerable. Knoup says that the organization deploys system-wide initiatives to meet the needs of those demographics, and Davidson adds that Providence strives to make decisions based on values that support those populations. In addition to serving migrant workers in the wine industry and agricultural sector, the hospital also sees patients who are family members or loved ones visiting the nearby prison.

Davidson spent the first part of his career at Providence working as a pulmonary critical care doctor. He then transitioned into a leadership role, and for the past dozen years has led the medical group.

“As you talk to new providers, we strive to create an environment in which we want to partner with the physician to best support them so they can have a fulfilling professional career and an enjoyable life outside of medicine,” he says. “What I’m trying to get at is, some places, how you work is pretty well-defined. Here, we’re much more likely to say, ‘What fits your lifestyle?’”

As a result, many providers in Walla Walla work less than full-time. This flexibility, says Davidson, is part of the organization’s core beliefs.

In Walla Walla, Providence is currently recruiting hospitalists, as well as physicians specializing in primary care and internal medicine, hematology, oncology and neurology.

When Knoup talks to candidates, she emphasizes the importance of Providence being a mission-driven organization. “We want all the providers to be fully invested in that,” she says. She also underscores the amazing location, access to outdoor activities, unique dining options and phenomenal wineries, not to mention the work/life balance that is possible at an organization like Providence and in a setting like Walla Walla.

For a small town, Walla Walla gets its fair share of tourism, too, thanks in great part to the wine industry. “When we moved here in 2000, there were 25 to 30 wineries,” says Davidson. “Now there are approximately 150. It’s been interesting to watch the growth of the wine industry and with it, fine dining options and elegant hotels and bed and breakfasts.”

For those thinking about relocating to Walla Walla with their families, Davidson says he has been very happy with the school system. “Both of our kids were educated in the public school system and had opportunities for acceleration,” he says. Plus, Walla Walla also has three colleges, which brings differing perspectives into the town. “The colleges provide a broader base and views and consideration about topics,” he adds.

When physicians are looking for permanent employment, Davidson encourages them to think about their lifestyle as a whole—not only what they really enjoy about medicine, but what they really enjoy outside of medicine, too. “Our training leads us to believe that medicine should be done a certain way and we’re so immersed in that environment that we don’t really ask ourselves, ‘So what about the other things beyond work that are important to us?’”

“If you can go through that exercise then I think you are more likely to get something that’s probably going to be a better long-term fit.” For Davidson, Walla Walla was just that.

Staunton, Virginia

With a Main Street that was recently named by Architectural Digest as one of the 30 most beautiful main streets across America, Staunton, Virginia, epitomizes small-town life. Situated between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, the small city of 24,000 is in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The outdoors are a vital part of the culture here, but equally so are heritage, the arts and a sense of community.

Working in a rural, community hospital, Frank Johnson, Jr., M.D., began his career in family medicine practicing just about every kind of care. As he puts it, he enjoys managing a wide variety of medical conditions in a variety of age groups, and in the early years, he was even delivering babies.

As a physician with Augusta Health, which operates a 255-bed hospital along with numerous primary care offices and specialty practices, Johnson’s areas of practice have developed over time.

For the past 20 years, he has specialized in geriatric medicine and preventive medicine with an emphasis on managing lipids in complex patients. In addition to being certified in family practice and geriatric medicine, he has also earned board certification in hospice and palliative medicine.

Johnson trained at the Medical College of Georgia and completed his residency at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center in South Carolina. He chose to practice at Augusta Health due to both the quality of care, and the opportunities present in Staunton and the surrounding areas.

“Augusta Health offered a vibrant medical community with excellent specialty coverage,” he says. “It’s located in a beautiful setting with great proximity to surrounding major universities, while still having the benefits of a smaller town lifestyle.”

“It’s a very collegial group of physicians,” says Dawn Funkhouser, physician recruiter at Augusta Health. The organization is currently recruiting for an interventional cardiologist, a critical care pulmonologist, an advanced gastroenterologist, a neurologist, and physicians specializing in primary care, rheumatology and urgent care. According to Funkhouser, the hospital is doubling the size of its emergency department and just opened its third cardiac catheterization lab.

The hospital’s state-of-the-art equipment includes the da Vinci robot. As Funkhouser puts it, “we have a lot of the amenities that you would find at a larger hospital.” The Augusta Health Cancer Center has an affiliation with Duke Cancer Network, a partnership that allows the hospital to provide a broad range of cancer services for Staunton’s population.

When Funkhouser talks to physician candidates, she emphasizes the highly livable quality of the area. “You can live in a not-so-densely populated area but have that small, tight-knit experience of community,” she says.

City of Staunton Director of Tourism Sheryl Wagner says that Staunton’s location in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley allows for a meeting of recreation and culture. “It’s the perfect base for hiking, biking, golfing, horseback riding and fishing,” she says. “After a big day in the big outdoors, come back to civilization, great restaurants, wine bars and craft breweries.”

Originally founded in 1747, Staunton has a rich heritage, too. According to Wagner, the Frontier Culture Museum displays a series of authentic historic farms, each moved from their country of origin and reconstructed at the museum site. It’s a living-history museum, so visitors interact with costumed interpreters while viewing a blacksmith’s forge, period crop-raising methods and more.

In the downtown, you will also experience something you can only otherwise see in London: an authentic recreation of Shakespeare’s playhouse. Since 1988, The American Shakespeare Center “has worked to create an atmosphere that closely recreates the theatrical experience of Shakespeare’s time,” says Funkhouser.

Staunton also has two city parks that are loved by locals. Among the two parks, facilities include a public golf course, football and baseball stadiums, a public swimming pool, a bandstand, a dog park, a disc golf course, a soccer complex, and fitness, mountain biking trails and more.

When in doubt, simply walking through downtown and enjoying the city’s historic districts and beautiful, varied architecture can make for a lovely afternoon or evening, especially when paired with a musical event, a dinner at a new restaurant or a night of theater.

“I personally enjoy golfing, going to the Augusta Health Fitness Center, which is truly outstanding, or taking a nice walk after dining with my wife,” says Johnson.

It is a similar sentiment to how he feels about his time at Augusta Health, where he enjoys establishing long-term relationships with his patients and working alongside excellent colleagues.

“Augusta Health focuses on health care for the community, with a focus on quality of care,” he says. Equally as important, they are “passionate about training tomorrow’s health care providers.”



Family-friendly cities

Live & Practice

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Winter 2019


These family-friendly places have top schools, affordable housing, friendly neighborhoods—everything a physician with kids needs in a new place to practice. Plus, there are plenty of venues for play, from lakeshores to mountain bike trails to museums and film fests just for kids. With remarkable job opportunities for physicians in each location, these cities are worth exploring both for their renowned health care and their great livability.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. The people are friendly, the population is diverse, and the city is home to top medical institutions like Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. In a city made up of 191 neighborhoods, residents can choose to live in suburban, urban or rural communities, and can find family-friendly fun by exploring all this up-and-coming city has to offer.

Familiar with the German word gemütlichkeit? It means good cheer or friendliness, and it’s the spirit that embodies Milwaukee and the people who live there. The city has also been dubbed “Smallwaukee” by locals, because you can’t go long without seeing the face of someone you know on the street. For physicians seeking dynamic careers in a city with a small-town feel, Milwaukee is a perfect place to land.

Kristine Cooper, D.O., is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "I love having access to all of the specialists on the cutting edge of medicine and research." -Photo by Joe Hang

Kristine Cooper, D.O., is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “I love having access to all of the specialists on the cutting edge of medicine and research.” -Photo by Joe Hang

Kristine Cooper, D.O., is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. After attending medical school at Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Iowa, Cooper began practicing in the greater Milwaukee area, where she stayed for 15 years until moving back to Iowa to be close to a family member who was ill. After her family member passed away, she knew she wanted to return to Milwaukee. When a recruiter reached out to her to see if she was interested in an opportunity at Medical College of Wisconsin, she took the job.

“I love being part of the academic medical team,” says Cooper of her current role. “I love having access to all of the specialists on the cutting edge of medicine and research.”

With over 1,200 students enrolled in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s medical school and graduate programs, the organization is the largest research institution in the Milwaukee metro area, according to Gabrielle Pollard, Medical College of Wisconsin physician recruiter.

“In 2016, faculty received more than $184 million in external support for research, teaching, training and related purposes,” says Pollard. “Annually, MCW faculty direct or collaborate on more than 3,100 research studies, including clinical trials.”

At the Medical College of Wisconsin, over 1,500 physicians provide care for more than half a million patients annually.

For Cooper, the combination of academia and practice allows her to flourish as a physician. She says, “I am constantly striving to be a better physician and always learning, as I have the opportunity to teach the next generation of physicians.”

According to Pollard, Medical College of Wisconsin is experiencing an exciting growth spurt which has opened up new opportunities for physicians. Froedtert, the college’s clinical partner, “is building a new neighborhood hospital to deliver academic quality medicine to the community where people live and work,” says Pollard. The organization seeks talented physicians in all specialties, but is particularly recruiting for emergency medicine and anesthesiologists.

Kristin Settle, director of communications at VISIT Milwaukee, notes that the city has no shortage of job opportunities. Milwaukee is home to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals), Aurora Health Care (the state’s largest employer) and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare (a not-for-profit health care system). On top of that, the city boasts eight Fortune 500 companies, adding to its reputation as a modern city that invests in itself.

“Milwaukee has something for everyone, and was ranked one of the top three up-and-coming places to live by U.S. News & World Report,” says Pollard. “It’s also a very family-friendly area with schools in the area being ranked as some of the top in the nation.”

“As a mom of three, I can tell you Milwaukee is extremely family-friendly,” adds Settle. Top attractions include the Milwaukee County Zoo, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Discovery World, the historic Mitchell Park Domes, three indoor botanical gardens, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Harley-Davidson Museum.

“We’ve even made our brewery tours and beer gardens kid-friendly,” Settle says. It seems only fair kids should be invited to the party, since beer and brewing is such an integral part of Milwaukee’s history.

It’s not just craft breweries that have exploded in Milwaukee; the arts are prominent too. “Milwaukee is home to 25 theaters and has one of the strongest performing arts communities in America,” says Settle. “And we have dozens of smaller, more intimate venues, giving us one of the best local music scenes around—take that, Nashville!”

When you want to get outside, Milwaukee has abundant opportunities for kayaking, biking, sailing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, skating, skiing and more.

“You have all the big city amenities with all the feel of small, friendly neighborhoods,” adds Cooper. “I would tell physicians considering relocating to Milwaukee—welcome home!”

Homewood, Alabama

Situated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Birmingham, Alabama, is a southern hub for health care. Newcomers to the greater Birmingham area, which includes the suburb of Homewood, are often struck by the natural beauty of the area, which also boasts a strong sense of community and hospitality, not to mention a low cost of living despite its cosmopolitan charm. Health care is the largest employment sector in Birmingham, and incoming physicians are welcomed with open arms into area hospitals and practices.

Jay Meythaler, M.D., did not want to retire from medicine. After working for over 30 years in public academic medical hospitals, including serving as chair of his department at Wayne State University for more than 12 years, he moved back to Birmingham. He’d practiced at the University of Alabama at Birmingham earlier in his career, and the city was a good fit again.

Though no one could fault Meythaler if he did want to retire, he says he simply wasn’t done taking care of patients.

In his current role as the medical director for Encompass Health Shelby County, Meythaler enjoys the opportunity to work with rehab patients, which is the hospital’s primary focus. The facility only opened in April of 2018, and Meythaler was a key player.

Both he and his wife are happy in Birmingham. “My hospital is on the back side of Oak Mountain. It has backpacking trails; I’m looking at the mountain right now from my desk,” says Meythaler. “My wife loves it. You’re close to Nashville, the coast, Atlanta.”

In addition to Encompass Health, the area also has health care organizations like the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital (which is among the 20 largest hospitals in the country) and St. Vincent’s Birmingham (which is operated by health network Ascension).

According to Meythaler, physicians often have privileges at more than one hospital, which contributes to a nice sense of familiarity among the medical community.

“I know physicians who do part-time at two different hospitals. That was very different from Detroit. [There,] it was as though all other hospital systems are the enemy,” he says. Not in Birmingham.

Jamie Boutin, Encompass Health Corporation associate director of physician recruitment, says southern hospitality has a lot to do with the collegial atmosphere among doctors. “Physicians connect with physicians coming in,” he says. “We’re built to be welcoming. All hospitals are kind and nice, but when there’s a community where [new hires] happen all the time for all varieties of specialties, that’s a big plus.”

At Encompass Health, an acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital, Boutin says they are recruiting doctors specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Encompass Health operates 130 hospitals around the country, including Birmingham’s Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital.

According to Boutin, most candidates at Encompass Health locations in Birmingham are younger physicians who have families, in part because of the affordable cost of living and the availability of family-friendly activities. “It’s an hour to the mountains, less than an hour to a bunch of lakes and four hours to the beach,” he says. “Candidates tend to be struck—they’re surprised by how beautiful it is and how close they are to all sorts of activities.”

“Family-friendly events and activities are plentiful in Birmingham,” echoes Dilcy Windham Hilley, vice president of marketing communications at Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It is widely considered one of the most family-oriented cities in the Southeast.”

Annual events include the Sloss Music and Arts Festival, the Sidewalk Film Festival (one of the top independent film festivals in the U.S.), the Day of the Dead Festival and the Pride Parade, to name a few.

You can find beautiful white sand beaches, along with plenty of opportunities for fishing, hiking, golfing and camping, all in the state of Alabama. If you want a change of pace, you are close enough to Nashville, Atlanta and the Florida panhandle to get away for a weekend.

In a region characterized by southern hospitality, moderate year-round temperatures and a thriving health care system, it is no surprise physicians and their families are finding themselves in greater Birmingham. As Meythaler says, “this is a really nice circumstance to be in.”

Warwick, Rhode Island

In the greater Providence area, including picturesque cities like Warwick, locals can get outside to enjoy the natural beauty of the state and soak up city culture in the same day (and kids will delight in an afternoon spent at the zoo or watching minor league baseball).

When Therese Zink, M.D., explains why she chose family medicine as her specialty, she recognizes her reasoning is not uncommon for physicians in her field.

“My reason for choosing family medicine is one that you will hear from other family docs,” she says. “As a medical student, I fell in love with every specialty I rotated on. Family medicine allows us to do it all.”

Zink’s career has included teaching, research and administration in the academic setting.

Now a physician at Care New England, a health system that includes several hospitals in Rhode Island, Zink chose her current role because it allows her to work in academics while also seeing patients part-time.

According to Jean Butler, Medical Group COO at Care New England, the focus the health system places on teaching partnerships with Brown University and University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine is a big draw for physicians who are considering a job with the network.

Butler says that Care New England’s physician-dominated board of directors has a positive impact on the organization. “It’s 80 percent physician participation, and they really do lead the group and where the group is going,” she says.

In addition to Care New England’s hospitals, other medical facilities in the region include Rhode Island Hospital (the state’s largest hospital), Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Miriam Hospital (noted for cardiac care), among others. Plus, Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School is a leader in medical education and biomedical research.

As for why physicians might want to relocate to the greater Providence area, other than the jobs themselves, Butler says Providence’s status as a “mini Boston” is one good reason.

“It has all the elements of a major city,” says Butler. Despite being convenient to Boston and New York, locals don’t have to leave town for culture, great cuisine or exciting events.

Providence’s signature event is WaterFire, an award-winning fire sculpture installation situated in the heart of downtown on three of Providence’s rivers. Other cultural opportunities include exhibits at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, gallery nights at venues across the city, and a restaurant week that features nearly 100 restaurants.

For kids, there is Roger Williams Park Zoo, which is the third oldest zoo in the country. There is also the Providence Children’s Museum, the Providence Children’s Film Festival, and the Pawtucket Red Sox. And of course, you can get outside. “Rhode Island sits on the coast, so people who live here like boating and swimming,” says Butler.

For Zink’s partner, in particular, being in Rhode Island was a perfect fit. “My partner is from the West Coast, so he was ready to see the ocean again,” says Zink. “We have loved walking the rocky beach with our dog, Conner, who is enjoying the seafood and learning not to drink the saltwater,” she adds. And, says Zink, her role at Care New England and the ability to work part-time in family medicine gives her time to pursue another passion—writing. She is writing a trilogy of international aid novels that feature a family physician.

"I don't know what you'd have to pay me to leave Bentonville," says Chad Jones, M.D. "It's wonderful here." -Photo by Stephen Ironside

“I don’t know what you’d have to pay me to leave Bentonville,” says Chad Jones, M.D. “It’s wonderful here.” -Photo by Stephen Ironside

Bentonville, Arkansas

The city of Bentonville, located in Northwest Arkansas, is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. With a friendly and diverse population, great culinary experiences, affordable quality of life, good schools and expanding, state-of-the-art health care institutions, more and more people—physicians included—are deciding to call Bentonville and its neighboring communities home.

We have the whole world here,” says Chad Jones, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas. After graduating from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, Jones earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Ohio State University. He also earned his medical degree at the Ohio State University before interning at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan.

Jones loves his specialty, specifically the fact that he can help make people better through surgery. “I don’t like taking care of sick people, but I love fixing broken people,” he says.

“We have a loud music selection that helps us when we’re operating. Here at Mercy Hospital, they have Bose sound systems for all the operating rooms, and the sound is fantastic.”

Physicians at the hospital treat patients from a huge variety of demographics, primarily due to the diverse population that is employed by Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters.

According to Raley O’Neill, Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas physician recruiter, the hospital—which is 10 years old this year—is expanding every single service it offers. Construction to the building, which is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2019, will add 100 beds, significantly growing the current capacity of just over 200 beds. As part of the $227 million expansion, the hospital is also opening new clinics in the region.

With the significant population growth in the area, Mercy expects to add 1,000 jobs, including about 100 physicians. Currently, the greatest recruitment needs are in gastroenterology, urology and rheumatology, as well as for hospitalists and OB-GYN hospitalists. Pulmonologists specializing in electrophysiology are also in demand.

Other medical facilities in the community include Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville (a 128-bed acute care facility) and Washington Regional (a nonprofit, community-owned health care system with a hospital in Fayetteville and clinics across the region).

Kalene Griffith, president of Visit Bentonville, says that once people find employment and settle in the area, they tend to want to stick around. “We have people that change jobs rather than transfer out of the community,” she says.

In addition to the expanding health care options, the region offers affordable housing, top schools in the state, a budding music scene and cultural experiences for both children and adults. Cultural attractions include Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Museum of Native American History, Bentonville Film Festival and Amazeum, a children’s museum with hands-on experiences.

“Most important, the people are friendly and welcoming,” says Griffith.

“A year or two ago, I was talking with a fairly well-known person in medicine about a potential position for me in Little Rock,” says Jones. “I told him I appreciated that, but with all due respect, I don’t know what you’d have to pay me to leave Bentonville. It’s wonderful here.”



Live & Practice

Tennis Towns

By Liz Funk | Fall 2018 | Live & Practice


A love for tennis comes with countless options. Indoor or outdoor? Social or competitive? Spectator, singles or doubles? Fortunately, these cities—which boast great opportunities for physicians—offer everything a tennis aficionado could ever want. From a casual game at a new, state-of-the-art facility to match point in paradise, tennis players will love these locations and all the other career and lifestyle benefits that come with them.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Stillwater has been called America’s friendliest college town. As home to Oklahoma State University and Stillwater Medical Center, the city of just under 50,000 boasts a strong sense of community. It’s not just the city that receives accolades, though; Stillwater Medical Center has been named one of the “Top 100 Places to Work in Healthcare” for seven years in a row. With access to a highly educated patient population, as well as abundant athletic and cultural opportunities, physicians can find a great work-life balance in Stillwater.

As a surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center, Cara Pence, M.D., is able to both practice medicine and participate in medical missions in her spare time. -photo by Josh Dean

As a surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center, Cara Pence, M.D., is able to both practice medicine and participate in medical missions in her spare time. -photo by Josh Dean

Cara Pence, M.D., knew she was meant to be a surgeon. Still, she wrestled with the decision. She attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Tulsa and intended to specialize in family practice and ultimately go on medical missions. She had not enjoyed her rotation in family practice, but she tried to dismiss her doubts.

Then, when Pence was on her surgery rotation, a patient who had been stabbed in the heart arrived in the emergency room. He needed his chest opened and sutures in his heart.

“I knew I was probably the lowest person on the totem pole in the room, but I ended up being able to hold and touch his heart, retracting and holding back lungs,” she says. The patient survived, and Pence says the experience stayed with her, even as she fought against surgery’s calling.

“I kept telling myself there was no way I could be a surgeon,” she says. “I thought I wouldn’t have time to be a wife, have a family or be a good mom and Christian.” Instead of pursuing surgery, she decided to go into pediatric neurology because her sister has cerebral palsy.

“I was a couple weeks away from starting my internship in Houston for pediatric neurology when I started to get sick to my stomach. I knew it wasn’t right.” As Pence recalls, she told her husband, Jared, she wanted to be a surgeon. He replied, “Yeah, I always knew you were going to be a surgeon.”

Six months later, Pence finally acknowledged that surgery was her calling.

Now, as a general surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center with the ability to go on medical missions in her spare time, Pence knows she is where she is meant to be. “I knew I wanted to work at a place with a supportive team atmosphere while also working with physicians that challenge me.” She says she knew without a doubt her colleagues at Stillwater Medical Center would foster that type of environment.

Because Stillwater Medical Center is a community hospital, there are also other benefits. “All decisions are made by local leadership, both on the management and board level. This allows us to have a cohesive medical team that makes the patients, not the bottom-line, the priority,” says Joy Haken, a recruiter at Stillwater Medical Center. Haken also notes the facility is “one of the few community-owned hospitals that has operating margins averaging 7.5 percent over the past five years,” indicating a strong sense of financial stability.

The 117-bed acute care general hospital serves patients across north-central Oklahoma, and is staffed by more than 1,200 employees and over 100 physicians. In addition to the hospital’s recurring awards for high employee satisfaction, the organization has also earned recognition for quality in patient performance and outstanding leadership.

According to Haken, Stillwater Medical Center also offers “the latest in technology so our patients don’t have to drive out of town to receive medical care,” with advancements that include robotic surgery, Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots and 3D mammography.

The hospital is currently recruiting for gastroenterology, internal medicine, hospitalist, interventional cardiology, invasive/noninvasive cardiology, psychiatry, pulmonology and emergency medicine. When Haken talks to prospective physicians, she highlights that Stillwater is a “small city with a small-town feel, with all the qualities of life that are needed for families to prosper,” including great schools, affordable housing and entertainment.

Cristy Morrison, president and CEO of Visit Stillwater, underscores the strength of the community in the small city.

“Stillwater is an extremely educated and tight-knit community,” Morrison says. “We are lucky to have great university and community relations that encourage graduates to remain a part of the community post-graduation, or visit throughout the year to attend cultural and athletics events.” The university is part of the Big 12 Conference, and the city also has the ability to accommodate regional and national NCAA events, as well as Pro-Ams in various sports.

Those who want to play or watch tennis are in luck, as the sport has become even more popular since the completion of the Michael & Anne Greenwood Tennis Center on the OSU campus. The 50,000 square foot center includes 12 outdoor lighted courts, as well as an indoor facility that houses six courts and can seat at least 350 spectators. According to Morrison, the center was “the only collegiate facility to receive recognition by the United States Tennis Facility with an ‘Outstanding Facility Award.’” Looking forward to 2020, the university will host the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Division I Tennis Championships.

Outdoor recreation, including golf, is also popular, as are cultural events like the Annual Stillwater Arts Festival, which, now in its 41st year, is one of the city’s longest-running events. There’s also the Calf Fry, a music festival featuring popular “red dirt” and country artists, the Land Run 100 bicycle race, the Stillwater Blues Festival and the Payne County Fair.

“The wonderful thing about Stillwater is that there is always something going on in town,” says Rachel Burnett, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce business services coordinator. “All ages can enjoy the culture of the town, while appreciating the food, music and fun offered by local community business and organizations.”

Pence says she loves living in Stillwater because of the people. “There is a special bond in this community, and we always step up to take care of each other. My kids love their schools, too! It’s a great place to raise a family.”

Honolulu, Hawaii

With great weather and beautiful vistas, it is not hard to find a reason to get outdoors for a tennis match in Honolulu. Located on the island of Oahu, Honolulu is known for its diverse population, its welcoming aloha spirit and its year-round moderate climate. Hawaii is known as one of the healthiest states in the country, but it also has an aging population, and physicians on the island interact with patients from many ethnicities and backgrounds.

Rajive Zachariah, M.D., an internal medicine physician, moved to Honolulu for his residency at the University of Hawaii. Now, he works at Straub Medical Center, which employs over 400 physicians and serves patients in more than 32 different medical specialties.

“Honolulu has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” he says.

The good vibes that result from great year-round weather and beautiful scenery make a strong case to physicians considering Hawaii, but that is not all that makes Honolulu special. According to Peggy Andes, a physician recruiter at Straub Medical Center, there is something different about Hawaii’s culture that makes it attractive to candidates.

“Hawaii is unique in that our population is a blend of many diverse cultures and ethnicities. The concept of the aloha spirit—and being kind, welcoming and good to one another—is something that resonates with candidates,” says Andes.

Straub Medical Center is serious about welcoming new members to their team, as Hawaii is currently experiencing a physician shortage. “We are always looking for physicians who are interested in making a difference, providing quality care and contributing to our mission,” says Andes. The organization is currently recruiting physicians for internal medicine, family medicine, neurology, otolaryngology, cardiology and urgent access.

The medical center, which is part of Hawaii Pacific Health, has 159 beds and includes a network of neighborhood clinics on Oahu, Lanai and the Big Island, as well as a visiting specialist program that reaches throughout the state. According to Andes, Straub Medical Center is also home to the Pacific region’s only multidisciplinary burn treatment center and has been on the forefront of bringing new technologies and innovative practices to Hawaii, including minimally invasive cardiac surgery and total joint replacement.

With Hawaii ranking as one of the healthiest states in the country, physicians in Honolulu focus on keeping their patients healthy, emphasizing prevention and proactive care. Because the state does have an aging population, there is also an emphasis on chronic disease management. Given the diversity among Hawaii’s population, physicians have the opportunity to interact with patients of many different backgrounds. When serious health issues arise, Straub’s specialists in bone and joint care, cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology and beyond are among the best in the state.

When it comes to lifestyle, physicians have it all in Hawaii, says Andes. “Our moderate climate offers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities year-round, like golf, hiking, surfing and many other water sports.” Physicians can even get their exercise on their commute to work, thanks to a recently launched city-wide bikeshare program that has a stop right next to Straub. (No fear, biking-averse: There is also a great public bus system.)

Of course, there is also tennis. The Hawaii Tennis Open, which falls around Thanksgiving, is a Women’s Tennis Association tournament sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. A relatively new event, it is only in its third year, but the world-class tennis draws a crowd.

There are also numerous tennis associations and clubs that offer opportunities for social tennis or competitive matches. The Aloha Tennis Association, the Diamond Head Tennis Center and the Beretania Tennis Club all offer a variety of different opportunities. Whether you want to play a leisurely game and meet new partners or compete in a tournament, you will find a fit among all of Honolulu’s facilities and organizations.

On the tennis court, encompassed by green space (as you are at the Diamond Head Tennis Center), it is easy to forget that a cosmopolitan city is steps away. Honolulu boasts an eclectic food scene, a shopper’s paradise, and stunning arts and culture landmarks. There is historic Pearl Harbor and iconic Waikiki Beach, as well as vibrant annual celebrations of the local arts and cultures, including Chinese New Year, Honolulu Festival, Mele Mei (a month-long celebration of Hawaiian music), the Ukulele Festival and many more.

Of course, there are lots of opportunities to soak up the beauty of nature, too.

In his time off, when he is not stand up paddle boarding or exploring a new hike, Zachariah says he sometimes likes to enjoy the view of Diamond Head—a defining feature of the landscape, whether you stand atop or below it—from one of Honolulu’s nice restaurants.

“I am reminded how lucky I am to be here every time I step outside,” he says.

Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic, which was recognized as the best hospital in the nation for 2017-2018 by U.S News & World Report. Devoted physicians, scientists and researchers all call Rochester home and can enjoy the relaxed community life that embodies the Minnesota way. With four distinct seasons, there are ample recreation opportunities whether it’s 20 or 80 degrees outside, including plenty of excellent outdoor and indoor tennis facilities.

Every two weeks, you can find pediatrician Angela Mattke, M.D., hosting a Facebook Live show called #AsktheMayoMom. As a pediatrician in the Division of Community Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, Mattke brings in experts to talk about topics relating to pediatric health, fielding live questions from viewers along the way.

“During my third-year pediatrics clerkship in medical school, I fell in love with pediatrics,” says Mattke. “Despite being exhausted, I was excited each morning for rounds. Practicing medicine in pediatrics energized me, and still does.”

As a born-and-raised Minnesotan, Mattke earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota, spending her first two years at the Duluth campus, where there is a special focus on producing primary care physicians dedicated to serving Minnesota’s communities.

When it came time to choose her residency program, Mattke says she was thrilled by the caliber of the education at Mayo Clinic. “The attending physicians—called consultants at Mayo Clinic—showed genuine interest in the education of their medical students and residents.”

“At Mayo Clinic, staff are surrounded by some of the most talented, experienced physicians in the world,” adds Amy Boxrud, director of physician recruitment at Mayo Clinic. “We have a strong culture of teamwork, professionalism and mutual respect where the needs of the patient always come first.”

Now, Mattke works collaboratively with other physicians to deliver the best outcomes for her patients, and it is one of the things she finds most rewarding about Mayo Clinic.

“The collaboration between medical providers—primary care, specialists, the whole care team—is what makes this place one-of-a-kind,” she says. “The needs of the patient truly come first.”

Mayo Clinic’s patient population is far-reaching, with over 1.3 million people from all 50 states and 136 countries visiting the center for care this year. The organization employs over 4,500 staff physicians and scientists and close to 59,000 administrative and allied health staff. Mayo’s extended campus comprises about 30 buildings, and the integrated medical center provides medical diagnosis and treatment in virtually every specialty.

Rochester, with a population of about 125,000, is “considered a smaller or medium-sized city with world-class health care,” says Brad Jones, executive director of Experience Rochester Minnesota. “Mayo Clinic is the community. Everything is integrated.”

According to Jones, Rochester provides plenty of opportunities for work-life balance, allowing physicians to “slide into a more relaxed community life” once they leave work.

“You don’t feel like you need to fly away to get away,” he says.

With its abundance of great schools and organized activities, the city is also known as a great place to raise families. “There’s always something to keep kids engaged,” says Jones.

The seasons in Minnesota are pronounced, and outdoor and indoor recreation activities abound regardless of the temperature outside. If you are looking to play tennis in February when a typical day is in the 20s, you can head to the Rochester Tennis Connection or the Rochester Athletic Club, both of which also have outdoor courts for when days turn warmer.

Even though Rochester is an urban area (with all the culture and benefits that go along with it), Mattke says she does not have to travel far to go hiking or biking with her family.

In the city, there are plenty of events to entice locals and visitors. Rochesterfest is the city’s annual gathering—a 10-day celebration in June that highlights the city’s people, places and food. In the heart of winter, there’s SocialICE, an outdoor ice bar experience (complete with bonfires) that celebrates the bold north. During the summer, there is a street festival every Thursday, which encourages locals to get outside and take in the good weather.

For those who need a dose of the big-city life, Minneapolis is not far away. Many who come to Rochester find the small city strikes a perfect note and has everything they want.

“People who move here, once they become ingrained in the community, they like it a lot,” says Jones.

“Rochester is a great place to live, thrive and raise a family,” adds Mattke. “The community is wonderful, and opportunities continue to develop.”

Allentown, Pennsylvania

The thriving Lehigh Valley is home to Allentown, where a major renaissance has occurred over the past several years. Featuring state-of-the-art athletic facilities, a vibrant food scene, and great schools, this city with a small-town feel is a great place for physicians to settle with their families. The Lehigh Valley Health Network has been ranked as one of the country’s top hospitals by U.S. News and World Report for 22 consecutive years, and physicians there are able to serve patients and provide excellent care that is fueled by progress and innovation.

In the mid 1960s, when Leonard Parker Pool’s wife, Dorothy Parker, had cancer, they traveled from the Lehigh Valley to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for treatment. Pool wanted her to have the best care available, and at that time, that meant going to New York City.

"It was a great place to grow up, and it's been an even better place to raise my kids," says Timothy Friel, M.D., of the Lehigh Valley. -photo by Tim Gangi Photography

“It was a great place to grow up, and it’s been an even better place to raise my kids,” says Timothy Friel, M.D., of the Lehigh Valley. -photo by Tim Gangi Photography

Pool would later donate the first large sum of money that made Lehigh Valley Hospital—then under a different name—possible. He vowed that no one in the Lehigh Valley would have to travel to receive exceptional care again, and that credo lives on in the area today.

“That has always been a core component of who we are,” says Timothy Friel, M.D., chair of the department of medicine who specializes in infectious disease at Lehigh Valley Health Network. In everything the health network does, “that message and motivation lives on.”

Friel earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School before completing his residency in internal medicine and his fellowship in infectious disease, both at Massachusetts General Hospital. Though it was not immediately clear to Friel when he entered medical school that infectious disease would be his specialty, he was inspired by the physicians around him.

“Some of the best and most engaging mentors that I encountered happened to be infectious disease doctors,” says Friel. “It was the specialty that I found most rewarding and inspiring during my training.”

For Friel, who works heavily in the realm of HIV, the ability to work with patients over long stretches of time and to incorporate newly developed medicines and innovations in care are big reasons he loves being an infectious disease specialist. “We’re now able to manage patients in such a way that they’re living healthier lives,” he says.

As for how he landed in the Lehigh Valley? “I’m a local boy,” he says. He met his wife, who is an OB-GYN, on the first day of medical school. They both wanted to position themselves to have the best possible family life in conjunction with rewarding careers. For them, the Lehigh Valley and the chance to live close to family, combined with the community-oriented, progressive values of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, presented the best of all worlds.

According to Friel, a commitment to forward thinking is at the heart of the network’s philosophy, and has helped expand care in the HIV program and beyond. “One of the things I’ve loved about working here is that the organization has always been very supportive of new ideas, of new innovations,” says Friel. “It has always prided itself on the delivery of high quality care and putting patients first.”

“We are known for our progressive health care,” adds Brittany Kulp, a physician recruiter at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “Our physicians have strong relationships with their patients and play a key role keeping both local and visiting populations healthy and safe.”

The Lehigh Valley Health Network has eight campuses, including a 929-bed flagship facility with a Level I Trauma Center. As one of the nation’s largest medical groups, the Lehigh Valley Physician Group has more than 750 physicians and over 400 advanced practice clinicians in 59 specialties across over 160 practices, according to Kulp.

The network is actively recruiting for physicians in endocrinology, family medicine, neurology, psychiatry, urology and other subspecialties. Kulp speaks to many candidates who want to return home or be closer to family in the Northeast, but she is quick to tell candidates from all backgrounds that the Lehigh Valley is a great place to live and work.

“You can have a great quality of life, from the cost of living to good schools,” says Kulp, also noting the abundance of recreational opportunities, cultural activities, concerts and more.

Residents of Lehigh Valley often find that everything they need is at their fingertips. The area has everything from top-rated colleges and universities to minor league sports teams.

“Lehigh Valley is one of the fastest growing regions of the state, with Allentown representing the state’s third largest metropolitan area,” says Kaitie Burger, social media and communications manager for Discover Lehigh Valley. Across the region, says Burger, “there’s a fantastic mixture of small-town feel partnered with large-scale events.” Musikfest (the nation’s largest free, non-gated music festival), PA Bacon Fest (featuring hundreds of bacon-centric food and drink items), and horse-drawn carriage rides along streets lined with lights and holiday markets are just a few favorites of locals and visitors alike.

For the tennis-inclined, options abound. Winning Touch Tennis offers social, instructional and competitive opportunities to all levels, and the Oakmont Tennis Club was voted one of the 12 best places to play on red clay by Tennis Destinations.

“The Lehigh Valley truly offers something for everyone,” says Kulp. And as one of the top five regions in the northeast for development, Lehigh Valley’s renaissance continues on.

“It was a great place to grow up, and it’s been an even better place to raise my kids,” says Friel. “There’s everything we could have ever imagined here, and the area continues to grow. Over the last few years, it’s been really fun to be part of a really dynamic community. I think it continues to get better and better.”



Live & Practice

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Summer 2018


In small towns and metropolitan cities across the country, the great outdoors meets locals just footsteps from where they live and work. For physicians looking west, there’s Billings, Montana, where seeking outdoor adventure is a lifestyle, and Salt Lake City, Utah, a new hotbed of arts and culture that sits beneath the Wasatch mountain range.

Looking east, physicians will find rural sophistication mixed with a New England ski town vibe in Lebanon, New Hampshire. And for those who want to escape the snow for the sun and surf, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beckons.

Billings, Montana

A drive through the area's breath taking scenery confirmed to John Pender, M.D., and his family that they'd soon make Billings home. · Photo by Erik Petersen

A drive through the area’s breath taking scenery confirmed to John Pender, M.D., and his family that they’d soon make Billings home. · Photo by Erik Petersen

In Billings, there is an undeniable sense of adventure, and that’s a big part of why people move there. Many of the physicians who work in Billings aren’t native to the area, but they chose Billings for the chance to interact with diverse patient populations or raise their kids in a place that offers affordability and endless outdoor recreation options. It doesn’t hurt that the weather cooperates: Billings has close to 300 days of sunshine a year.

The city of Billings calls itself “Montana’s Trailhead,” a nod to the outdoor opportunities for locals and visitors alike. As the largest metropolitan area within a 500-mile radius (Calgary, Alberta, and Denver, Colorado, are among your next closest options), Billings boasts a strong sense of community, progressive regional commerce and unlimited access to the outdoors.

John Pender, M.D., a bariatric surgeon and chief of surgery at Billings Clinic, recalls that one day a flier for the Montana hospital came across his desk. At the time, he was on the academic faculty at East Carolina University, acting as a fellowship director for surgical fellows. “I thought, ‘Montana, that sounds interesting,’” recalls Pender. “And here we are.”

One of Pender’s primary motivations for moving to Billings was the opportunity to diversify his areas of practice, rather than narrowing his focus. “Being in a university, they really want you to subspecialize,” he says. “I got pigeonholed to do one or two operations. Coming up to Billings, Montana, has allowed me to be a general surgeon.”

Pender says that Billings Clinic epitomizes the idea of “big city medicine in a small town.” The hospital serves patients from Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and treats approximately 750,000 people each year. “When you’re eight hours from the next competitor, you really get to practice medicine,” says Pender.

Winter weather is a factor in treatment, too. Given that some patients live several hours from the hospital, both physicians and hospital administrators have to devise innovative solutions for patients who have chronic health challenges and who don’t live close enough to return regularly for follow-up appointments. “It creates opportunities for people to think outside the box,” says Pender. “We have a great outreach program through which the clinic provides a car or even a plane to get us out to these small communities to reach patients.”

The clinic is physician-led. “The governance policy states that the CEO will always be a physician,” says Rochelle Woods, physician recruiter at Billings Clinic. “Physician leaders are at every level, from the board to department chairs.”

More than 450 physicians and advanced practitioners cover more than 50 specialties in the 304-bed hospital, which sees 50,000 visits per year to its Level II Emergency and Trauma Center. As the largest health center in the state and the region’s tertiary referral center, the clinic has 13 regional partnerships in Montana and Wyoming. It was ranked as the best regional hospital in 2017-2018 by U.S. News & World Report, and is currently recruiting for almost every specialty, from cardiology to pediatric gastroenterology.

The hospital’s record isn’t the only point of acclaim. In 2016, Billings was named the “Best Town for Outdoor Activities” by Outside. With close proximity to fly fishing streams, the Rocky Mountains, the Yellowstone River, the sandstone bluffs known as the Rimrocks, and a 40-mile trail network that loops throughout the city, residents never tire of the outdoor offerings.

For physicians and their families, “It’s an easy city to acclimate into,” says Woods. “People come for the outdoor activities and the accessibility, so the majority of people are not from Billings. Unlike the Southeast or the Midwest, where most people move because they have family, people move to Billings for the outdoor activities and to raise kids where they can easily be outside.”

The welcoming and friendly nature of the people who call Billings home also makes the city ideal for newcomers, according to John Brewer, CEO of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. “Despite the connectivity and big-city amenities, Billings maintains a small-town feel with people who seek authentic connections and take the time to look you in the eye and make you feel welcome,” he says. “Ask people what they love about Billings and you will receive responses that in some way relate to the goodness of the people in the community.”

Though the great outdoors is one of the area’s main attractions, it easily coexists with a vibrant arts and culture scene. Popular annual events include the Magic City Blues festival, Symphony in the Park and the Big Sky State Games, an Olympic-style competition held each July. There are farmers markets, car shows, street dances and evening festivals during the summer, which residents can enjoy in between rappelling the Rimrocks, strolling along the Yellowstone River, or skiing nearby mountains, just to name a few options.

“Billings has balance,” says Brewer. “It’s large enough to experience the community at your own pace, but small enough to still run into friends at the grocery store. In Billings, despite the national economic challenges, business is strong, residents are enjoying life, and the scenery is as wonderful as the quality of life.”

That quality of life, says Pender, has made a huge difference for his family. “All year round, we do stuff as a family—hiking, camping, floating on the Yellowstone River. It really has brought us closer as a family.”

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah, is celebrating an era of new vibrancy. The redevelopment that heralded the 2002 Winter Olympics has helped reshape Utah’s capital into a hot spot for arts, culture and community—not to mention outdoor adventure, as the city is nestled in a valley beneath the towering Wasatch Range. In addition to the excellent quality of life, physicians in Salt Lake City enjoy a patient-centered approach that prioritizes the well-being of the community.

Tim Johnson, M.D., spent his undergrad and med school years at the University of Utah. Then it was on to Rochester, New York, where he completed his residency at the University of Rochester before doing a chief year in 2006. But though he only has great things to say about his experience as a physician in Rochester, he still missed Utah, and decided to move back and start working for Intermountain Medical Group in 2006.

Johnson practiced general internal medicine at the hospital for five years before being named regional medical director of Intermountain Medical Group. In 2015, he became an administrative medical director, and in 2017 was promoted to senior medical director. Even in his leadership role, he still sees patients on Thursday mornings.

“Intermountain is very patient-centered,” he says. “From a clinical perspective, as I practice medicine, I get to think about what is best for the patient. It doesn’t mean I don’t think about the financial aspects, but it’s not the first thing I think about.”

“Safest care, patient quality of care, patient access to health care…those are first,” he adds. “I love that we have a sense of duty not just to our patients, but also to our communities.”

In addition to the 504 beds at Intermountain Medical Center, which has a da Vinci robot, expanding telemedicine service and a cancer research center, the health system has another 21 hospitals across Utah, plus one in Idaho. According to Intermountain Healthcare physician recruiter Deanna Grange, about 39,000 employees and 1,500 physicians work for Intermountain’s wide network of hospitals and clinics.

“We’re a not-for-profit, integrated health system,” Grange says. “Even though the future is constantly changing, we’re in good shape because we’re a united front.”

Intermountain Healthcare currently has about 100 openings for physicians in specialties including neurology, psychiatry, gastroenterology and OB-GYN.

“If someone is serious about their profession yet requires almost-immediate access to year-round recreation and a very high quality of life, they’d be hard pressed to find a more ideal location,” says Shawn Stinson, director of communications of Visit Salt Lake.

According to Stinson, those who are unfamiliar with Salt Lake City, or who have not visited in the past 10 or 15 years, will likely be pleasantly surprised by what they find in the Salt Lake City of today. “Trust me when I say, those of us who have lived here for some time know, understand and appreciate the perceptions that Utah’s capital city is saddled with, but those days are fading rapidly,” he says. For instance, while many first-time visitors might associate conservatism with the city, Salt Lake City has an incredibly strong LGBTQ community, and in 2016 elected Jackie Biskupski, an openly gay woman, as mayor.

Sitting in the shadow of the Wasatch Range, Utah’s capital attracts professional skiers, climbers and cyclists as well as weekend warriors who take advantage of the rock climbing, biking, hiking, snowshoeing, camping and fishing options, not to mention Nordic skiing or snowboarding at the 10 world-class ski resorts within an hour of downtown.

Unbeatable access to the outdoors makes for an incredible lineup of annual events, which include Oktoberfest at Snowbird and Tour of Utah, a week-long professional cycling race. Summer outdoor concerts and year-round festivals also highlight the arts and culture scene, which Stinson says is “on par with some of the nation’s finest.”

“There’s so much to do; I don’t have to travel virtually anywhere,” says Johnson. “I’m looking out the window now at the beautiful mountains. In 10 minutes, I could be hiking up the trails or snowshoeing. Ski resorts are 12 miles away from my house. A lot of people that are interested in Utah are interested in outdoor sports, and there is the opportunity to be very active here.”

When Johnson reflects on his decision to move home to Utah, he’s certain it was the right move.

“My values align with Intermountain’s and what I’m trying to accomplish, and I feel completely engaged in helping Intermountain achieve amazing things for our communities and our patients,” he says.

Lebanon, New Hampshire

 A love of skiing and the outdoors brought Gillian Sowden, M.D., from Scotland to New England. · Photo by Cate Bligh

A love of skiing and the outdoors brought Gillian Sowden, M.D., from Scotland to New England. · Photo by Cate Bligh

Sitting at the crossroads of New England is Lebanon, New Hampshire, a small town in a picturesque region that is home to top health care and educational institutions. With four distinct and beautiful seasons—and outdoor recreation options to match—the area offers sophisticated rural living and is a decidedly great place to work, play and raise a family.

Many major and minor highways lead to and from Lebanon, but the spirit of the outdoors permeates everything in this iconic small town in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley. Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center serve as focal points for Lebanon area business and culture, employing thousands of people between them, and are both sources of pride for a town that recently celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding.

For Gillian Sowden, M.D., a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center physician, the fact that she became a psychiatrist working in New England is in some ways a surprise. Sowden grew up in Scotland, and wanted to be a vet for most of her young adult life.

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“In Scotland, you have to decide what you want to study right out of high school,” she says. “At 16, I could have gone to college. I was a huge science nerd. I studied biology and wanted to figure out a way to have a career that combined my love of learning and science with helping others.”

Instead, she left home to attend ski school in Norway. But even though she made the British biathlon team for Nordic skiing and shooting, she realized it was not going to be a career.

Because she didn’t want to stop skiing, she applied to medical schools in the U.S. that had ski programs and earned her undergraduate degree at Williams College. She met her now-husband at Williams, and decided to stay in the U.S. to attend medical school at Harvard.

“I went to med school thinking, I’ll do anything but psychiatry,” she says. “But in my first psychiatry rotation, I was struck by the relationship between patients and the physician.”

While Sowden completed her residency in Boston, she and her husband often talked about where they wanted to settle with their twin boys. “We were looking for a cute New England town that had an academic center because that felt like home.” They found Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and as Sowden says, “It’s been perfect.”

“This place is so unique,” she says. “It’s this small New England ski town with a massive medical hub. At the same time, you have all the amenities of a city here because of Dartmouth College. You have Division I athletics, a million festivals, events and theater.”

Professionally, Sowden has found Dartmouth-Hitchcock to be a perfect fit. “My colleagues are incredibly smart and capable physicians, but they are also very grounded and down-to-earth, kind people. It’s fun to be able to collaborate in such an intellectually stimulating yet warm environment,” she says. “I also work with medical students, and it’s important to me to combine that. It’s open and engaging, rather than that pressure cooker feeling.”

“It’s very collegial, very respectful,” agrees Kyle R. Hayman, manager of talent acquisition for clinical operations at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. “People work well together. We are trying to achieve the healthiest population possible and essentially transform health care not only in our region, but ultimately setting the standard for our nation.”

The 396-bed academic medical center is the hub of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock system, which includes four affiliate hospitals and 14 ambulatory clinics spread between New Hampshire and Vermont. With a network of 1,135 physicians and 10,000 employees, the hospital network serves around 1.9 million patients across the upper northeast.

In 2016, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was named one of “100 Great Hospitals in America” by Becker’s Hospital Review. Innovative facilities include the Williamson Translational Research Building, which accelerates lab research into patient care, and the Center for Surgical Innovation, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to improving surgical procedures.

“We have an MRI and CG machine that is able to move in and out of our operating room,” says Hayman. “For surgeries that are really delicate, that can make the difference between restoring someone’s ability or causing permanent disability. It’s curing cancer versus missing a bit of a tumor. It’s priceless to the individual patient.”

Right now, Dartmouth-Hitchcock has recruiting needs in virtually every area, according to Hayman, citing primary care, psychiatry, dermatology and neurology as acute needs. As for what would entice someone to live and work in the Upper Valley, there is no shortage of reasons.

“If you like to downhill ski, cross-country ski, hike or camp, this is the place. We have lakes and rivers if you like to boat or kayak or row,” says Hayman. “I also hone in on our location; we’re just a couple hours from a handful of larger cities. It’s nice to be in a small, safe community with fantastic public schools and activities for children, and also be able to drive an hour or two and experience a big city for a night or the weekend.”

The Lebanon area may also be attractive for physicians whose partners may be looking for employment, as the city is a hub for business. Though the resident population is 13,500, the daytime population, due to commuters and shoppers, is over 50,000. According to Rob Taylor, executive director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, many of the region’s flourishing companies can “trace their lineage back to the college or the hospital.”

Lebanon is also home to miles of scenic trails, as well as the “Northern Rail Trail,” which is built on the former railroad bed between Lebanon and Concord, New Hampshire. “We have many recreational opportunities, from boating and cycling in warm months to skiing and skating in the cold months,” says Taylor.

“The nature of this area was the biggest attraction,” Sowden adds. “Everything we read said this was one of the greatest places to raise kids. It really rang true. My kids have the life I wish I had. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was good, but theirs is just awesome. This winter, they are skiing every weekend. They’re little ski stars already at age 5.”

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

In Fort Lauderdale, residents enjoy miles of sand and ocean and great weather year-round. Gaining a reputation as a “mini Miami” because of its sophisticated, welcoming culture, this city of 2 million knows how to enjoy life and all the area has to offer. Physicians will discover diverse patient populations here, not just the significant Medicare demographic.

Adam Lessne, M.D., has been a physician at Gastro Health in Fort Lauderdale for a year and a half—a position he’s been working toward since high school.

Lessne attended Nova High School, a magnet school in Florida. Already with a strong sense of his career ambitions, he applied for and was accepted into a seven-year medical program at Boston University.

After graduating from Boston University, he landed at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he completed his residency, then completed a fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While he says he enjoyed his time in Boston and New York, he wanted to live and work in a place that was closer to his family and friends.

When Lessne interviewed with Gastro Health, he says that “meeting the partners sealed the deal.” In his discussions with the practice’s physicians, he learned that they do community work in area hospitals, where they take care of patients whether they have insurance or not.

Patients who are treated at Gastro Health are essentially visiting a patient-centered medical home for their digestive system. If a patient needs a procedure or a surgery, they can often be seen the next day. There is a pharmacy service, a radiological service and fusion center on site, so if a patient has an acute problem, it can be treated then and there.

Gastro Health has more than two dozen locations in South Florida, employing close to 100 gastroenterologists. According to physician recruitment manager Alexis Feldman, “there is no shortage of need for physicians in the Fort Lauderdale area.”

Gastro Health is recruiting gastroenterologists in Palm Beach County, the Naples/Fort Myers area and Broward County.

Gastro Health, Feldman says, “is an excellent option for gastroenterologists who are interested in private practice with the support of a large, financially stable organization.” Despite the organization’s corporate structure, she adds, each care center “maintains an individual culture and family that makes each office feel like home.”

Many physicians in the region encounter this welcoming atmosphere not only in the office, but also saturated in the culture and communities of Florida, particularly in the lively and sophisticated downtown areas. Says Feldman: “In my opinion, the best part of southeast Florida is the diversity. Fort Lauderdale and Miami draw people from all over the world, which has created a community where all are welcome.”

“Greater Fort Lauderdale is a very welcoming and diverse destination,” agrees Jessica Savage, vice president of public relations for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We embrace residents and visitors of every culture, origin and sexual identity. Our area is also very cosmopolitan. We have an extraordinary culinary scene, an eclectic mix of foods, and top chefs putting creative twists on their dishes.”

Locals and visitors can relax along the New River during Sunday’s outdoor jazz brunches, taking in the beautiful weather and water views, or stroll down Las Olas Boulevard and experience shopping, galleries, restaurants and nightlife. Popular annual events include the Las Olas Art Fair, the Tortuga Music Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival—among many, many others.

There is also the outdoors, which is focused on the water culture of the region. As Feldman says, “If you love the beach, Fort Lauderdale offers miles and miles of sand and ocean. I moved down here from Chicago three years ago and can attest to the true bliss that such easy access to the beach and consistent sunshine brings.”

In addition to swimming and sunning, residents can find adventure on biking trails and nature walks—or, like Lessne, by taking to the canals with his paddleboard or exploring the rivers on his inflatable kayak.

“Being outside is the best part of South Florida,” he says. “Here, even in the winter, you can be outside….I make fun of my friends in the northeast when it’s Christmas Day and I’m walking around in shorts and sandals.”

For now, Lessne is happy to have come full-circle, making his way back to his original goal of being a gastroenterologist in a place where he is close to family and can regularly enjoy time with his nephews, siblings and parents.

“I feel very lucky that I found the right group, the right partners and a place that allows me to focus on professional development,” he says. “I’m thrilled to be in the perfect place.”



Live & Practice

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2018


A small population size can mean a tight-knit community, even if residents hail from far-flung places. Locals from the communities on this list pride themselves on being welcoming to others, ready to share in the abundant natural wonders and cultural offerings that epitomize their corners of the world. If you explore any of these gems, know that many a tourist have visited and declared, “I never want to leave!”

Sedona, Arizona

In Sedona, Arizona, locals are surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, including the iconic red rock formations often featured on postcards from the area. Physicians in Sedona often have opportunities to establish relationships with their patients. The patient population is comprised of residents (many of whom enjoy active lifestyles year-round, thanks to Sedona’s mild climate), as well as tourists and outdoor adventurists drawn to the region.

Many residents of Sedona are transplants from other parts of the country. Blame “red rock fever” for this: People come for vacation, fall in love with the area’s stunning natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation, and decide to make Sedona home.

Ed Eppler, M.D., an emergency medicine physician who attended the University of Washington School of Medicine and completed his residency at Indiana University School of Medicine, landed in the small city of Sedona after deciding to become a traveling locum tenens physician. In addition to working on his own, Eppler also worked with the staffing agency Envision Physician Services, which placed him in Sedona for one of his first assignments.

“It has been over-the-top awesome,” says Eppler. “Envision has tremendous opportunities, and they make it relatively easy for physicians to navigate through licensing, credentialing and scheduling.”

In Sedona, Envision Physician Services operates Verde Valley Medical Center, a free-standing emergency department. The Cottonwood campus of Verde Valley Medical Center, also operated by Envision, is just a short distance away, and is a Level IV trauma center. On the Sedona campus, which has laboratory, radiology, orthopedics and primary care outpatient clinics, in addition to the emergency department, physicians also have access to a TeleStroke program, through which patients can be remotely “seen” by a neurologist from the Mayo Clinic.

Though the Sedona campus emergency department has only four treatment rooms with five beds, according to Envision Physician Services Recruiter Anthony Martinez, there is no shortage of excellent care at the facility. In the category of overall quality of care, the facility “consistently ranks above the 90th percentile from Professional Research Consultants, Inc.”

There is also no shortage of exciting employment opportunities. Envision actively recruits board-certified or board-eligible physicians in emergency medicine, family practice and internal medicine for the emergency department on the Sedona campus. According to Martinez, the staffing agency offers a variety of opportunities across more than 1,000 centers, including full-time employment, independent contracting, and locums capabilities, which is how Eppler found Envision, and subsequently, Sedona.

When Martinez speaks to prospective candidates for the Sedona campus, he emphasizes that the lower-volume environment (in comparison to highly trafficked urban medical centers) allows for stronger relationships between physicians and their patients—not to mention the high quality of care physicians can provide to each person who walks through the medical center’s doors.

With a median age of 57 among the core population, plus an estimated 3 million tourists exploring the area each year, physicians play a critical role in keeping both local and visiting populations healthy and safe.

Staying healthy is important to residents and visitors alike, who take every opportunity to explore the outdoor splendor Sedona offers. “There is so much to do on the land,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. “Hiking, biking, mountain biking, meditation. We joke that God made the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona. It’s true!”

While many people visit the Grand Canyon’s rim to check it off their bucket list, Wesselhoff says Sedona is more accessible for exploring. “You can get into the rocks and land pretty easily and be immediately hiking and biking.”

Many people also gravitate to Sedona to experience its mediation and spiritual offerings, as Sedona was considered sacred land for Native Americans, according to Wesselhoff. The town offers meditation and spiritual retreats and world-class wellness spas quietly tucked alongside institutions steeped in small-town charm. The most meditative activity is sometimes as simple as stepping outdoors for a few moments.

“When you’re surrounded by beauty and nature, it puts everything in perspective,” says Wesselhoff.

In addition to attracting top medical talent, the area also has a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and other professionals who have made a conscious decision to move to Sedona. “People who live here absolutely want to be here and love it,” says Wesselhoff, nodding to the sense of community and sense of place that are both vital aspects of the Sedona experience. “You can really create that here,” she says. “It’s hard to do in a big place. It’s easy to get lost. But in Sedona, it’s easy to make a difference. That’s what I love about it. One person in Sedona can make a tremendous impact.”

Eppler, for his part, has found a rewarding professional experience at Verde Valley Medical Center, while also enjoying the richness of opportunities in the area. “Sedona and the surrounding area has too many wonderful outdoor opportunities to list,” he says. “It’s simply amazing.” He says he loves biking and running, in addition to skiing in the nearby town of Flagstaff, and enjoying the incredible scenery, culture and restaurants.

To put it simply, Eppler says, “What’s not to love?”

Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan, isn’t on the way to anywhere—and that is why people love it. The small city, which has a year-round population of 15,000, boasts an undeniable sense of community. Residents take pride in the area’s stunning beaches, green vineyards, charming downtown district and ample cultural activities. Physicians will find a state-of-the-art nonprofit regional referral center, and families will be welcomed into a friendly, thriving community.

Locals of Traverse City, which is located on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, enjoy a four-season paradise that offers something for everyone.

There are opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, golfing, skiing and snowshoeing, plus an extraordinary range of dining and wine and beer tasting options. It has a healthy tourism industry that peaks the first week of July, when the National Cherry Festival celebrates Traverse City’s title as Cherry Capital of the World. Traverse City has a small-town vibe with big-city amenities—and residents who care deeply about the area’s heritage, as well as their neighbors.

Kelsey Knaack, D.O., a hospitalist born and raised in Traverse City, recently returned to the area to work at Munson Medical Center through iNDIGO Health Partners. Her husband, Joel, is also a hospitalist, and she recalls they agreed upon the excellence of the Munson Medical Center. “Especially for young physicians, there is nothing more encouraging than to enter into a strong group of practitioners,” she says, adding that her partners have a wide range of backgrounds, from providing care in rural settings to working in practices or outpatient facilities prior to starting hospital medicine. “We have folks who are fresh out of residency and folks who have been practicing for 30 to 40 years,” she says. “I love it.”

Knaack says she has been passionate about medicine since she was young, though she was momentarily sidetracked with plant physiology and ethnobotanical studies while studying at the University of Michigan. After deciding she wanted to pursue medicine and that she was passionate about the osteopathic discipline, she attended the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University. Afterward, she returned to Michigan and completed her residency at Genesys in Grand Blanc. Though she was not home to Traverse City yet, she did meet her husband, Joel, then an internal medicine resident, during residency. They both took jobs within a large hospital system in Saginaw, Michigan, before deciding to return to Traverse City. When the couple started having children, Knaack knew it was where she wanted to be.

“We moved a year and a half ago, and we couldn’t be happier,” she says. During summers, they spend as much time as possible on the beach with their kids, who are 5, 4 and 2. The winter season provides a variety of outdoor activities as well.

“Traverse City is an outdoor paradise,” she says. “It’s absolutely stunning. Everything we do here is wrapped around the beautiful water and the beautiful outdoors.”

Knaack also loves her job in part because of the diversity among patients and cases. “Practicing in this community, we draw from such a wide range of areas, and we have folks coming from far reaches of the state,” she says, adding that some patients have not had any type of medical care for many years. That sometimes means Traverse City physicians see and treat rare pathologies. “Folks are under the impression that you only see those ringer cases in big cities, but that has not been my experience,” she says.

Munson Medical Center is the only verified Level II trauma center and the only neonatal intensive care unit north of Grand Rapids, which is more than two hours away. The center has 439 beds and the region’s largest medical staff, with over 500 physicians representing 57 specialties. According to Tracey Kukla-Aleshire, manager of physician recruitment at Munson Healthcare, the center has received repeated national recognitions, making the list of 100 Top Hospitals 14 times. It is home to an award-winning heart program and the Cowell Family Cancer Center, and is also designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, says Kukla-Aleshire.

And they are looking for new candidates in dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and more, including subspecialties.

When she introduces candidates to the region, Kukla-Aleshire explains how Traverse City is not only a great place to work, it is also a great place to live—no matter where your recreational interests lie.

“Traverse City offers something for everyone,” she says. “From a safe, welcoming community with excellent schools, to festivals, concerts, recreation and a vibrant foodie scene, Traverse City is a place people visit and never want to leave.”

Even with all its attractions, Jenny Jenness, media relations manager of Traverse City Tourism, acknowledges with pride the best thing about the region is the people who live there. “It’s no secret, Traverse City isn’t on the way to anything,” she says. “The people who are here have chosen to be here, and they’re deeply passionate about caring for this town now and for preserving it for generations to come. Life here is intentional, and you experience that sentiment in everything.”

She also echoes Kukla-Aleshire’s comment about Traverse City offering something for everyone. “I’m amazed that when I say this, I actually mean it. There’s something here for every interest.” Locals and visitors can find year-round adventure and recreation opportunities in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was just named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America. The food and drink scene is not short on accolades, either, having been called one of “America’s Top 5 Foodie Towns” by Bon Appétit. With 40+ wineries and 20 breweries, many featuring craft beers, experiencing the full breadth of Traverse City’s gastronomic delights definitely requires pacing yourself. The ideal growing conditions mean wine and beer offerings proliferate, as do tart cherries, which are featured in the National Cherry Festival, or “the ultimate celebration of Traverse City heritage,” according to Jenness.

“There is no shortage of great stuff to do,” says Knaack, adding that because many of her partners have small children as well, activities with colleagues are always centered around family and are kid-friendly. The area’s strong sense of community permeates the hospital environment, too.

“As a mom in medicine with a busy schedule, it’s comforting to know I can turn to my partners and say, ‘My kid has a Christmas program,’ and they say, ‘Hand me your pager.’ That’s not always a guarantee for parents in medicine because of the hours we put in. This group emphasizes making it happen for each other.”

“It can’t be beat in that regard, as a place to live and raise a family,” Knaack says. “You can also have a very successful, strong medical practice, and it’s amazing to have that duality.”

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

“The Berkshires are a wonderful place to practice osteopathic medicine,” says Amanda Staples Opperman, D.O. “I initially followed a mentor to the Berkshires, and it just felt like home.” Photo by Angela Mia Photography

“The Berkshires are a wonderful place to practice osteopathic medicine,” says Amanda Staples Opperman, D.O. “I initially followed a mentor to the Berkshires, and it just felt like home.” Photo by Angela Mia Photography

Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is located in the heart of Berkshire County, a rural mountain region in western Massachusetts. Outdoor adventure, a vibrant economy and the farm-to-table lifestyle are all accessible in this picturesque area, which also offers a low cost of living in comparison to nearby cities like Boston and New York. Physicians are part of the tight-knit medical community, which is always working to innovate and bring new services to the area.

Amanda Staples Opperman, D.O., now associate program director of internal medicine at the Berkshire Medical Center, drove through western Massachusetts long before she ever relocated there for work. She recalls traveling through the area on her way to Ithaca College, where she earned her undergraduate degree, and thinking there was something beautiful and magical about it. “As you drive west on the Mass Pike, you start climbing, your ears pop, and as you pass over the Appalachian Trail, something seems to change,” she says. “It’s both comforting and exciting at the same time.”

After earning her degree at Ithaca College, Opperman completed additional pre-med classes at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine before attending medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in southern Maine. She says she fell into her specialty, which is primary care internal medicine with a focus on lifestyle and integrative medicine for optimal health. Says Opperman, “I was originally interested in women’s health, and through experiences in my training, realized that the best realm for me to do that was in primary care.”

“Women are instrumental agents of change in families, so that was my main focus,” she says. “Then I followed my interests and what came naturally to fit my patients’ needs. I’ve found that integrating nutrition, stress reduction and lifestyle factors, like daily movement, has led to incredible improvements in my patients’ lives, and the lives of their families.”

For Opperman, Berkshire County was the perfect place to nurture and hone her practice. “The osteopathic philosophy really resonated with my own values and view of health, and the Berkshires are a wonderful place to practice osteopathic medicine,” she says. “I initially followed a mentor to the Berkshires, and it just felt like home.”

Liz Mahan, a physician recruiter at Berkshire Medical Center, says a strong sense of community within the health system and beyond contributes to the area’s high quality of care and life. “I think there’s a pretty strong sense for everybody working within Berkshire Health Systems that we are caring for our friends, our family and our neighbors. It’s a tight-knit community within small towns throughout the Berkshires and within Berkshire Health Systems as a whole,” she says. “We frequently receive feedback from prospective job candidates about how much people seem to care, and that speaks a lot to the kind of community we have here.”

Berkshire Health Systems is the parent organization for Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, the Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association, and numerous Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview physician practices. The practices cover a range of specialties including primary care, orthopedics, surgical services, bariatric surgery, oncology and radiation oncology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, OB-GYN and numerous other disciplines.

The Berkshire Medical Center is licensed for 298 beds, and has outpatient clinics and programs throughout the community, including Operation Better Start, which helps children and families prevent and overcome obesity. Community lectures also bring awareness directly to residents, and topics include wellness, cancer prevention and treatment, orthopedic care and treatment, and more. Among other initiatives, a community outreach team also provides free blood pressure screenings.

According to Michael Leary, director of media relations at Berkshire Health Systems, the organization has “invested significantly in technology,” and facilities now have state-of-the-art imaging and operating suites, hyperbaric oxygen chambers for wound care, da Vinci robotic technology for urology and gynecologic surgery, a MAKO robotic system for knee and hip replacement, high-speed linear accelerators for cancer patients, and advanced therapeutic endoscopy technology. “One of the benefits of working here specifically is that the health system works to innovate, bringing as many services as possible,” adds Mahan.

According to Mahan, Berkshire Medical Center is currently recruiting physicians for its hematology, oncology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, rheumatology, dermatology, ER, trauma, acute care surgery and anesthesiology departments. Similar to medical centers across the country, there is also a huge need for internal medicine.

According to Opperman, the Berkshire Medical Center is a rewarding place to work. “Almost all of my mentors from residency are now colleagues and have truly made me feel valued as part of the health system.”

Lindsey Schmid, marketing director at 1Berkshire, an economic development organization for Pittsfield and western Massachusetts, cites the high quality of life coupled with the relatively low cost of living as one of the area’s main draws. “You can pay for a house here for what it would cost you to buy a parking spot in New York City,” she says. However, western Massachusetts is still incredibly culturally vibrant, which goes back to the boom it saw during the Gilded Age, when millionaires built their summer homes in the Berkshires.

“Today, people come here to be inspired,” says Schmid. “Writers, photographers, artists—they’ll come here to pick up on that history and that energy.” Entrepreneurs, too, are vital to the creative economy, and it is not just food trucks, according to Schmid. Anyone who wants to be creative and make an impact on the community can leave their mark here.

“Everyone’s story of how they got here is just so interesting,” says Schmid. “I think because 80 percent of the land is undeveloped, it’s easier to access your creative potential without the noise of the city around you.”

Popular attractions include Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa), the Gilded Age mansions, and Edith Wharton’s home, the Mount.

Opperman and her husband welcomed their son in the fall of 2016, and they spend time outside during every season, soaking up the quintessential New England feel. “Whether we are in the yard planting flowers, hiking in nearby Kennedy Park, exploring a quaint village for the day, paddleboarding on Stockbridge Bowl, snowshoeing with friends in the winter, or apple picking and pumpkin carving in the fall, there’s always something to do in nature.”

The region also boasts a farm-to-table lifestyle that, thanks to the bounty of working farms in the area, is an authentic part of daily life in the Berkshires. “We are able to get amazing locally grown organic produce at Berkshire Organics Market, but we get out to the farms, too, to meet the farmers and see where our food is grown as often as we can,” says Opperman.

“To this day, I still learn of new things to see and do from patients, and I’ve been here for seven years now,” says Opperman. “The Berkshires has layers, and I haven’t found one I didn’t like.” That includes her experience as a physician working alongside a cadre of dedicated colleagues that care for their patients, and who are also neighbors and friends. Says Opperman, “It has been empowering to grow and develop into the clinician I am today, with such support from the health system and a true focus on patient-centered care.”

Beaufort, South Carolina

“Community oriented, patients first” is how Stephen Larson, M.D., describes the culture at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Photo by Paul Nurnberg

“Community oriented, patients first” is how Stephen Larson, M.D., describes the culture at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Photo by Paul Nurnberg

Charleston without the traffic? That’s Beaufort, South Carolina, a charming coastal town located on Port Royal Island, one of the largest Sea Islands. Residents take every chance they can to enjoy the area’s beautiful waterways, and the moderate year-round climate means almost every day can be spent outdoors. Coupled with numerous walking districts, friendly residents and excellent health care, Beaufort is an ideal location for physicians to practice medicine in a patient-first, physician-focused environment, while finding tranquility during off time.

Stephen Larson, M.D., medical director for emergency medicine at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, chose emergency medicine because of his affinity for bringing stability to a situation in chaos. “I like taking something that has fallen apart and restoring order,” he says. One of Larson’s medical school mentors, John Stone, M.D., was an emergency medicine pioneer, shepherding the idea that emergency medicine specialists should be able to treat all emergencies, rather than delaying treatment while waiting for input from consulting specialists.

After training with Stone and others at Emory University, Larson put his education to the test when he completed his emergency medicine residency at Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, California. At the time of his residency, Larson recalls Oakland was experiencing a tremendous amount of street violence and drug use. “We saw very serious medical conditions,” he says. “It was a four-year emergency medicine training program by fire. That experience had me prepared for everything.”

After his residency, Larson joined a local group at a small practice in Berkeley, California, and after 10 years, started to take on leadership within the group. After that, he took an administration-focused leadership position in St. Louis. Because he was at that point affiliated with TeamHealth, the organization that manages Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, he was ultimately able to move to his current leadership role.

Larson says Beaufort Memorial differs from how many other hospitals operate. “It’s administered and operated by a local board, not owned by a big corporate entity or large for-profit system.” he says. “We are truly a standalone community hospital. It’s becoming more and more unique.” While there are financial challenges that come with being board-operated, Larson says “we’re mustering our own course.”

As the largest hospital between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, Beaufort Memorial is busy, seeing 55,000 patients each year. “We are two to three times busier than the other local hospitals by the bigger cities, which means we’re able to offer a lot more complex services,” says Larson. Additionally, the hospital is the top employer for physicians in the area, and is very physician-friendly, according to Larson: “Community oriented, patients first.”

Zarina Manwah, senior clinical recruiter for emergency medicine at TeamHealth, adds that despite a challenging health care environment, “our emergency medicine clinicians are ready for each patient that comes through the ER doors.”

“For 35 years, we’ve provided support services, networks of communication and educational resources, and we’ve brought together a community of thousands of emergency medicine professionals to share and shape best practices,” says Manwah. TeamHealth partnered with Beaufort Memorial in January 2013, and Larson joined in connection with that relationship.

When Manwah talks to candidates about life in Beaufort, she is quick to share the variety of cultural offerings, both old and new, that make the small city a wonderful place to live. “Beaufort is filled with many historical mansions,” she says. “Art galleries, antique shops and modern boutiques dot the entire downtown and uptown walking districts, along with fine dining and quick eateries.” Plus, she says, the moderate climate means you can dine al fresco often.

“People find Beaufort very charming, very friendly,” says Robb Wells, vice president of tourism at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a 300-year-old city and close-knit community. Many of us are not originally from here, but it was inviting enough that we wanted to call it home, and we act like we’ve been here the whole time.”

Beaufort’s proximity to the Beaufort River, an intercoastal waterway, means locals and visitors alike can always be found enjoying the water. “If you don’t find somebody on the water, they’re trying to get to the water as fast as possible,” says Wells. The annual Beaufort Water Festival celebrates the region’s most beloved natural resource with nightly concerts, air shows and raft races. Food festivals, including a shrimp festival, make summer a highlight. The region’s attractions and atmosphere are particularly great for kids, which is why some people relocate to Beaufort from Charleston once they have a family.

Beaufort and Port Royal are also home to three military bases, which train over 20,000 marines each year. While much of the military population is temporarily stationed in the area, others are located there permanently, and Wells says that many military families retire to the area after they transition out of service.

And—no surprise—lots of physicians in cooler climates are ready to call Beaufort home.

“I get calls all the time from doctors in Ohio and the Midwest looking for a way to escape the heavy winters,” says Larson. “South Carolina is definitely a desirable place to practice.”



Family-friendly cities

Finding a new place in which to practice is just as important to your family as it is to your career. Make it a good choice for both.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Winter 2018


Amanda Beach, M.D.

Amanda Beach, M.D., convinced her brother and parents to relocate to Carmel, Indiana, about 25 minutes from downtown Indianapolis.

When deciding where to practice, physicians weigh many factors: what health systems operate hospitals and clinics in the area, opportunities for career growth, what the patient population is like, and proximity to family. Of course, for many physicians, whether the area is a good place to raise a family is a top priority. The quality of local schools, the availability of family-friendly leisure activities, and the general quality of life are all important considerations for physicians with families.

If you fall into this category (or think you may soon), consider Carmel, Indiana; Owensboro, Kentucky; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Rockville, Maryland as strong options.

Carmel, Indiana

In Carmel, physicians can enjoy the benefits of living in an area with several amenities and activities while enjoying a high quality of life, especially in the context of easy commutes and friendly people. Alternatively, physicians can take advantage of the ample career opportunities in nearby Indianapolis. This Midwest health system hub is a mere 25 to 30 minute drive from Carmel.

For Amanda Beach, M.D., life in Carmel is a family affair. “I have always loved science, and I come from a huge family of engineers. I thought I might want to do something biomedical. I really liked anatomy. But I also wanted to form connections with people. I thought, that’s what physicians do, especially pediatricians. You get to watch people grow up. That’s how I decided on pediatrics,” says Beach.

Beach attended the University of Dayton in Ohio. While an undergraduate, she volunteered with a children’s hospital in Dayton, which cemented her professional path. She attended the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, and placed with Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for her residency.

When Beach began job searching, she saw a pediatrician opportunity with St. Vincent Medical Group, a subsidiary of Ascension, the country’s largest nonprofit health system. She applied and was hired.

“One of my reasons for my move to St. Vincent was that I wanted to be somewhere for a long time and work with patients over a long period. Unless a family moves, when you’re a pediatrician, you stay with people for a while. You get to see people have siblings,” says Beach.

St. Vincent Carmel has a special focus on women and families. In 2015, the 121-bed hospital opened the St. Vincent Carmel Women’s Health Center. Says Seth Turner, a primary care physician recruiter for St. Vincent’s Health, the hospital is proactive about acquiring cutting-edge technology to support their patient care. Says Turner, “One of St. Vincent Carmel’s featured offerings is an Advanced Breast Care program with care navigators and the newest 3-D mammography technology, tomosynthesis, which is considered the ‘mammogram of the future,’ especially for women who have dense breast tissue. This machine can take a three-dimensional snapshot allowing radiologists to look for tumors layer by layer, almost like flipping the pages of a book.”

Additionally, says Turner, St. Vincent Carmel offers da Vinci robotic surgery for gynecological and other surgical procedures, and breast oncology and reconstruction surgery. The hospital also operates a Women’s Cardiac Risk Clinic. Turner is currently recruiting for hospitalists, internal medicine physicians and nocturnists.

St. Vincent’s main campus is in Indianapolis, 25 minutes from Carmel; St. Vincent Hospital is the flagship location of St. Vincent Health. Indianapolis has several prominent health systems that operate or are headquartered in the city. Franciscan Health operates Franciscan Health Indianapolis, a hospital known for its full-service heart and vascular care program. Indiana University Health (IU Health) operates three hospitals in Indianapolis, including IU Health University Hospital, IU Health Methodist Hospital, and Riley Hospital for Children.

IU Health also operates IU Health North Hospital in Carmel, a 189-bed hospital with all-private patient rooms, including private NICU and PICU rooms.

Says Mark Clarke, a recruitment associate for IU Health Physicians, “IU Health North Hospital features maternity suites with whirlpool labor tubs, two cesarean section suites conveniently located adjacent to maternity beds, and 16 technologically advanced surgical suites with a focus on non- and minimally-invasive procedures.”

IU Health North Hospital provides a broad range of services, including bariatrics, neurology, obstetrics, plastic and reconstructive surgery, radiology, sports medicine and urology. Clarke is part of the 12-person team of physician recruiters working to bring physician talent to Indiana and specifically to Carmel.

“There is a lot of growth in Carmel, especially in the city center area,” says Whitney Riggs, communications coordinator at Hamilton County Tourism. “This is one of the main areas where there are a lot of new restaurants and shops. Our midtown is also in the process of growing a lot.”

Despite being a small town, Riggs says that Carmel has “big city things to do.” In the summer, Riggs says there are scores of free concerts and events, including the popular annual Greekfest in August.

“I originally lived in Indianapolis,” says Beach. “My husband and I moved to Carmel a year and a half ago. We looked around and thought, ‘Hey, this is a great place to have a family.’ We have a 4-year-old, and we really like that it’s an active community. There are great schools. It’s really safe.”

Beach also appreciates that her work as a pediatrician helps her become better acquainted with local families. “One of the things I especially like about living and working here is that I see my patients out and about; I know their families and they get to know mine.”

Beach means this in more ways than one. She and her husband bought a house in Carmel, and they immediately clicked with the area. She shared with the rest of her family how much she enjoyed living in Carmel—and her brother decided to relocate there. Then, so did her parents. “My parents definitely wanted to be close to their only granddaughter,” says Beach.

“The area has great schools,” Beach says. “The city really cares about maintaining our school system. They try to keep the city and the community really nice.” Beach is emphatic that Carmel is not just a good place to have a family; it is a good place to be a parent with a career. “It’s very conducive to being a working physician mother. It was not hard to find a great day care. I live two minutes from my daughter’s day care, and my office is two doors down. When my daughter reaches kindergarten, her school will be walkable from my house.”

Lincoln, Nebraska

If you are looking for a city where you can have a fast-paced career with a high quality of life, Lincoln, Nebraska, may be the perfect fit. Physicians can practice in Lincoln, a city made especially colorful on game days by the University of Nebraska community and its red-clad sports fans who flock to the area. Physicians can even choose a rural lifestyle just outside the city limits, without adding too much time to their commute.

Daniel DeFreece, M.D., is a born-and-raised Nebraskan, and can vouch for it being a great place to grow up, to advance one’s medical career, and to raise a family.

“I grew up in a rural area, so raising our family in a rural area was appealing to my wife and I,” says DeFreece. “I think a lot of family practice doctors enjoy the relationships that they develop with patients over time—and especially so when you’re in a more moderately-sized market. That all appealed to me. So, 21 years later, here I am.”

DeFreece lives in Nebraska City, just outside Lincoln, and works for The Physician Network, a subsidiary of Catholic Health Initiatives. CHI operates hospitals and clinics across Nebraska. “I’m half-time medical director for quality, and I spend the second half of my time working in family practice,” says DeFreece. “The network has multiple clinics and doctors in it, of which my clinic is one. I help them with the quality aspect for multiple locations in our area—Lincoln, Crete, Kearney, Grand Island. It’s a very large physician network.”

DeFreece learned early on that he was interested in family practice. “I went to the University of Kansas Medical Center. We spent two years in Kansas City, and then UK flips it and for the second half, you go to Wichita, Kansas,” he says. “It’s a clinical rotation, and it’s a much more community-based program where you are working with doctors in private practices.” Spending time learning from physicians in private practice “definitely flavored my decisions,” says DeFreece. “I went to Lincoln Medical Education Foundation for three years of family practice residency.”

DeFreece enjoys practicing with The Physician Network. “There is a much bigger emphasis on providing quality medical care, as far as patient satisfaction, providing the right medical care for the right person, and doing it in a cost-effective way,” he says. “We have a great network of doctors. It’s a rapidly changing health care world; being a supportive group with good leadership is a must because there are so many things changing. I think that’s why you see a lot of doctors joining groups.”

Says Terri Bangert, a physician recruitment specialist for The Physician Network/ CHI Health: “In Lincoln, because of the university, we’re a very active, very healthy system. Lincoln is the state’s capital, but it’s also home to the University of Nebraska.” The football stadium accommodates up to 92,000 people coming to see the Huskers play. “Saturday is a flood of red,” Bangert says.

In Lincoln, CHI operates CHI Health St. Elizabeth, a 260-bed full-service hospital. The hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit, a cardiovascular line and a pediatric surgery line. The hospital is also the accredited burn trauma center for the entire area. Says Bangert: “I’m recruiting for specialties across a broad spectrum: primary care, internal medicine, family medicine, cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonology, critical care, neurosurgery, neurology, nephrology and emergency medicine.”

Another employer of physicians in the Lincoln area is Bryan Health. Bryan Health operates the Bryan Medical Center West and East Campus. There are 640 beds between the two campuses. Carol Friesen, vice president of health system services for Bryan Health, sees her organization as an advantageous place for younger physicians to accelerate their careers. “Our medical staff leadership at Bryan has traditionally been very young,” says Friesen. “We’re not like, ‘You have to be in the last 10 years of your practice to become a leader.’ Physicians have this opportunity earlier in their careers than other communities.”

Friesen says that 80 to 90 percent of physicians who come for a site visit sign an offer letter. Outside of the professional development opportunities at Bryan Health, Friesen attributes the high level of interest to life in Lincoln. “When we’re recruiting, we get people with ties to Lincoln or to the state. But we have a lot of physicians we’ve recruited from the coasts who are looking for a great place to raise their families.”

Curtis Klein, director of talent and healthcare services for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, says, “Lincoln is a big small town. We’re a quarter of a million people. …You can feel like you can be part of the scene pretty easily.”

There’s also no need to figure in costs for private education because Klein says Lincoln is known for the strength of its public schools. “The public school system has very high graduation rates and various acceleration programs,” he says. “Lincoln Public Schools does a really good job of keeping up with the times, offering all the services and programs to stay at the forefront of meeting students’ needs.” Klein notes that Lincoln high schools have just finished their second year of The Career Academy, a program that allows juniors and seniors in high school to enroll simultaneously in a local community college, where they can take classes that satisfy high school graduation requirements and help them earn college credits.

When they are not in class, students and their families can enjoy a variety of great activities in Lincoln. DeFreece has three children, ages 21, 19 and 15. He says that the outdoorsy nature of their Nebraskan lifestyle lends itself to active family activities. “We do a lot of things outdoors; we like to golf and go boating. The kids do baseball and soccer and participate on the swim team. When your kids are school-age, you get involved in lots of the school activities.”

Owensboro, Kentucky

Thomas Waring, M.D.

After time in New York and Connecticut, Thomas Waring, M.D., found a home in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Home to one of the nation’s most highly-regarded playgrounds, Owensboro takes “family friendly” to a new level. For families interested in Owensboro’s vibrant culinary scene, bibs are a must for kids and most adults: Owensboro takes its barbecue very, very seriously.

Thomas Waring, M.D., knew early on in life he was drawn to medicine, particularly helping individuals requiring urgent medical care. “I started working on an ambulance when I was 16. I was an EMT for many years, all through high school and college,” he says.

Waring attended Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York, located on Long Island approximately 20 miles east of New York City. Waring was a senior in college on September 11, 2001, and he was one of the first ambulance responders. “They asked for additional ambulances to come. We got a crew together, and we went into the city,” says Waring. His ambulance was staged at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, blocks from ground zero, and the team stayed overnight. Waring described the situation as “chaotic.”

The experience fully solidified his interest in critical care. He attended Ross University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Rochester General Hospital in upstate New York. Waring completed a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at the University of Connecticut.

After two years in Connecticut, an advertisement from Owensboro Health caught Waring’s eye. “I came to visit the hospital and thought it was gorgeous,” Waring says. “I came down for a second look and decided it was where I wanted to be.” At Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, Waring works in a hospital-based private practice. He finds the combination of the work that he’s doing, the personality of the patient population, and the culture of the organization to be a winning combination. “I really like managing the very sick and critically ill. The patients are very appreciative. The hospital is more like a big family; everyone works well together and the patients really appreciate what we do.”

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital provides service to 14 counties, 2 in southern Indiana and 12 in western Kentucky. Says Mitchell Sims, manager of physician recruitment for Owensboro Health, “We are licensed for 477 beds. We have a Level III NICU, which is the largest NICU west of Louisville. We have two da Vinci robots and 16 operating room suites.” On average, 1,800 babies are born each year at the hospital.

Part of what keeps Owensboro Health Regional Hospital so busy is that it serves a large region and a large patient population. Located in Daviess County, Kentucky, Owensboro has a metropolitan population of about 100,000 people, yet Owensboro Health Regional Hospital is the only hospital that operates at that scope within a 45-mile radius.

Owensboro Health also operates 25 outpatient locations, with three more locations in progress. Owensboro Health Medical Group employs more than 180 providers, spanning over 30 specialties. Sims is currently recruiting for several new physicians across a wide range of specialties, including gastroenterology, neurology, pulmonary critical care, outpatient family medicine, non-invasive cardiology, rheumatology, psychiatry, outpatient pediatrics, geriatrics and sleep medicine.

Sims says that Owensboro offers more than just a job. The city has made a strong effort to offer big-city entertainment and facilitate residents’ active, vibrant lifestyles. Says Sims, “The community recently completed a $300 million renovation to the downtown area that has brought in a lot of new businesses and restaurants. Another big draw downtown is a park that was named the No. 1 playground in the world by Landscape Architects Network.” The park, Smothers Park, sits on the Owensboro waterfront and features a very large, fully accessible playground and interactive water fountains.

Says Mark Calitri, president and CEO of Visit Owensboro, “Owensboro has just been honored as a ‘2017 Playful City USA’ for the second time by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit. This honor represents the city of Owensboro putting the needs of families first so kids can learn, grow and develop important life skills.” Calitri says that Owensboro Parks and Recreation runs a total of 23 parks and that Owensboro families tend to be active: walking, cycling and hiking are popular family activities.

“Owensboro is known for the three B’s: barbecue, bourbon and bluegrass,” Calitri says. A new International Bluegrass Music Museum is under construction, and families can also visit the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art and the Owensboro Museum of Science and History. The Owensboro riverfront is also host to an annual family-friendly event, the International Bar-B-Q Festival.

Waring sees many positives to life in Owensboro, particularly as it pertains to quality of life and cost of living. “The East Coast is much more fast-paced,” says Waring. In Owensboro, he says, “the lifestyle is much more laid back. The cost of living is much cheaper here. I’m paying about half of what I’d be paying for housing in New York or Connecticut. Sometimes it’s not how much you make, it’s how much you get to keep.”

Rockville, Maryland

If you are looking for a diverse, family-friendly family-friendly place to raise your kids, look no further than Rockville, Maryland. The average age of a Rockville resident is 39—meaning that most people are parents of young children, eager to bond on the sidelines of sports tournaments. The area’s proximity to Washington, D.C., provides ample job opportunity as well as access to world-class museums, restaurants and entertainment.

Jude Alexander, M.D., describes Rockville, Maryland, as embodying the “Goldilocks principle”: “It’s not too hot; it’s not too cold. It has history, and you can easily get to the beaches, to the mountains—anywhere you want to go.”

Alexander attended the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, so more moderate temperatures were an appealing draw.

Alexander is an internist and psychiatrist. He moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 2003 and started a hospitalist company in the area with a business partner. “At that time, I was going around D.C. after residency building the business,” he says. Alexander says it was an era when hospitalist programs were taking off, and his was no exception.

“The hospitals feel like they get more value for the dollar, and they’re working with a group that’s really far ahead of other hospitalist groups. They are getting best of breed and more value for the dollars they invest,” says Alexander. It was a good deal for the doctors, too. “My doctors have loved it. It has worked out both ways.”

In 2014, Alexander reflected on the company’s success and started brainstorming how to take it to the next level. It was time to explore having the practice acquired by a larger health care company that could scale and grow the hospitalist group.

“We looked at every conceivable option under the sun. To me, the only option was Sound Physicians,” a physician-owned hospitalist management health care organization. Says Alexander: “We looked at big groups along the Atlantic and national health systems, and Sound Physicians had the right culture, the right leadership, the right reputation, and all the right structure and tools to sharpen our game and take us to the next level.”

Sound Physicians acquired Alexander’s company and named him Regional Medical Director for the Capital Area. “It’s been easily the most important and successful decision I’ve made; it turned out absolutely wonderful,” Alexander says.

Says Jill Albach, clinical recruiter for Sound Physicians: “Quality, teamwork, service, integrity and innovation are of paramount importance to Sound Physicians, and they are the cornerstones of each of our programs nationwide.” Sound Physicians has a large presence in Rockville, with many of their providers working at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, a 331-bed acute care facility that is part of the Adventist HealthCare network.

Sound Physicians is expanding, especially in Rockville, and recruiters are looking to bring top medical talent to the area. Says Albach, “We are hiring for day and night hospitalists for this program at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center and other locations in the greater Baltimore/D.C. area, as well as hospitalists, intensivists, emergency physicians and transitional care providers nationwide.”

Albach says Rockville is an excellent place for physicians to consider relocating, especially if they have a family and school-age children. “It is a vibrant, highly-educated community that offers cultural and historical experiences,” says Albach. “Rockville’s public schools are ranked second overall in the state of Maryland.”

Kelly Groff, president and CEO of Visit Montgomery County, says Rockville is especially family-friendly. “One of the especially appealing things is that the city of Rockville, which manages the community and provides services for residents, does a really good job with parks and recreation. They have great classes for kids, and sports teams and leagues for kids year-round.”

Groff says Montgomery County also has one of the best public school systems in the country. Montgomery County also offers a rich, informal cultural education. “Thirty-four percent of the population was born outside of the U.S. It’s a very diverse community.” Additionally, Groff said nearby D.C. is like “a historic playground” and just a short ride away via the Metro.

Alexander, who is married and has two children, describes the experience of raising a family in Rockville as “fantastic.” “You want to have access to good public schools. Some of these schools are number one in the country,” he says. “Montgomery County overall is full of affluent, international, well-educated people. The cultural exposure that your family gets is great.”



Live & Practice

By Liz Funk | Fall 2017 | Live & Practice


When we are looking at a potential place to live, we all have different desires and criteria: cost of living, area population size, quality of local schools, culture and entertainment offerings, and availability of outdoor activities. If “excellent local golf courses” is on your list, you will want to have a few golf towns in particular on your radar.

Grand Junction, Colorado

In Grand Junction, Colorado, locals enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine each year, which certainly aids local golfers in getting to the greens. For physicians, there are ample job opportunities at hospitals that position Grand Junction as a medical hub, drawing patients from surrounding counties for care.

In Grand Junction, residents enjoy excellent weather, breathtaking panoramas and scores of outdoor activities, like hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and golf. In the context of this outdoorsy town of 60,000 people, there is a strong job market for physicians. So much so, that a husband and wife pair of physicians with unique professional focuses could find jobs and build careers with St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction.

Brian Davidson, M.D., who trained as an anesthesiologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, became aware early in his career that there was a need for doctors’ perspectives in hospital leadership.

“It always bothered me through medical school and beyond that there weren’t more physicians making decisions in health care,” Davidson says. “Then I realized that it wasn’t so simple, and that it requires education and experience.”

Davidson earned his MBA in health care administration at the University of Colorado Denver, and completed a health care administration fellowship at the University of Colorado Hospital. Davidson became the vice chair for the anesthesiology department and served in leadership roles at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Davidson’s wife, Amy Gagnon, M.D., also has deep ties to the University of Colorado.

“I did my undergraduate degree and medical school at the University of Colorado,” she says. “I knew from medical school that I wanted to do maternal fetal medicine. I was interested in the medical complications and the ultrasound aspect of maternal fetal medicine. I was fortunate to match at the University of Colorado for my residency and a three-year fellowship in maternal fetal medicine.”

When a top position at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado, opened, Davidson interviewed and was hired. He’s now president.

The hospital, part of SCL Health, also had a need for a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and Gagnon was hired as well.

“It’s a complex hospital in a relatively rural area,” Davidson says. “We provide a lot of services here, and they’re services that are not typically found in a smaller area like this. We have two helicopters and a plane, and a strong aeromedical program. A third of our patient volume comes from outside of our county, Mesa County. We’re a Level II trauma center, but we act like a Level I trauma center. We have a Level III NICU. We offer cardiac surgery and neurosurgery, and we have a primary stroke center.”

The nearby Community Hospital, a 501(c)(3) non-profit hospital in Grand Junction, is also equipped to provide a variety of services.

“We have state-of-the-art equipment in a state-of-the-art facility,” says Ryan Schultz, director of physician relations for Community Hospital. “We employ several surgical specialties. We have a fellowship-trained general surgeon. We have an OB-GYN surgical women’s clinic. We have an occupational medicine clinic and community care clinic.”

Community Hospital is a 60-bed facility; 24 of these beds are in fully private med-surg rooms. The hospital also has eight LDRP rooms and a 12-bed intensive care unit. Additionally, Community Hospital operates nearly 30 outpatient clinics.

Schultz is most heavily recruiting for primary care physicians. “Our organization has always been an outpatient focused hospital. It all starts with primary care,” says Schultz.

When Schultz speaks to prospective job candidates who are not familiar with Colorado, he has good news to deliver about the Grand Junction area, especially in relation to the weather.

The city averages more than 300 days of sun each year, with a traditional four-season climate and low humidity.

The comfortable weather is one of the many lifestyle components Shultz discusses with potential employees.

“When I’m talking with prospective candidates, we talk a lot about the lifestyle of living in Grand Junction,” Schultz says. “They are attracted to here for the outdoor lifestyle. They’ll say, ‘We’re avid hikers and we enjoy backpacking and golf.’ If candidates are looking for not just a place to work, but also a place to raise a family and build a life, they’ll usually bring up their interest in outdoor activities in that first phone screen.”

Schultz says when he is recruiting for Community Hospital, it is attractive when physicians mention their love of the outdoors, as it indicates they will be a good cultural fit in more ways than one.

“We have this active outdoor culture with a really affordable cost of living,” says Mistalynn Meyeraan, marketing and public relations director for the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. “The town itself is 60,000. The greater community—we’re a valley—is 140,000. We have four seasons. We have amazing orchards. We are a hub for produce and for wine—this is Colorado wine country.”

Of course there is also golf, a popular activity as long as one can train their focus on their swing, rather than on the beautiful surrounding mountain ranges.

“One of our courses has a backdrop of this dramatic red rock canyon,” says Meyeraan.

Like many area residents, Davidson and Gagnon are hiking enthusiasts.

“The hikes around here are great. Having grown up in Denver, the hiking available in Grand Junction is just as good, if not better,” Gagnon says. “It’s nice to be able to work your day at the hospital and then be outside.”

Gagnon said there is even a hiking trail within five minutes of the hospital that offers several miles of scenic hiking.

“We call them ‘lunch loops’ because some people will go for a little hike on their lunch hour,” she says.

The plethora of outdoor activities is not the only draw for prospective candidates. Davidson says the environment at St. Mary’s is much like a family.

“It’s the second largest employer in all of Mesa County. We employ 2,400 people. So approximately 1 in every 50 people in the town work here. One in 25 have a family member work here,” Davidson says. “It makes work less distinct from the rest of the your life. The community within the hospital is really strong.”

Toledo, Ohio

In family-friendly Toledo, Ohio, there are 26 public golf courses in addition to numerous courses owned by private clubs, many of which offer programs to introduce children and teens to the game. Coupled with excellent job opportunities and an easygoing patient population, Toledo is an ideal location for physicians to practice medicine (and their swing!).

Daniel McCullough, M.D., a bariatric surgeon for ProMedica Physicians General Surgery, appreciates how his work resolves a problem for patients, as opposed to treating a symptom. “Oftentimes in medicine, when you’re working with a patient, you’re treating the symptom or you’re managing the symptom; but you’re generally not able to cure what’s going on. With weight loss surgery, in a year when your patient has lost weight, they don’t have diabetes anymore or they don’t have high blood pressure,” he says.

McCullough says that he discovered his calling—weight loss surgery—in a roundabout way. McCullough was born and raised in Toledo. He completed his undergraduate, graduate and medical degrees in Ohio and a fellowship in Virginia. “I originally wanted to be a hematologist. I did my undergrad at Miami University of Ohio and earned a degree in chemistry,” he says.

McCullough moved to Columbus, Ohio, to pursue his master’s in medical biochemistry and nutrition at The Ohio State University. He conducted research on medical weight loss and third stage trials for weight loss.

“We worked with patients making changes in their diet, exercise [and] nutrition; medical weight loss is any non-surgical approach to weight loss,” McCullough says. “Across the hall, the bariatric surgeons were working with patients who were losing weight and keeping it off. I came to realize that the recidivism rate for medical weight loss was problematic. It was extraordinarily high.”

After that discovery, McCullough decided to train to become a bariatric surgeon.

“My first rotation was with Mark Kligman, M.D., an excellent bariatric surgeon and my mentor in the whole business,” McCullough says. “He pulled me over to the dark side; I already had this dual interest in nutrition and weight loss. At the time, bariatric surgery was still in its infancy, but the seed was planted in my head.”

Today, McCullough is a bariatric surgeon for ProMedica, a health system with four hospitals in metro Toledo and 12 hospitals across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. There are more than 900 physicians and advanced practice providers employed by ProMedica.

Another major health system in the Toledo area is Mercy Health, a Catholic health care ministry that operates three hospitals in the greater Toledo area and four hospitals within an 80-mile radius of Toledo. In Toledo, Mercy Health – St. Anne Hospital is a 128 bed facility; Mercy Health – St. Charles Hospital is a 410 bed facility; and Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center is a 568 bed facility.

“We are broad in terms of the fact that we have everything from a Level I trauma center to the region’s only burn and reconstructive skin center. We are comprehensive stroke certified. We have the only 24/7 mobile stroke unit in the country,” says Tom Leeds, director of medical staff recruitment at Mercy Health. Additionally, all of Mercy’s metro Toledo hospitals have a da Vinci Robot, including the new da Vinci Xi surgical system.

Leeds says that, at any given time, he recruits for 45 to 55 positions. “The focus in our market for Mercy Health is primary care, neuroscience, vascular surgery, orthopedics and pediatric subspecialties,” he says.

Toledo has a population of 280,000 and a metro population of 600,000.

“There are an inordinate amount of great things to do in the Toledo area,” says Richard Nachazel, president of Destination Toledo. “We have an internationally acclaimed museum of art. We have a beautiful smoke-free casino. The casino has one of the best steakhouse restaurants in the city. We have two iconic professional sports teams: the Toledo Mud Hens, who are popular in baseball circles, and the Toledo Walleyes. They’re a hockey team and they just won their division. They made playoffs for the Kelly Cup.”

And then, of course, there is golf. Toledo has contributed significantly to the history of golf.

“A man named S.P. Jermain was known around the United States as the father of public golf,” Nachazel says. “He built the first golf course west of New York City here in Toledo, Ottawa Park. It was built in 1899. In 1920, they added a second nine holes.”

S.P. Jermain also founded the Inverness Club, opened in 1903, which is today a well-known course that has hosted two PGA Championships and four U.S. Opens.

In 2021, the Inverness Club will host the Solheim Cup, which, according to Nachazel, “is the highest level of professional golf competition for lady golfers.”

However, no need to be intimidated by the Inverness Club’s stature.

Nachazel says that, because golf is part of the culture in Toledo, many courses are family-friendly and even encourage children to learn the game.

“There is a young people’s golfing program at courses in the area called First Tee. Inverness has a First Tee program,” Nachazel said. “The whole goal is to build the popularity of the game with youngsters. I am teaching my grandson and granddaughters. The courses in Toledo are very welcoming to children.”

“If you like to golf, Toledo is great,” McCullough agrees. “There are fabulous golf courses, public and private. There are more than two dozen golf courses within Toledo.”

McCullough’s leisure time tends to revolve around his family, including his three children, who are 15, 12 and 10.

“Toledo has a lot of activities for kids,” McCullough says. “We have one of the best zoos in the country and a great children’s museum downtown.”

Overall, McCullough says the best part of living and practicing in Toledo is the friendly, easygoing people. Their congenial nature makes patients easy to work with.

“One of the best parts of practicing in Ohio is the people,” McCullough says. “Patients show up for appointments, they listen to you, and they are grateful. Toledo is a great place to practice medicine. I love it.”

Franklin, Tennessee

Millard Collins, M.D.

Millard Collins, M.D., is an advocate for both primary care and the Nashville area. He also serves on staff at Meharry Medical College.

Located just outside Nashville, Franklin, Tennessee, is perfectly situated for doctors, families, country music lovers and golfers alike. Its sunny weather and southern hospitality infused with the hustle and bustle from the nearby metropolis makes Franklin a best-of-both-worlds hub for physicians.

Millard Collins, M.D., has a passion for family practice. He is the interim chair and an associate professor of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College, the medical school affiliated with Nashville General Hospital, a teaching hospital with 125 beds. Collins also serves as the associate dean for student affairs at Meharry Medical College.

“Being a native New Orleanian, I attended Xavier University of Louisiana, the only black Catholic institution in the nation,” Collins says. “They are a leader in guiding black students toward the health science professions; some people say there is a pipeline between Xavier University and Meharry Medical College.”

Collins knew as an undergraduate that he wanted to work in health care. He was accepted to Meharry Medical College, where he completed four years of training. During that time, he decided to pursue family medicine and sees himself as an advocate for family practice today.

Collins says that there are negative messages that medical students absorb about family practice that keep them from pursuing the specialty, thus creating the shortage of family practice providers that many hospitals and health systems experience.

“I have been surprised to learn that not all medical schools have family practice as a required rotation. The message that is sent to learners is, ‘It’s not important, you don’t make as much money, it’s plan B, etc.,’” he says.

Rather, Collins says that some family practice doctors like the steady schedule of working in an office, while others engage their entrepreneurial spirit and start their own family practices.

“Much of my career has been dedicated to setting the record straight,” he says. “I want to let students know about the versatility of family practice.”

Another physician employer near Franklin is LifePoint Health, a publicly-traded company that owns and operates 72 hospitals in 22 states. LifePoint operates Southern Tennessee Regional Health System Lawrenceburg, a full-service community hospital south of Franklin.

Jess Judy, LifePoint Health’s senior vice president for physician relations, says that a great deal of the medical staff at Lawrenceburg live in Franklin. Judy says physicians “don’t get lost in the shuffle of a large metropolitan market,” and have the opportunity to truly focus on patient care.

“Our hospitals are very engaged in clinical quality and patient experience,” Judy says. “LifePoint Health as a company—and I think this is a real differentiating factor—is the only national for-profit hospital company in the country that participated in the Hospital Engagement Networks. This was a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation program to drive and improve quality. LifePoint was a participant, and we met or exceeded all of our quality and harm reduction goals across the country.”

Furthermore, Judy said that a key factor that distinguishes Lawrence Hospital is its affiliation with a multihospital system.

“It has the depth of resources of a large corporation as opposed to a freestanding community hospital,” Judy says.

Life in Franklin seems to echo this best-of-both-worlds theme of having the comfort of a southern community with a high quality of life, infused with some of the energy and action of nearby Nashville.

“We’re located 17 miles south of Nashville. That is a convenient place to have a hub of health care,” said Matt Maxey, PR coordinator for Visit Franklin. “Williamson County, where Franklin is located, is the most affluent county in Tennessee. Lots of physicians and folks in the health care industry live here. We have the top school system in the state.”

Maxey says Franklin has a distinct southern feel, especially when one strolls down the historic downtown Main Street area.

“The whole county has done a great job to preserve the small-town atmosphere while still providing all the services of a bigger town,” he says.

These services, of course, include golf. Maxey says Franklin has two public golf courses and about 30 private clubs. He also says the PGA hosts a tournament in Franklin in June each year.

Collins is just one of the physicians who takes advantage of the area’s great golf. He especially enjoys Hermitage Golf Course, a public course that was rated top public course in the state of Tennessee by

“I like to get out and play during tournament times. It’s a great way to talk to people, to get to know people over four and a half hours,” Collins says. “Our area has some of the most beautiful golf courses.”

When Collins first considered attending Meharry Medical College, he had a certain picture of the area in mind.

“The only thing I thought was that it was a country music city. Boy, was I wrong. Nashville epitomizes diversity. It’s a city heavy on education, [with] lots of colleges and universities. The city and the surrounding suburbs are growing exponentially. It’s a great central hub. When I first came here, I was surprised! But now I’m very, very glad to call it home.”

Augusta, Georgia

John Farr, M.D.

“You can find me at one of four places. I’m at church, I’m at the hospital, I’m with my family, or I’m on the golf course,” says John Farr, M.D.

Any conversation about top golf towns in the United States would be incomplete without Augusta, Georgia, home to the Masters Tournament. Golf fans flock to Augusta each year in April to participate in the festivities.

“We have a little tournament here that’s pretty fun,” says John Farr, M.D., chief medical officer of Doctors Hospital in Augusta, referring to the Masters. “Golf is real big here. We have lots of options. We can play golf here year-round, 365 days out of the year.”

Farr started golfing in college. His interest in medicine developed even earlier, after his grandfather passed away from a heart attack.

While at the Medical University of South Carolina, Farr focused his studies on family medicine. He was interested in the emphasis on preventive medicine and the deep relationships that family physicians have with their patients.

Farr served in the Army as a family physician for 21 years, 16 of which he spent at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta. Approximately 10 years ago, he started making the transition toward administrative medicine.

“I really enjoyed the ability to impact medicine on a larger level, which you’re able to do on the administrative side of the house,” Farr says.

When Farr was ready to retire from the Army, Doctors Hospital in Augusta offered him an opportunity to join their administration, which he accepted. Today, he is the organization’s chief medical officer. Doctors Hospital is a tertiary medical center with 354 beds.

“We have a great team of people in this hospital who are really dedicated to our mission,” Farr says. “We take care of patients and their families to the best of our ability. It’s a fun place to come to work.”

Farr also has high praise for life in the Augusta area. It is where he raised his two teenaged daughters, and where he has spent the better part of his life.

“Augusta is a great size city. It offers a lot without being too big,” he says. “I like the climate, I like the friendliness of the community, I like being in a military community, and it’s a great place to raise a family.”

Another attractive quality about Augusta is the relatively low cost of living and ease of finding affordable housing, says Julian J. Nussbaum, M.D., an ophthalmologist, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, and chief executive officer of Augusta University Medical Associates.

“I have many faculty members who were able to afford a home right away,” he says. “I even have residents who have families who are able to buy a home in Augusta, stay for a few years, and then sell their homes when they leave. They don’t need to rent an apartment.”

Nussbaum is emphatic about the area’s high quality of life and its economic fortitude.

“The military’s entire cyber-command station is located in Augusta. We were relatively recession-proof in 2008 because of the number of government positions here,” Nussbaum says.

Augusta University Medical Center is expanding. Nussbaum’s team recruits across a wide spectrum of specialties, including cancer therapy and medical and surgical oncology; bariatric surgery; pulmonology and certain subspecialties in ophthalmology, such as retinal surgery and neural ophthalmology; cardiothoracic surgery and cardiology; and gastroenterology.

Augusta University Medical Center also operates the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and Nussbaum says he recruits candidates for nearly all pediatric specialties.

When Nussbaum and his recruitment team talk to physicians interested in joining their organization, they make sure to mention the area’s warm weather and plethora of activities, including golf.

Not a golf fan? Deterred by crowds? Not to worry.

“One of the other things that people may not know is that quite a lot of people rent their houses out—their full-time residences—during that week [of the Masters],” says Lindsay Fruchtl, vice president of marketing and sales for the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “A lot of the residents sometimes go out of town during the Masters and make some extra money.”

Though some residents choose that route, Farr is one Augusta resident sure to not miss a golf event.

“I often say that you can find [me] at one of four places,” says Farr. “I’m at church, I’m at the hospital, I’m with my family, or I’m on the golf course. That is a very focused and intentional way that I live my life.”



The Great Outdoors

Live & Practice | Summer 2017


Working in medicine can be taxing, no doubt about it. So it’s no surprise that when many physicians plan their next career moves, they look for locations with easy access to the great outdoors. Whether they opt for active hobbies like biking and skiing or meditative activities like hiking and fishing, the fresh air helps them find peace in nature.

If you want to be close to nature while accelerating your health care career, read on to learn more about Glens Falls, New York; Columbus, Mississippi; Bangor, Maine; and Anchorage, Alaska.

Glens Falls, New York

Glens Falls is located north of New York’s capital but south of the Adirondack Mountains. It offers the outdoor activities that come with living near a park, as well as excellent outdoor arts and culture. Nearby Saratoga Springs is bustling with outdoor concerts, performances and a world-class horse racing facility during the summers. In the winter, ski slopes, tubing tracks and snowmobiling paths distract residents from the cold.

Chris Mason, D.O.

Chris Mason, D.O., found his job in an area where he had previously vacationed—Glens Falls, New York.

When Chris Mason, D.O., started looking for his next position, he signed up for a physician account with He still remembers the subject line of the message he received from Antoinetta Backus, manager of physician recruitment and retention for Glens Falls Hospital in Glens Falls, New York: “Live like you’re on vacation.”

Mason was living in Long Island at the time, and for several years, he had taken annual vacations to nearby Saratoga Springs with friends. He was very familiar with the area, so it wasn’t too hard of a sell. Backus invited Mason for an interview, and she showed his wife around the town. Today, Mason is a hematologist at Glens Falls Hospital. He enjoys living with his wife and infant son in New York’s Adirondack Region.

“I love that there are things to do in all four seasons,” he raves. “We love to be outdoors. We love to ski. In fall and spring, the leaves change, which is beautiful. There is hiking and mountain biking. There are a lot of great restaurants, and there is a lot of culture.” Mason also enjoys seeing the New York Philharmonic during the orchestra’s annual residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, an outdoor amphitheater in Saratoga Springs.

Outsiders don’t always realize the area has so many offerings. Backus says, “When folks ask me about the size of Glens Falls—depending on where they are coming from—they may think it’s rural. But everything is here that you need. You can be as busy as you want or as quiet as you want.”

The same could be said for Glens Falls Hospital. Physicians can find work-life balance while accelerating their careers. “It’s a 410-bed hospital,” says Backus. “We have 570 physicians and advanced providers on staff. Every specialty is represented: orthopedics, surgical and labor and delivery, to name a few. We have a busy ER. Our staff is stable. People have been here many, many years. Our staff is so stable. There is very little turnover.”

The hospital’s work-life balance and the area’s high quality of life were what attracted Mason to Glens Falls Hospital.

Mason chose hematology and medical oncology because of the deep doctor-patient relationships he saw in the specialty. “I’ve been inspired by the patients,” he says. “Patients with cancer develop a close personal relationship with their doctor. My interest in my subspecialty was always inspired by oncology patients.”

But although Mason enjoyed his work with his previous employer, life in a New York City suburb wasn’t a match for his love of the outdoors. “Our quality of life had eroded on Long Island,” he says. “The amount of people, the amount of traffic, noise had started to really get to us.”

When Mason and his wife visited to meet Backus and interview at Glens Falls Hospital, they felt an instant connection to the area. “We found what we were looking for in the sense of having a house with a nice yard and less congestion and traffic on the roads,” he says. “There are a lot of opportunities and activities to spend time with kids. Now we have a 6-month-old son, Christopher Jr., and that was another reason we looked to come up here. We wanted to have a family, and this job provided an opportunity to focus on work-life balance and have a higher quality of life.”

Speaking of which, Mason just got a new pair of skis. “It’s great being so close to Vermont and Lake Placid. In a couple years, we will start Christopher Jr. in a ski program. For now, we all go on hikes.”

Columbus, Mississippi

Combine Southern hospitality with a thriving economy, and you get Columbus, Mississippi. The area offers the best of both worlds in more ways than one. Newcomers can settle into historic homes or modern neighborhoods. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy boating and fishing or venture into the nearby woods to hunt. Physicians can relax in Mississippi nature one day and spend the next working at a 315-bed hospital that has been growing at a dizzying pace.

John Reed, M.D.

Life in Columbus, Mississippi, allows for both a cutting-edge work life and weekends spent in the woods for John Reed, M.D

John Reed, M.D., had almost retired. He was ready to pass his nephrology practice on to his partners and turn his focus to running a small farm, hunting and volunteering by tagging deer for a state wildlife study. But an opportunity arose at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, a 315-bed hospital in Columbus, Mississippi, that was too interesting to pass up.

A born-and-raised Mississippian, Reed settled in Jackson, Mississippi, where he completed a nephrology fellowship and opened a dialysis and nephrology practice.

He ran this practice for 30 years—opening four sites and recruiting several partners along the way. “We had clinical trials and published a good bit,” remembers Reed. After three decades, he wanted to spend more time at his cabin in the woods. But just as he was getting ready to hand over his practice to his partners and spend more time outside, he learned Baptist Memorial was looking for a quality director who could start a hospitalist program.

The position was right up Reed’s alley, and he could still enjoy the great outdoors during his off-time in Columbus. So Reed continued to work.

“I did both the hospitalist program and quality for a few years,” Reed says. “I started that hospitalist program, and then other opportunities started to pop up. There were a number of medical directorships within the hospital that I was considering. I was named the first chief medical officer.”

Reed enjoyed his work as chief medical officer, and that showed in his outcomes. Reed says, “The hospital grew. It had great, great outcomes. In 2013, we were named one of top 10 hospitals in America for VHA. We’ve grown exponentially. I initially agreed to work a couple years. I’ve worked 10. It’s been so exciting.”

Christina Dickey, who works in physician development for Baptist Memorial Hospital, says that Baptist Medical Group operates seven clinics in the Columbus area in addition to the Baptist Memorial Hospital flagship site. These include family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics, cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, general surgery and pulmonary disease.

Reed says, “Baptist Memorial Hospital is based out of Memphis. They have been in the hospital business over 100 years. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle is a standalone entity, and yet we’re also a part of this system, and we’ve got some really great leaders there. When we talk about the growth of Baptist Memorial Hospital, I give almost all the credit to having been able to be on a great team with great physicians and above-site administrators. I happened to be a part of a number of great teams. I’ve recruited 30 to 40 doctors in the past few years. I’ve found myself to be surrounded by great people, and we’ve had some great outcomes for our patients and for our system of hospitals.”

Dickey is currently recruiting for psychiatry, pulmonary medicine, general surgery, internal medicine and cardiology. She says that the area is attractive to physicians because it’s a “great place to live and raise a family, with close proximity to larger metro cities, an excellent airport for travel connecting to Atlanta and low cost of living.”

“I feel like people think of Columbus as a hidden gem,” says Nancy Carpenter, executive director and CEO of Visit Columbus. “People frequently say to me, ‘I had no idea that Columbus was this pretty.’”

Carpenter explains, “We’re a town of 25,000, and the county has 50,000 people. We have 135 restaurants and 1,600 hotel rooms. We have a brand-new Fairfield Inn, a Courtyard and a Marriott, and we’re getting a new Holiday Inn Express in January.” Carpenter notes that Columbus is one of the largest industrial markets in Mississippi, adding, “We got a great burst of economic development.”

She continues, “We’re fortunate for our location. We’re in the middle of a lot of communities that are thriving, not just surviving. If people like old-world charm and Southern hospitality, they’re certainly in the right place. But they can also have great recreation and modern culinary choices and housing options. People can certainly enjoy being in Columbus in a quaint historic area or a thriving neighborhood that is child-friendly.”

There’s plenty to do in Columbus, thanks in part to Mississippi’s warm climate. Carpenter says, “We have a terrific waterway—it’s the largest manmade waterway after the Panama Canal. There’s boating and fishing on the waterway, and every summer, we have Fireworks on the Water where 10,000 people come out to see an elaborate fireworks display. People also enjoy the riverwalk. There is a 45-mile path that people like to walk and run.”

As for Reed, he is able to work at a cutting-edge medical center and spend his weekends at his cabin in the woods. During the past hunting season, he provided deer meat to four needy families in the Columbus area. Reed’s commitment to caring for others extends to his life outside the hospital. He says that this sense of community is simply part of life in Columbus.

Bangor, Maine

Bangor, Maine, offers the visual beauty of New England, including the picturesque summers and the winters that look borrowed from a holiday card. Part of Bangor’s allure is its beautiful landscapes, as well as the many outdoor activities provided by nearby Hermon Mountain, skiing areas and the Penobscot River. Top talent is attracted to the area in part for the rural beauty and in part for the interesting challenges that come with a large service area.

When Jonathan Wood, M.D., was looking for a new position, he had a choice between pursuing a job at a freestanding children’s hospital or looking for one at a smaller hospital with no intensivist program.

He found a happy medium in Eastern Maine Medical Center, a 411-bed hospital with a tertiary pediatric center, where he is the senior lead physician for pediatrics. “We are the only tertiary pediatric offering in the northern two thirds of the state,” says Wood. “I’ve been supported in trying to grow the inpatient services and some of the outpatient services so that we can genuinely say we’re a full-service institution with few pointed exceptions”

Wood attended Yale for his undergraduate degree in history. He taught high school for three years before attending Dartmouth for medical school. He completed his pediatric residency at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, then worked at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“When I was at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, we were looking to change our location, so I was looking at a bunch of different jobs,” Wood says. He didn’t have specific criteria in mind. Rather, he wanted to see what was available somewhat locally.

Eastern Maine Medical Center appealed to him for its pediatric offerings, and Bangor appealed to him as a place for him and his wife to raise their four children. “It was a very welcoming place. When we moved here, I had a fifth grader, two eighth graders and a sophomore in high school. It was striking how welcomed they felt. It’s really been great. In my 15th year, my kids are all out and about, but some of them talk about coming back to Maine to live.”

Kerrie Tripp, executive director of the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, says, “There’s a lot of great things about life in Bangor regarding physicians with families or physicians planning to start a family, the entertainment we have and the school districts. They’re pretty spectacular. We also have great outdoor activities. We’re a four-season area.”

She continues, “We have a phenomenal municipal golf course. It’s Audubon-rated and played for three seasons. Then during the winter, they groom parts of the course for snowshoeing areas and cross-country skiing areas. They’ve turned it into this wonderful outdoor space for all ages.”

This vibrant local culture attracts top-notch medical talent to Bangor. Wood says, “We have a group of really young, energetic, driven, mission-based people. They are all incredibly well-trained.”

A program called Maine Career Connect focuses on those who moved for their spouses’ jobs, since they may not have the same opportunities as their spouses to meet people and get acclimated through work. Tripp explains, “This is a program that helps them make connections, make friends, learn about industry in the area and help them to feel at home here.”

Another large employer in Bangor is St. Joseph Hospital, a 112-bed hospital. David Koffman, M.D., one of the site’s medical directors, says, “One of the things I stress about St. Joe’s is that it is a place that really has a patient-first approach. That’s something people like about this place. It’s not about the bottom line. Our priority is to take care of our patients. For a small hospital, we feel we offer a pretty wide range of services, and it’s a place people like to come to work. Everyone knows each other. You don’t feel like you’re working in a nondescript environment. You’re working with people you know and like, who know you by name. The patients are incredibly appreciative to receive care.”

Lisa Cramm is a physician recruitment and retention specialist for Covenant Health, of which St. Joseph Hospital is a member.

Cramm says, “We have a pretty big primary care base. We have five local family practices with a total of 17 primary care physicians. We have an internal medicine group with 18 providers. We have rheumatology, as well as endocrine-diabetic. We have general surgery. We partner with an excellent orthopedic group. We have gastroenterology, cardio, pulmonary and critical care. We have a good wound service. We’ve got a great occupational health group, and we have a full-service emergency room.”

St. Joseph Hospital also operates two family practices in Bangor, one family practice in Brewer and one in Hampden, a suburb of Bangor. Koffman says, “We are truly a community hospital for this community. And then there are a bunch of communities where patients come from some distances to see us. St. Joe’s is the place they depend on.”

“We are a fairly rural community, but we are lucky enough to provide good health care and have top-notch equipment. We are four hours north of Boston. Most patients don’t want to get their health care outside of the local area. If possible, they want us to manage it and not send it out to referral centers. Hospitals our size don’t often have the opportunity to do this, but we do. We can see and manage pretty complex cases,” says Koffman.

Eastern Maine Medical Center also channels a community-oriented mission.

Wood believes this contributes to the organization’s culture. “I think the physicians who come here are here for good reasons,” says Wood. “They don’t come here for the reasons that a lot of tertiary centers attract talent. There’s no climb the ladder feel. You come here to practice. It’s hands-on, and there are not a ton of trainees between you and the patient. We have a taste of an academic medical center, but that’s not what people come here for. They come here to practice … and then they come here for the geography, for the outdoors. They come here for the mountains and the lake. They come here for the hiking and the outdoor activities. They want a city that is kind of a small city but also has excellent outdoor offerings.”

Anchorage, Alaska

If you picture coats, hats, boots and scarves when you picture Alaska, you’re only half right. Alaska winters offer lots of reasons to get bundled up and enjoy the great outdoors, but Alaska also has picturesque summers. Many residents enjoy hiking, biking and camping—no parkas necessary.

To say that Daniel Hartman, M.D., is outdoorsy would be an understatement. He is a family practice physician with Southcentral Foundation, an Alaska Native-owned health care organization in and beyond Anchorage. And long before he became a physician, Hartman spent his time outside, learning about the many inhabitants of the great outdoors.

As an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire, he majored in biology and concentrated on marine invertebrate zoology. His early career foreshadowed his move; he spent some time as a marine mammal biologist, a career that brought him to Alaska frequently.

After earning a public health master’s degree at Boston University, Hartman decided to pursue medical school in Philadelphia, then traded coasts for his residency at San Francisco General Hospital. After residency, Alaska called his name. “In 2002, my wife and I moved to Bethel,” Hartman says. “Bethel is in western Alaska near the Bering Sea. It’s a 400-mile flight from Anchorage.”

In 2013, the family settled in Anchorage, where they live today. Hartman says quality of life factored into their decision. “Our kids are 11 and 13,” he explains. “We chose Anchorage and Southcentral because of its work-life balance. …We looked at the whole world for options, and we chose Anchorage for its excellent schools, very short commutes and access to trails and outdoor life.”

Southcentral Foundation provides a full scope of health care services to those living in Anchorage and the 55 rural villages in the Anchorage Service Unit, a service area in southcentral Alaska that spans 107,400 square miles. Southcentral Foundation offers a wide spectrum of care, including audiology, pediatrics, optometry, OB/GYN and Native men’s health services. The foundation also jointly operates an emergency room at the Alaska Native Medical Center with the operators of the medical center, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Another Anchorage employer is Alaska Regional Hospital, a 250-bed hospital which is part of HCA Healthcare. The hospital’s offerings include an orthopedic and spine center, a wound care center, a cancer care center and a NICU.

Ralph Costanzo, M.D., the chief medical officer of Alaska Regional Hospital, speaks highly of the hospital and its community. “The folks are incredibly friendly,” he says. “The medical staff is very gifted. The team comes from all over the world. They’re here mainly because they love the area.”

Costanzo believes Alaska’s outdoor offerings are a big part of the draw. “Anchorage is a wonderful, large-small town. It’s a cliché, but if you do really enjoy four-season recreation, you’ll love it here,” says Costanzo.

Outdoors enthusiasts will never be bored in Anchorage. Hartman says, “Anchorage is an extraordinary place if you like the outdoors and trails. It’s an incredible trail city. It has everything people would want for urban amenities like good coffee, music, restaurants and brewpubs.”

But while there’s plenty to do in Anchorage, it’s not always go, go, go. Julie Saupe, president and CEO of Visit Anchorage, says, “We are the city for Alaska, but still we are not fast-paced at all. People get things done, but we’re relaxed as a community. We are a community of relaxed doers. I think that’s the main thing to know beforehand, before coming to Anchorage.”

She adds that the weather shouldn’t deter prospective residents. “In southcentral Alaska, we are surrounded by water, so we don’t get the extreme temperatures on the warm side and the cold side,” she explains. “Winter shouldn’t be intimidating.”

The advantage of Anchorage, according to Saupe, is “a combination of the scenic beauty and the outdoor opportunities.” She explains, “They go hand-in-hand. We have amazing hiking in the summertime and amazing skiing in the winter. It’s an outdoorsman’s paradise.”

Hartman falls into that category. “I am a climber—winter and summer,” he says. “My family and I go skiing quite a bit. We do trail running, and we are big on mountain biking. This is an incredible city for single-track mountain biking. There are a lot of boating opportunities—limitless boating opportunities.”

When the snow melts, Alaskans leave the extra layers of clothing at home and enjoy other warm weather activities. “In the summer, my family and I do a lot of camping in the national parks,” says Hartman.

Saupe agrees that there are plenty of outdoor activities.

She says, “You can hike on a glacier. You can go whale-watching. If you want to go fishing, we have world-class fishing within an hour of Anchorage. I have lived here since 1990. Every day, I drive home and look at the mountains and think, Wow, this is a beautiful place. It’s in your face every day. You can’t forget that you live in a place of vast wilderness.”



Live & Practice: Small Towns

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2017


Living in a small town or city has its advantages: a built-in sense of community, an easygoing lifestyle and shorter commutes. Physicians practicing in small towns and cities across America often develop especially strong relationships with their patients, and those relationships can afford extra insight into what’s going on with their patient population. This isn’t to say, however, that physicians looking to work there are limited to joining small practices. Many of these locations have large health systems that serve vast patient populations, including community members as well as those in outlying areas.

Eric Francis, M.D.

After undergrad in Chicago and residency in Colorado, Eric Francis, M.D., headed back home to Texas. His family enjoys the area’s water sports and German festivals. · Photo by Ashlee Newman

New Braunfels, Texas

This town of 70,000 people has no shortage of things to do. The city is known for its many seasonal traditions, including Wurstfest, the annual German food and drink festival going on its 56th year; Wassailfest, a holiday event where revelers stroll downtown and sample the spicy cider drink at stores or restaurants participating in the wassail competition; and the annual arrival of Santa Claus to New Braunfels.

“My grandparents came to New Braunfels about 25 years ago. They were looking around Texas, and they were looking for a place that they thought the kids and grandkids would all enjoy. They looked all across Texas and moved to New Braunfels,” says Eric Francis, M.D., a family medicine physician with Resolute Health Hospital in New Braunfels. “Over the past 20 to 25 years, all the grandkids have slowly migrated to this area. …It took 25 years, but now we’re all in the same town.”

Francis explains, “I grew up in El Paso, Texas, and I went to a small liberal arts school just west of Chicago called Wheaton College. I moved back to Austin for a year between undergrad and medical school, and that’s when I officially met my wife.”

Francis stayed local for medical school but took a risk for his residency. “I did medical school in Houston at Baylor College of Medicine. Then I put the map on the table and my wife and I said, ‘Hey, where would be a good place for me to do my residency?’”

Francis and his wife decided on the University of Colorado. Francis says, “I finished my residency and internship there, and I was working for Kaiser Permanente for about six years. For nine years, we lived up in Colorado, and our third child was on the way, and we thought, ‘It would be nice to be closer to family.’ Resolute Health Hospital just happened to be starting up at the same time. …I liked the vision they had. I pursued that opportunity and now I’m here.”

Today, Francis, his wife and their three children live in New Braunfels and enjoy the area’s wide variety of activities, including one of the largest water parks in the country, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels Water Park.

Danyl Butler, director of business development for Resolute Health Hospital, says the area’s diverse activities and attractions draw talent. “There’s something here for everyone—activities or events for families, festivals, beautiful German architecture, and access to water sports.” This variety is helpful for Resolute Health, as they are always recruiting. Says Butler, “There is a huge shortage of primary care providers in the market, so we are actively looking to bring primary care physicians and family physicians to New Braunfels. Although primary care is our primary focus, there are also opportunities for medical and surgical specialists.”

Resolute Health Hospital has 128 beds and was founded in 2014. Butler says, “Resolute Health Hospital has all of the latest amenities and technology. The culture at Resolute Health is also a plus. We have a very engaged workforce with high employee satisfaction scores. Our patient experience scores are consistently among the highest across Tenet Healthcare-owned hospitals. The hospital is built in one of the fastest-growing areas of Comal County.”

Resolute Health also operates a primary care clinic in the medical office building attached to Resolute Health Hospital. There is also an outpatient physical rehabilitation center on the campus. Resolute Health is affiliated with Tenet Healthcare-owned MedPost Urgent Care clinics in New Braunfels and nearby Seguin.

Francis says two main factors make New Braunfels so special: “It’s a combination of the water sports—the rivers and lakes—and just the uniqueness of an old German town. They’ve got festivals. There’s the Wurstfest. It’s fun to be able to celebrate sausage and German people in a big festival. There’s this uniqueness here that you don’t find anymore. Last month, the whole town shut down for the annual county fair. Kids can march in the parade to celebrate the fair. The schools are out for the parade.”

Says Francis, “New Braunfels, I would say, is the best place in Texas to live. It’s an old, unique town, but within 45 minutes you can get to two of the best cities in Texas: Austin and San Antonio.” And during the summer, New Braunfels is the place to stay cool. “Our neighborhood is connected to the river. In this part of the country during the summer, you tube in the river. You can get a lot more land down here. There’s a forest in our backyard. The kids really enjoy the outdoors,” says Francis. “It’s nice to be in a small town that has its own unique character. New Braunfels itself is pretty self-contained. Everything we need is here.”

David Baker, M.D.

A search for a positive quality of life helped David Baker, M.D., choose Carson City, Nevada, as home. The community offers all kinds of opportunities to be active outdoors—skiiing, hiking, camping and more. · Photo by Lemaire Photography

Carson City, Nevada

You can drive from one side of Carson City to the other in under 15 minutes, and the small town is also within driving distance of Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Sacramento and beaches in California and Oregon. The city—the state capital—is nestled along the western border of Nevada, just to the east of the Sierra Nevada.

David Baker, M.D., has called several different regions of the United States home. He has lived in Davis, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; and now Carson City, Nevada. He says he has enjoyed Carson City most of all these places.

“We love the area, period,” he says. “Some of it is the basics. The weather is phenomenal. It’s sunny 320 days a year, and there’s no humidity. The location is phenomenal. We are located on the backside of the Sierra mountains. We’re close to San Francisco, the Sierras, the California coast and the Oregon coast.”

One reason Baker has moved around so much is his medical training. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California-Davis and attended medical school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He completed his residency at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, and a fellowship in cardiology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He made his way to Carson City, where he has been practicing cardiology for 10 years. For the past six years, he has worked for Carson Tahoe Health, the largest provider of medical care in Carson City.

Carson Tahoe Health has an 80-acre campus in Carson City with virtually all its services concentrated in one location, a 352,000-square-foot medical building. The facility has 144 acute care beds with 138 private rooms. The facility also has an open-heart surgery program with a private cardiovascular unit, a women and children’s center, a hybrid OR suite and vascular and catheterization labs.

Shay Dusek, practice administrator for Carson Tahoe Health, says, “Carson Tahoe Health is a private, not-for-profit health system with a beautiful modern hospital and offices. All decisions are made locally, and management is accessible to physicians, solicits physician input, and responds to physicians’ suggestions and recommendations.” Dusek is currently recruiting physicians in family medicine, internal medicine, oncology, general cardiology, psychiatry, pain management, and neurology.

“The lifestyle is good,” says Baker, on working for Carson Tahoe Health. “The hours are good. The people you work with are quite good. It’s nice having everything right on campus. You concentrate all your services in one location. For a small community, we have excellent care.”

Quality of life is what initially attracted Baker and his wife to Carson City. They thought it would be a good place to raise their two daughters. “Now they’re both grown and in college, but that was one of the things that brought us to Carson,” Baker says.

“We are a family community. This is a family kind of a town. This town is where Nevada began. We were once the seat of the Utah territory before we became the capital of Nevada. Lots of people think Vegas is the capital. It’s not. It’s Carson City,” says Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are a small community. We are a community in every sense of the word. People here are very, very friendly,” says Hannaman. Carson City has a population of 55,000, but 15,000 people commute there every day for work, for shopping and, of course, medical care.

Nevada’s economic benefits are especially attractive for job seekers. Baker explains, “There are no state income taxes, and the casinos pay a decent amount of taxes. The sales tax and property tax isn’t that bad. All of this keeps more money in your pocket.”

Of course, Nevada’s casinos are also a draw for many. Carson City is approximately a seven-hour drive to Las Vegas, but Hannaman says that the Carson City community tends to be more outdoorsy. “If someone is really into the outdoors, the living here is great,” Hannaman says, adding that hiking, bicycling and skiing are popular among locals.

Baker agrees, “It’s a very outdoorsy community. We’re nearby 20-odd ski mountains. I do a little bit of skiing. A lot of my colleagues will get in 70 or 80 days of skiing a year. I do a lot of hiking, backpacking and camping.”

“The great thing about working for Carson Tahoe Health or any of the many private practices, is you can live at Lake Tahoe, Reno or any of the towns and surrounding communities like Genoa or Virginia City,” says Dusek. “You get the benefit of smaller town living with no state taxes and with access to world-class ski resorts and next door to beautiful Lake Tahoe.”

Marlton, New Jersey

Just 30 minutes from Philadelphia, 90 minutes from New York City and 2 hours from Baltimore, Marlton is popular among people who want to be near family in one of these major geographic areas while enjoying a small-town lifestyle. Marlton has strong community spirit, with several annual festivals sponsored by local government and scores of free exercise facilities, family activities and classes such as yoga and karate for residents.

Small towns and rural areas sometimes present a challenge for health care providers. That was the case when a rural southern New Jersey community first contracted with CFG Health Network, which is based in Marlton.

The community asked CFG to cover its psychiatry needs. But a week before the contract was to begin, there was a new requirement: all physicians had to be able to get to the facility within an hour of getting a call.

None of CFG’s physicians lived within an hour of the facility, so a team from CFG traveled to Virginia to learn about what was then a new pilot program for telepsychiatry. And with that, a new CFG service line was born.

Back then, the telepsychiatry machine cost $25,000. CFG owned two: one at the hospital and one that traveled weekly between office locations.

Now, it’s a different story. Thanks to HIPPA-compliant technology for laptops and tablets, half of CFG’s physicians work outside New Jersey. One even practices from his sailboat in Florida.

In all, CFG employs about 1,200 people, including approximately 200 psychiatrists and 90 nurse practitioners. About 10 of those clinicians are based in Marlton. The network provides telepsychiatry services for a variety of settings, including hospitals, prisons, schools and treatment facilities. CFG also owns a residential treatment facility and outpatient clinics.

James Varrell, M.D., was part of the original team that traveled to Virginia to learn about telepsychiatry. He is now CFG’s medical director and president. He grew up in Marlton and enjoys its small-town feel. “My mother works at our office still,” he says.

Another Marlton medical employer is Virtua Health, a non-profit health system that operates three hospitals in the Marlton area. Virtua Memorial Hospital is a full-service hospital with 433 beds. Virtua Voorhees Hospital is a new facility with 388 beds, all of which are in single rooms. Virtua Marlton Hospital has 188 beds and offers advanced surgeries and spine, joint replacement and stroke specialists.

Virtua also operates 24 primary and more than 70 specialty practices. Says Courtney Kennedy, physician network director for Virtua: “We’ve been named ‘Best Place to Work’ by the Philadelphia Business Journal 11 years in a row.” She is currently recruiting for urgent care, family medicine, gastroenterology, surgery, neurosciences and hospitalists.

Marlton offers an easy drive to Philadelphia and New York, and it’s also close to the shore. “Marlton’s a very nice middle-class town,” Varrell says. “It also has a great school system.”

There are lots of activities for families in Marlton, according to Allison Bittner, special services & communications supervisor for Evesham Township Department of Recreation & Senior Services. Evesham Township includes Marlton, and its municipal offices are located in Marlton. “We offer quarterly recreation programs: winter, spring, summer and fall,” she says. “They range from arts and crafts to exercise classes, like swimming or karate. Yoga is extremely popular among adults.”

Bittner says the Evesham Memorial Sports Complex, free of charge for residents, is another popular destination for families. This indoor recreation facility has basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts and a very large playground for kids.

“We do a lot of special events throughout the year that are open to the public,” says Bittner. “We do a lot of July 4th activities: we have a parade, we do a 5K run, we do fireworks at night. We put on a Harvest Fest in the fall, Winterfest in the winter, and Marlton Day in May, sponsored by the Marlton Business Association. It’s on Main Street, and it highlights the local Marlton businesses.”

“For anyone who wants to raise a family, it’s a great place,” Varrell says.

Pierre, South Dakota

In a way, South Dakota’s state capital is also the health care capital for half of the state. Pierre offers a tight-knit community where physicians can build meaningful relationships with patients. Its medical community serves a patient population spanning a 100-mile radius around Pierre. This presents unique and interesting challenges for providers. Physicians must tailor treatment for patients who drive long distances for medical care. Luckily, the natural beauty of South Dakota makes these drives scenic.

“I was born in this town. I did all my schooling here,” says Thomas Huber, M.D., a family physician with the Sanford Health Pierre Clinic. Huber was part of the first class to graduate from the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. Students who came before him had to transfer from Sanford’s two-year medical school to receive their degrees at a four-year school. But while Huber was a student, Sanford became a four-year degree-granting medical school.

“When I finished my schooling, and it came time to decide where I wanted to be, my choices were to go to the western part of the state or go to the river,” says Huber. “Pierre is on the river. The Missouri River comes right through the center of the state. I decided to practice in Pierre. There are lots of opportunities in this community. Pierre is the state capital. It has a low unemployment rate and a very high percentage of college-educated people who work here. It has an abundance of outdoor activities available either on the river or on the prairies, if you like to fish and hunt, which I do.”

Huber offers high praise for Pierre: “My wife is from here, and all of our families are still here. If I was faced with making that decision again, I would still end up here.” Huber has three adult children. His middle daughter lives in Pierre with her husband and two children, which Huber says, “worked out great for Grandma and Grandpa.”

Suzette Hohwieler, a physician recruiter for Avera Health in South Dakota, says, “South Dakota is a great place to live, work and raise a family. South Dakota has a strong economy, and many communities have been recognized nationally for their family-friendly atmosphere, excellent educational system and low crime rate.” Hohwieler is also quick to mention that South Dakota has no state income tax or corporate income tax.

Avera operates Avera St. Mary’s Hospital, a 60-bed hospital in Pierre. Avera Medical Group Pierre includes 52 physicians and advanced practice providers in 13 specialties. Sanford Health, which operates the Sanford Health Pierre Clinic where Huber practices, provides services including family medicine, cardiology, pediatric cardiology and 3D mammography.

Hohwieler says, “The market area provides the physicians and staff the opportunity to get to know their patients, as well as their families.” Huber adds, “The area we serve here is not limited at all by the town that we live in. We’re the center of the state, and we have a population of the two communities on the river. We’re the only medical community for a 100-mile radius, perhaps even more so. You get to have special relationships with all the people who live in the community. You learn how to make it work for the people.”

Pierre is excellent for those who love the outdoors. Says Laura Schoen Carbonneau, CEO of the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce, “We are very, very heavy into outdoor recreation. People are very enthusiastic about fishing and hunting. Pheasant season is huge. It’s almost like a national holiday. We have lots of privately owned land and lodges, and pheasant hunters from all around the country come to Pierre and hunt.” Schoen Carbonneau says small-mouth bass, salmon and walleye are the most popular targets in the area.

Schoen Carbonneau also emphasizes the area’s central location, great for both local getaways and cross-country travel. “We have one of the nicest regional airports in the state, with 50-seat jet service to Denver,” Schoen Carbonneau says. “People can get away to Rapid City, to Sioux Falls or Bismarck. Because we are in the middle of the country, if you’re flying, it makes for very easy connections going east or west. Just because you come to Pierre doesn’t mean you can’t be connected on a larger scale as well.”

Still, the local connection is what keeps many residents in Pierre. Huber says, “If you grow up in a smaller community, I think your ties are stronger, and it’s been proven by the fact that when I came back here many years ago as a young physician. In the clinic I went into, there were lots of patients in that clinic who knew me as a little kid and watched me grow up.”

Huber calls this a “continuity of familiarity.” He says, “Some people in medicine might view it as not a good thing, but I view it differently. When you know your community and you know the people in the community, it makes it a little bit easier for you as a physician to understand how best to take care of the diversity of patients you see and the diversity of issues they may have. I don’t see that as a detriment; I see that as a very positive aspect of practicing medicine in a smaller community.”



Albuquerque, New Mexico

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Winter 2017


The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta draws visitors from all over the world and attracts plenty of media attention, but it’s just one of many activities for families in this outdoorsy part of the country. Families also enjoy a climate that’s pleasantly hot but not humid.

Christopher Calder, M.D., moved cross-country with his wife from New York to New Mexico mainly to escape the cold. “Long story short, I was in practice in upstate New York, and my adult daughter had moved to Albuquerque to do a master’s degree in public health,” Calder says. “We followed her here. A lot of people end up here relatively serendipitously like that. It’s not a place that most people think of going, which is something many of us like about it.”

Calder attended medical school in New Zealand, where he was born and raised. He completed his residency in neurology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. He had a practice in Albany, New York, until 2012. Today, Calder is the neurology department vice chair at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. “The job was an opportunity to move on and try an academic department instead of private practice. It was supposed to be a retirement job, and now I’m chair of the department.”

San Felipe de Neri church

San Felipe de Neri church was built in 1793 and is still home to an active parish in Albuquerque.

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is the umbrella that connects the university’s academic programs, research programs and patient care. The University of New Mexico Hospitals operates five hospitals, including University of New Mexico Hospital, University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Carrie Tingley Hospital and University of New Mexico Young Children’s Health Center. UNM Hospitals also operates clinics, including a women’s healthcare clinic, pediatric clinics and an ophthalmology clinic.

“We are the service area for 2 million plus people,” says Calder. “Albuquerque is the center of the state, so people come from long distances. We also see patients from southern Colorado and some from western Texas. Whatever field you’re in, there is usually a job. There is usually a good job. This is a good place to practice.”

Kelly Herrera, a physician recruiter for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, echoes this. Presbyterian Healthcare Services is a not-for-profit health system that operates eight hospitals in New Mexico and employs more than 700 physicians in 50 specialties. “You have a great team to refer patients to. There’s a robust medical group,” says Herrera.

Three of those eight hospitals are in the Albuquerque area. Presbyterian Hospital, the system’s flagship, is a 453-bed hospital that sees 70,000 ER visits a year. Kaseman Hospital has 55 beds and Rust Medical Center has 92 beds. Presbyterian Healthcare Services also operates outpatient clinics and urgent care clinics throughout Albuquerque. “We have been around for 106 years. The organization is very stable, and we continue to grow,” says Herrera.

As if job stability weren’t enough, Albuquerque also boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. “Our area is known for people who want to be outdoors. It is classified as a dry heat. You’re not going to get that moisture that you would in other parts of the U.S. What’s really cool is that you can go up to the mountains and play in the snow and then come back and golf,” says Herrera.

“There’s something for everyone. There is a lot of jazz and blues. There are a lot of playhouses here,” Calder says.

And of course, there are hot air balloons. “We are the hot air ballooning capital of the world,” says Brenna Moore, communications specialist for Visit Albuquerque. “The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta happens every October. It’s nearly 600 hot air balloons going up all at once. You can walk on the field and walk between the balloons and talk to the pilots,” says Moore. Nearly 1 million visitors come to Albuquerque to enjoy the nine-day festival. The event is a widely anticipated annual activity for local families.

Another popular family activity in Albuquerque is visiting local Native American pueblos. “We have 19 Native American pueblos within the state. It’s like a glimpse back in history. The Native American culture has so much influence on our food and ways of life,” says Moore.

On feast days, families who live in pueblos across the state open their homes to the public and cook for visitors. Dancers perform for the crowds, and pueblo members wear traditional attire. Moore says another popular family destination is the Albuquerque BioPark, which comprises of an aquarium, zoo, botanical gardens, a small beach and a fishing lake for children. Moore adds, “Because the weather is so nice, many of our parks and outdoor activities are open sunrise to sunset every day.”

The warmer temperatures in New Mexico suit Calder, who sees the climate as conducive to a friendly culture. “People are very friendly. People here enjoy a very nice outdoor lifestyle. From mid-April to the end of October, we will often sit outside to have dinner,” he says.

Calder may not have raised his daughter in New Mexico, but now the state is home to them both. That’s not all they have in common. After pursuing graduate work in public health, Calder’s daughter decided she wanted to work more directly with patients. She became an EEG technician and works at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.




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