Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth’s outdoorsy culture has contributed to a recent influx of new residents. Both newcomers and long-time locals enjoy year-round outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and hiking. And because people from outlying rural areas travel to Duluth for their health care, physicians stay busy with a diverse patient population.

Live & Practice | Summer 2016


Husband-and-wife physicians Brandon Hankey, M.D., and Kelsey Schultz, M.D., needed to think strategically as they searched for jobs during their second year of residency at Michigan State University in Grand Rapids. Hankey had chosen a specialization in emergency medicine, and Schultz had chosen family medicine. Naturally, they needed to make sure they ended up in the same city. They both received offers from St. Luke’s Health Care System in Duluth, Minnesota, and by both physicians’ accounts, the situation has been more than ideal.

“When we were looking for jobs, we wanted a great mix of pleasant people but also an environment that was still busy and professionally challenging. We wanted a future-minded city. Duluth was perfect for us. I would put Duluth in the same list as Asheville, North Carolina; Burlington, Vermont; and Ithaca, New York. It’s a city that’s the right size but really unique,” says Hankey.

“Duluth is 80,000 people, which is big enough to have a busy Level II trauma center with all the challenges I want for my career. You see a nice mix of people from the city and people from the country, especially those who work in the timber and mining industries. You see a great cross-section of people,” says Hankey, who works in the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital, a 267-bed facility.

Schultz agrees, saying, “I have a really wide scope of practice. I work in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I have a rural family practice, both inpatient and outpatient, that affords me a lot of variety. I like the huge variety of practice. It’s a wonderful patient population as well. They’re really grounded, down-to-earth people. You get a lot of interesting pathology and pleasant people overall.”

Schultz’s practice is in a more rural area, but the commute is easy. And Duluth is a comfortable place to live. Hankey and Schultz just closed on their first home in Duluth, a six-bedroom Victorian house. Hankey says this is small by Duluth standards. Other houses in their neighborhood have up to 14 bedrooms.

Hankey shares an interesting bit of Duluth trivia: “At the turn of the 20th century, Duluth had more millionaires per capita than any city on earth.” Schultz adds, “It has a lot of beautiful Victorian architecture. The homes and neighborhoods in Duluth are just beautiful.”

Duluth, MN

Duluth, Minnesota

Meghan Anderson, a physician recruiter for St. Luke’s Health Care, says, “As far as the city goes, there is definitely a personality type that is attracted to Duluth. There is a big outdoorsy community. Of course, we have hunting and fishing and things you would picture for north Minnesota, but we also have a big running scene, a mountain biking scene and a big hiking scene. People who live here like to be outdoors and be active. They’re hiking and camping even in the winter. People do it all year long.”

Schultz says, “Once you set foot in Duluth, you realize it’s a special place. It’s worth the winter. Something people say is, ‘The cold seals in the freshness.’”

“In 2014, we were ranked the No. 1 outside city by Outside magazine. That really speaks to the lifestyle and to the recognition of the fact that there’s a diversity of outdoor offerings,” says Anna Tanski, president of Visit Duluth. “It’s not just skiing. People take in all that Lake Superior has to offer.” She says that paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking tend to be the most popular water sports. She also says that Lake Superior influences the culture beyond recreation activities.

“I’m a lifelong resident here, and our life is centered around Lake Superior,” says Tanski. “It is focused on the outdoors. It’s ingrained in part of our culture, and it creates an active community.”

While Duluth has a tight-knit population of 86,000, the city’s role as a health care hub draws a much larger patient population from surrounding areas. Anderson says that figure is closer to 450,000, explaining, “People drive a long way to get their health care. If you look at where we are on the map, we are on the tip of Lake Superior, so there’s not much between here and the Canadian border. We see a lot of patients from Wisconsin and from the upper area of Michigan.”

To serve this diverse group, St. Luke’s Hospital stays current with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. “The most notable thing is that we just completed an expansion to our surgery center,” says Anderson. “We just built a bunch of ORs. We also built a hybrid operating room. That just opened in August of 2015. Everything that the physician uses, everything comes down from the ceiling; there’s nothing on the floor. We have a da Vinci robot, and a dedicated operating room for the da Vinci robot. We also have dedicated ORs for open heart surgery and neurosurgery.”

Hankey says another advantage to working at St. Luke’s is the friendliness of the hospital staff. “Duluth is the classic ‘Minnesota nice.’ This is the most pleasant, professional staff I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with. The people make Duluth a great place.”

St. Luke’s Health Care System also has primary care clinics throughout the region, including the one in Two Harbors where Schultz works.

Essentia Health is another of Duluth’s major health care players.

“Physicians are vey much attracted to Essentia Health,” says Kris Olson, vice president of physician and professional services. “We are a physician-led organization, so there’s a really strong focus on keeping the patient and the family a priority.”

More than 800 physicians—and 13,000 total employees—help Essentia address the changing needs of health care through 68 clinics and 15 hospitals throughout the Upper Midwest.

“If you’re a high-end specialist, you can participate in the architecture of that program and have a direct say in what takes place,” Olson says. “You’ll be involved in the programming, the operations, and the understanding of what we do.”

In Duluth, it’s possible to find a successful work/life balance.

“It’s a really neat, four-season, multifaceted location,” Olson says. “You get the opportunity to work and play in the same place. …It’s fun to recruit to Duluth. It’s really the icing on the cake.”



Tacoma, Washington

If you’re in Tacoma, you might overhear someone ask, “Is the mountain out today?” in reference to Mount Rainier, a local landmark sometimes hidden on overcast mornings. On clear and cloudy days alike, the mountain embodies the area’s outdoor culture. No wonder runners, hikers and nature enthusiasts adore this northwest Pacific town.

Live & Practice | Summer 2016


Rebecca Whitesell, M.D., has seen much of the U.S. “My dad worked for the National Parks Service when I was growing up, and we moved all over the place,” Whitesell explains. Now a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center (operated by MultiCare Health System), she attended high school in Texas and stayed in the state to attend Texas Christian University, where she majored in pre-med.

Her decision to study medicine stemmed from personal experience. She explains, “When I was young, I was a pretty serious dancer. Unfortunately, I also had several injuries. I had an orthopedic surgeon that I really liked. I thought what he did was really cool. That’s how I got truly interested in medicine.”

Rebecca Whitesell MD

“I can look at Mount Rainier right outside of our operating room,” says Rebecca Whitesell, M.D., who moved to Tacoma after completing fellowships in Atlanta.

She earned a master’s of public health at the University of North Texas before heading to medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Whitesell then stayed in the South for her residency at the University of Alabama and completed fellowships in Atlanta.

When she started interviewing for jobs, she wanted a new experience. “I interviewed and immediately fell in love with the people in Tacoma. It was really the right time for me, coming out of residency. I liked the setting, and I was very drawn to what I’d be doing and who I would be working with.”

She also liked the surroundings. “I can look at Mount Rainier right outside of our operating room,” Whitesell raves. And according to Matt Wakefield of Travel Tacoma + Pierce Country, the mountain is a big part of the Tacoma experience for everybody who visits.

“When you come to the area, if you’re flying in, you’ll see Mount Rainier,” he says. “It’s iconic. It’s the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. You can see it from Seattle. Whenever the clouds part even a little bit, the mountain is front and center. A phrase people say is, ‘Oh, is the mountain out today?’ It means, ‘Did the clouds part enough?’ When you see it, it looks magnificent.”

Wakefield says the mountain provides plenty of space for recreation. “There are 130 hiking trails on the mountain. There is snowshoeing in the winter. It was named the No. 1 place in the country to view wildflowers.”

Another popular Tacoma destination for outdoor activities is Five Mile Drive. Says Wakefield: “It’s this five-mile stretch of roads with views of the Puget Sound. On the weekends, it’s closed until early afternoon so people can go running. There are lots of people here who are really into the outdoors and fitness, and we have an infrastructure that supports them in that.”

It makes sense that the Tacoma population is health-conscious. After all, health care companies are major area employers. Amber Bishop, a recruiter for MultiCare Health System, says, “MultiCare is a not-for-profit organization with more than 11,000 employees. The employee population is spread through two counties, staffing 120 sites of care.” MultiCare has five hospitals, each of which uses da Vinci robots. A sixth hospital is under construction, and MultiCare also operates the MultiCare Institute for Research & Innovation in Tacoma.

One benefit of working for MultiCare Health System is that their processes take full advantage of electronic patient records. MultiCare was an early adopter. The organization started using electronic patient records for their outpatient clinics in the late 1990s.

Naturally, the size and growth of the organization affect their recruiting efforts. “At any given time, we probably have more than 100 searches open, and that includes primary and specialty care,” says Bishop. “Right now, urgent care is a big focus.”

Bishop says there are many benefits to working for a larger health system. “Because we employ so many different providers, they have a built-in network to refer their patients to. Any specialty you can think of, we have in our system.”

That includes Whitesell’s specialty. “In medical school, everyone always says, ‘I’m going to be a cardiologist,’ or, ‘I’m going to do internal medicine.’ They made up their minds. I knew I was interested in orthopedics, but I went through medical school pretty open-minded. When I did my third-year rotation in surgery, I fell in love with surgery. When I did my first surgery in orthopedics, I was like, ‘I’m never doing anything else ever again.’”

It’s clear that Whitesell’s work isn’t just a paycheck for her. She says, “There’s something about taking care of kids that’s infectious in a good way! There’s an element of taking care of a kid and taking care of their parents. You take care of them in different ways.”

And when she’s not taking care of families, Whitesell enjoys taking care of her 10-month-old chocolate lab. She and her puppy go for walks and occasionally go running together.

“I really love all the outdoor activities,” says Whitesell. She also appreciates Tacoma’s versatility and overall feel. “It’s a big enough place that you can have anything you want living in a city,” she says “You’re close enough to Seattle, but Tacoma doesn’t feel like the suburbs. You’re living in its own place.”



Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Summer in Portsmouth means locals and tourists don their sunglasses and enjoy the coastal town’s wealth of activities: swimming, kayaking, bicycling, running and enjoying seafood (practically a sport in and of itself). And as locals will tell you, the outdoor activities aren’t limited to summer. Admittedly, however, most people take a break from swimming in the winter.

Live & Practice | Summer 2016


Gareth Davies, M.D., didn’t need to be sold on Portsmouth. He had spent time in New Hampshire and already knew he loved its New England feel, so when he got the chance to move back after his residency, he didn’t think twice.

“I am originally from Pennsylvania, but I went to Middlebury College in Vermont. In college, I knew I liked biology—from microbiology to organism-type biology. The year 2000 I was a freshman there, and that was the first year that neuroscience was offered as a major. I noticed that every course that I signed up for was one of the neuroscience courses.” Naturally, Davies declared a neuroscience major.

“I knew I wanted to go to medical school. I made that decision in high school actually,” says Davies. And at Dartmouth Medical School, Davies felt right at home. “I fell in love with New Hampshire.”

As Davies neared the end of his residency at Penn State University, he felt a pull to return to New Hampshire.

Gareth Davies

Already familiar with New England, Gareth Davies, M.D., was drawn to New Hampshire after residency at Penn State. He’s now a neurosurgeon at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

“I was thinking about where I would like to settle. I started looking again at coastal New England. I always loved the coast. I was looking for a vibrant small town with a young population, like Portland or Portsmouth or the Cape. From there, I started looking at what practices were hiring. One of my mentors from my residency had done his residency with one of the neurosurgeons at Coastal New Hampshire Neurosurgeons.”

Davies liked what he saw there. He says, “I was immediately very impressed by their neurosurgery practice.” So he accepted a neurosurgeon position with the group, which is operated by Portsmouth Regional Hospital, part of HCA.

Dean Carucci, CEO of Portsmouth Regional Hospital, says, “Portsmouth Regional Hospital is a leading provider of cardiovascular surgery as well as neurosurgery.” The hospital has 209 beds and operates a Level II trauma center. It stays up to date with state-of-the-art equipment. Carucci says, “Portsmouth has dedicated cardiovascular operating rooms as well as a hybrid room. In addition, we have three distinct catheterization labs and an interventional radiology suite. The facility has also invested in high-end imaging including a 3-T MRI, 3-D mammography, 3-D echo, EBUS [endobronchial ultrasound] and a host of others.” Portsmouth Regional Hospital also operates outpatient facilities in the area.

State-of-the-art operating rooms are a plus for Davies, who has felt drawn to surgery since the beginning of his career. “I’ve always leaned more toward surgery because I enjoy having a defined problem and being able to go in and fix it. I like when I can respond and fix something structural.”

When Davies isn’t in the OR, he’s outside enjoying Portsmouth. “I fell in love with Portsmouth as a town. It’s very outdoor-oriented. It seems most people like to run, hike and sail.”

Portsmouth residents as a whole tend to enjoy the outdoors and exercise avidly, according to Valerie Rochon, interim president and tourism director of the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a lifestyle choice to live here and be on the seacoast. It’s a quality-of-life choice. You’re making the decision to have a much higher quality of life.”

Rochon recommends visiting the beaches, trying out Portsmouth Kayak Adventures, enjoying the boardwalk or even sailing on a replica of a 16th-century barge. “We are so involved with the water,” she says. She recommends families with kids who want to get even closer to marine life visit the Blue Ocean Society, explaining, “It’s the organization within the Seacoast Science Center, which is the marine mammal rescue organization for all of New England.”

If this lifestyle sounds appealing, you should know that Portsmouth Regional Hospital is hiring. Carucci says: “We are currently recruiting heavily for vascular surgeons, hospitalists, psychiatric physicians and primary care, both internal medicine and family practice.”

Pleasant surroundings aren’t the only perks of the workplace. Davies says other hospital employees are one of the best parts of his job. “Across the board—from management to the other physicians and nurses and techs—people are very respectful. Because people are so respectful, it’s a pleasant place to work. Everyone is very proud of the community and very focused on providing top-level care for the community. People get close to their patients.”

Davies considers Portsmouth the perfect size. He says it offers just the right amount of amenities for doctors who have busy schedules.

“When I was thinking about where I wanted to live, the important thing for me was looking at what was offered in the area and what would it actually be like to live there. There’s a tendency to think that there’s so much more to do in a big city. In the daily life of the average physician, you tend to work long hours, and you work late regularly. I don’t know that you necessarily need access to the thousands of restaurants in a big city.”

Davies is engaged, and he has a dog. What could be better than taking your dog for a walk on the boardwalk, enjoying the sun and breathing in the sea air? In Portsmouth, it isn’t a vacation. It’s your life.



Galveston, Texas

If you ever dreamed of combining a challenging medical career with a beach lifestyle, consider working in Galveston. This historic beach town is a short commute from a 600-bed hospital with a brand-new brain and spine institute. And to sweeten the deal, Texas has no state income tax.

Live & Practice | Summer 2016


When Hashem Shaltoni, M.D., moved to Houston in 1999, he thought he would only be in the area for a year. He had graduated from medical school in Lahore, Pakistan, where he expressed an interest in neurology early on. “In medical school, I realized I was spending more time to really understand neurology than my peers. I found that I was unique. I understood it better. I stood up many times and asked neurology questions in class.” When Shaltoni’s father had a silent stroke, it sparked Shaltoni’s specific interest in stroke training and interventional neurology.

Shaltoni moved to the U.S. and did a preliminary residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. “Our agreement was: ‘We will check you out, and you check us out.’ I thought it would be just one year in Houston. But in the first few months, I was really impressed by the neurology chairman.” At the end of his internship, Shaltoni was accepted for a residency in neurology at the University of Texas.

“I got into UT because they liked me, and I thought it was a cool city. But I still felt like I lived in Houston temporarily because I was going to do my fellowship somewhere else.”

But by the time he needed to choose a location for his fellowship, Shaltoni felt so connected to the Houston area that he wanted to stay. “I really liked the city. It’s large. It’s handsome. It has great diversity. And I got married.”

So Shaltoni stayed for two fellowships: one in neurology and one in vascular neurology. Today, Shaltoni works for Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, part of HCA. Clear Lake is located between Houston the Galveston Bay shoreline.

Shaltoni uses his education to serve his community. In fact, he established Clear Lake’s Brain & Spine Institute to offer advanced care to patients living near the coast. “Our goal is to provide neurology and neurosurgery care to the community,” he says. “I’ve recruited three new neurosurgeons, and I’m recruiting for two more neuroscientists. Now, highly complicated cases no longer need to be transferred to the medical center in downtown Houston.”

Galveston TX

Galveston, Texas

Michael Herrera, a physician recruiter for HCA, says of the center: “It is our flagship hospital. It has 586 beds. It is located between the downtown Houston area and Galveston, Texas. For those interested in working here, it’s in an ideal place in terms of being close to the city and being close to the beach.”

The town itself is also pretty ideal. Leah Cast, public relations manager for the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “Galveston is unlike any other place. People take pride in Galveston. It’s a mix of having a beautiful tropical atmosphere with that southern charm and southern hospitality. People definitely feel at home.”

Cast says Galveston and the outlying areas have a “huge outdoor culture.” She raves, “It’s this small island that is tropical but also very historic. We have 32 miles of beaches. The island is 32 miles long but only two and a half miles wide. When you drive to work in the morning, you can see the sun rise over the Gulf of Mexico.”

But the island life isn’t isolated. With a population of 50,000, Galveston boasts a bustling downtown. Residents enjoy boutique shopping, outdoor musical performances and excellent restaurants with coastal fare. Cast adds, “We have a beautiful historic downtown. It’s a gorgeous place and at the center of a lot of outdoor special events and activities. Top chefs move to Galveston. We have a great food scene that is really high quality compared to what you’d think of for a beach town.”

Another unexpected benefit of this coastal town is its job opportunities. Galveston’s proximity to Houston and several midsize towns between the two cities provide a patient population large enough to keep medical professionals busy.

“HCA has 160 hospitals in 20 states. We have a pretty big presence in the greater Houston area. We have 10 hospitals in the greater Houston area and several more in south Texas,” says Herrera, adding that there are several draws for physicians contemplating a move to Texas. “We seem to attract a lot of attention from physicians who are looking for a warmer climate, and we have no state income tax. Real estate properties are a good value here. You factor all those in, and it’s a great place to live and work.”

Shaltoni and his wife are optimistic about raising their son, who is now 18 months old, in the coastal Texas area. “From my experience, the schools are fantastic,” Shaltoni says. “I started late to have a family, so I have friends who have kids who are 8 or 9 or 12. I see them and the way they’re raised. Everybody is happy.”

Shaltoni’s son will start day care soon, and Shaltoni says he is lucky to have a wife who understands how Shaltoni’s work is not just a job but also a calling. “I went to school for a long, long time. My dad was always like, ‘When are you finishing school?’ I was dedicated to really learning what I was learning. Now, I feel blessed that I live in a country that has allowed me to make a difference.”



Southeastern Oklahoma

With a growing economy and a fantastic real estate market, southeastern Oklahoma has open arms for newcomers. Many of its available properties come with an acre of land or the possibility of ranching. A tight-knit, volunteer-oriented community prevents rural isolation.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2016


Sangeeta Khetpal, M.D., is not your average Oklahoman. She attended medical school in Sindh, Pakistan, at the Peoples University of Medical & Health Sciences for Women, and before moving to Oklahoma, she lived with her cardiologist husband and their two young children in Saint Louis. When Khetpal finished her residency in internal medicine, she landed at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Now Khetpal is a strong proponent of practicing medicine in Oklahoma. She believes the area is on an economic upswing. “Oklahoma offers more than a skilled workforce,” she says, adding that the area has a strong business environment.


Lake Texoma is a recreation hub for both southeastern Oklahoma and northern Texas, and is the country’s 12th largest lake.

The business climate is important to Khetpal because she is an entrepreneur as well as a physician. She runs her own private practice, The Heart & Medical Center. “I never thought that I would be an entrepreneur and work as a self-employed physician,” she says. “I wanted predictability and a structured environment in my job setting, which is very difficult to achieve in a small, self-run practice.”

Still, business is good. In addition to its flagship facility in Durant, Oklahoma, The Heart & Medical Center has facilities in nearby Atoka and Kingston. The staff of 20 includes Khetpal and three other full-time physicians: two internal medicine specialists and Khetpal’s husband, Vivek Khetpal, M.D.

Physicians who don’t share the entrepreneurial gene, or who want to work on a larger team, can find still plenty of other job opportunities in southeastern Oklahoma.

The area’s several major health care systems include Universal Health Services, Inc. and Mercy. Mercy operates 32 hospitals and nearly 300 outpatient facilities in four states: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. In southeastern Oklahoma, Mercy operates Mercy Hospital Tishomingo, a 25-bed facility.

The Chickasaw Nation Division of Health is another area health care employer. The division serves Oklahoma’s Native American population at several facilities, including Chickasaw Nation Health Center and Ardmore Health Clinic.

“Most of what I recruit for is primary care,” says Ronnie Shaw, a recruiter for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Health. “We don’t have all specialties—not the comprehensive amount that you’ll find in larger facilities—but we do have quite a few.” He recruits for psychiatry, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and endocrinology in particular.

Shaw says that although his job is challenging, he knows living in rural Oklahoma has rewards for physicians. Those who are willing to take a chance can live comfortably and learn about themselves.

Shaw explains, “So many doctors gravitate to the sexy states: Florida, Texas, California. Eighty to 90 percent of doctors want to live in an urban or suburban metro area. It’s a small percentage of doctors that are entertaining going to a more rural area. It has its own challenges, but of the doctors who have recently joined us, if they come on board, they love it. There are a lot of things to be gained if you give it a chance.”

Some physicians who come to work for Chickasaw Nation Medical Center embrace their latent rural selves, says Shaw. “I have people say, ‘I’d like to have a little land.’ I get people who just want a couple of acres or some people who want a ranch situation. I have a doctor who bought horses. It’s the benefit of being in a more rural area.” And Oklahoma City makes a great day trip for those itching for a pro sports game or a shopping spree.

That said, Janet Reed, executive director of the Durant Chamber of Commerce, says you don’t need to leave the area even if you want an exciting Friday night out. “We have a five-star property called the Choctaw Casino Resort. They have a grand theater which hosts a variety of household name stars on tour,” says Reed.

“Our economy is growing. It has been for the past 10 years,” says Reed. This good economy encourages a philanthropic spirit. People who live in Durant and greater southeastern Oklahoma tend to devote free time to volunteering, she says. “We have 48 nonprofits within Bryan County,” she says. “They all provide different services throughout the community. I am very fortunate that the chamber of commerce has a membership of 550, and with that 550, those companies motivate their employees to get involved however they can. We have a very involved community.”

Reed says the community-oriented spirit of southeastern Oklahoma extends to residents’ upbeat temperaments and welcoming attitudes. She says, “It’s a very friendly community. Everybody is welcoming and very open to new people moving in. That’s one of the comments I get from throughout the community. People are very gracious when they have visitors in the area or when new people are moving to the area.”

Khetpal agrees. She says her favorite thing about living in Oklahoma is its people. She took a chance on southeastern Oklahoma, and now she glows as she describes life there.

“Southeastern Oklahoma is great place to live, to enjoy both your work and your family life,” Khetpal says. “The quality of life is excellent. The state has a low cost of living and offers an abundance of recreation, family, education, tourism and volunteer opportunities.”



North Central Ohio

Hospitals in north central Ohio work hard to recruit and retain staff by maintaining excellent company cultures and supporting physicians’ passion projects. The area’s low cost of living is icing on the cake.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2016


It would be an understatement to say that Ryan Wagner, M.D., likes athletics. He has built his career and his life in north central Ohio around them.

“I’m a primary care sports medicine doctor,” he says. “What I do—it’s a specific subspecialty. We do the nonsurgical care: muscular-skeletal care and orthopedics. The common thing most people are aware of about our work is concussion management.”

At Galion Community Hospital in Galion, Ohio, Wagner has been able to specialize in that passion. He also started a sports health program to teach athletic trainers—the licensed health care providers who help injured athletes recover, rehabilitate and return safely to playing their sports. Wagner’s sports health program works with 15 high schools across north central Ohio, and its graduates help scores of students in the area.

Ryan Wagner MD

While interviewing with Galion Community Hospital, physician Ryan Wagner, M.D., talked about wanting to start a sports health program. The hospital supported his efforts, and today the program is running strong

“For a lot of these kids, their sport is how they identify themselves. That’s a major thing for me. We want to help athletes be safe, recover quickly and get back into their sport,” says Wagner.

“The sports health program starts and ends with the athletic trainers being out in the schools. There’s an integration between what they do, what I do, what the family doctors do and the ER. We’re involved at all levels of the health care system, making sure that everyone is on the same page.”

As an undergraduate at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, Wagner was a three-sport athlete. He played football and competed in indoor and outdoor track. He then attended medical school at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and completed his residency at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio. He completed his sports medicine fellowship at Akron City Hospital, part of Summa Health System.

Wagner expressed interest in starting a sports health program while he was still interviewing at Galion Community Hospital, part of Avita Health System. The recruiters told him the hospital would support him, and they kept their word. “They really helped me quite a bit with getting the sports health program underway,” says Wagner.

Myles Creed, director of physician development and recruitment for Avita, says it can be challenging to start a conversation with physicians about coming to rural Ohio. Avita does whatever it can to attract and retain top talent. “Someone like Dr. Wagner could go anywhere in the country. One of our joint specialists went to Harvard Medical School. He could go anywhere in the country,” says Creed. “One thing that makes Avita so attractive is our culture. We have a collaborative, can-do attitude with our physicians.”

Avita Health System is relatively new, founded just five years ago. Before that, Galion was a standalone facility. “We brought on Bucyrus Hospital. The CEO formed Avita Health System to manage both hospitals,” Creed says. Since then, Avita has added a third hospital: Avita Ontario in Ontario, Ohio. “When it was just Galion Hospital, there were 14 employee providers,” Creed says. “Now we’re 100 employee providers.”

On the more northern end of the region sits Fisher-Titus Medical Center, which became the first all-digital, “smart” community hospital in the nation in 2010 and has been named one of the nation’s “most wired” for four consecutive years, according to HealthCare’s Most Wired survey.That focus on technology remains strong.

“There are things here that the average person wouldn’t expect in a 99-bed, nonprofit community hospital,” says physician recruiter Don Prince. “Fisher-Titus has a strong tradition of investing in the latest medical technologies.”

For example: Outside each room, screens allow staff to see—even from down the hall—if a room is occupied or if there’s a provider with the patient. As they get closer, they can even access helpful information such as patient allergies and fall risk potential. And as the provider walks in the room, technology relays to the patient’s television screen the clinician’s name and credentials. Even the room itself is smart, relaying EMR information to the hospitalist’s computer as they enter.

“This just makes it very comfortable for everybody,” Prince says.

In the last 10 years, Fisher-Titus has seen many new additions: a new rehab center, cancer center, heart and vascular center, “convenient care” services and more—plus surgical services, imaging services, ER, admitting and registration areas.

“I’ve been in a lot of facilities in my career,” Prince says. “This is by far the cleanest facility I’ve ever been in, and it’s friendly and welcoming.”

Physicians find the area welcoming, too, with nearby wineries, Cedar Point amusement park, and just an hour’s drive to either Cleveland or Toledo.


A photographer’s lucky shot—but a landscape worth the photo in north central Ohio.

The physicians who work at Fisher-Titus, says Prince, may vacation somewhere warmer in the winter, but tend to stay put in other seasons. “In the summer, there’s way too much to do here,” he says.

“Sometimes the spouses are afraid to live in a rural area,” says Avita’s Creed. “But we are 45 minutes from Columbus and an hour from Cleveland. You raise a family in a smaller community with smaller school sizes. Then you can hop in your car, and in less than an hour, you’re in the city. It’s not an all-day trip.”

Lee Tasseff, president of Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says, “There’s way more to north central Ohio than anyone would ever imagine,” he says. Popular pastimes include biking, hiking, canoeing, zip-lining, boating and golfing.

The low cost of living is also a major draw. “The average price for a home is just under $132,000,” says Tasseff. “The median price is $90,000. Your money can buy a great deal here.”

Wagner and his wife may have settled in north central Ohio, but their lifestyle is far from settled down. Their two daughters are three-sport athletes like their dad. “Both girls do taekwondo, soccer and basketball,” says Wagner. “My oldest is thinking about doing volleyball. We’re members of a community track program that lets adults and children participate, so I do that with them.”

Whatever sports his daughters decide to focus on, Wagner and his wife will be there to support them—and run alongside them.



Central Vermont

If central Vermont makes you think of fall foliage bursting with color, maple syrup and skiing, your picture is accurate. Whether you see yourself taking solace in a cabin in the woods or living in a loft in a quaint downtown area, central Vermont has the options and opportunities to attract physicians with a variety of tastes.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2016


For Tien Burns, M.D., patients are the best part of working as MRI section chief and radiologist at the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont. She appreciates her patients’ easy-going attitudes as well as central Vermont’s mellow environment.

“When you are a resident, you don’t really think about a VA hospital as a career option,” she says. “You think, ‘Should I go into private practice or academic?’ During your rotation, the VA seems like an insular part of your training. But when you think about it, it’s a good combination of both [private practice and academic].”

“I was surprised that the VA has such modern equipment,” she raves. “We just got three new ultrasound machines and an MRI scanner. We have a new CT scanner, and we’re due to get another soon. It’s great to work with state-of-the-art machines.”

Additionally, Burns says that the VA’s benefits package not only includes health insurance but also a retirement plan and significant student loan assistance. “The VA offers a debt reduction program,” she says. “They pay back up to $120,000 of your student debt over five years. Each year, you get one-fifth of that after a year of service. And it’s not taxable, so it all goes to paying off your education debt.”

Charles Long, a recruitment consultant for the VA, confirmed the details of the VA’s debt reduction program. He adds, “White River Junction is an award-winning facility, providing health care to over 23,000 veterans in Vermont and New Hampshire. We are closely affiliated with the medical school at Dartmouth and the University of Vermont College of Medicine.”

The University of Vermont College of Medicine is a major health care player in Vermont and upstate New York. Sarah Childs, manager of physician services for the Central Vermont Medical Center, says, “The University of Vermont health network includes hospitals in Vermont and upstate New York. That affiliation is about four years old. There was no unified health system in Vermont, and there was no system in upstate New York. These are individual organizations that have come together to form this health network with the University of Vermont being the mother ship in a sense.”


Montpelier is America’s smallest state capital, with a population that doesn’t quite hit 8,000.

Another major employer of Vermont physicians is Rutland Regional Medical Center, a 188-bed nonprofit community hospital. “We have a service population of 85,000. We do just about everything except high-level brain surgery and high-level heart surgery. We have just about every specialty, all the ’ologies,’” says Becky Banco, a physician recruiter at Rutland.

Rutland sets itself apart with a large team of scribes. “Scribes accompany the physicians when they see patients and take notes,” says Banco. “It means less paperwork for the physician to do in between patients, so they’re seeing more patients. But it also means being able to have a conversation and give better care.”

“We have strong hospitals in central Vermont,” says Sam Andersen, executive director of the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization. She adds that hospitals aren’t the only reason why physicians are attracted to jobs in Vermont.

“We have a very high quality of place that appeals to people who enjoy a lot of variety for outdoor activities. If you like to canoe, kayak or hike, you’ll love the summer. If you like to ski, snowshoe, snowboard or go snowmobiling, you’ll love our winter.”

For those who are less sporty, Vermont still has plenty to offer. “We’re strong in the entrepreneurial sector and the makers sector,” Andersen says. “The makers sector is the intersection of the creative economy and manufacturing that are scaling into high-tech manufacturing. When you look at Vermont, we’re an incubator for some pretty great businesses: Green Mountain Coffee, Ben & Jerry’s and Darn Tough Socks as well as many craft breweries.”

Burns admits, “Winter can be a little too long, but fall is really beautiful. I like the fact that the nature here is so beautiful. You get four seasons. I like three of the four.” Burns also likes the pace of life in Vermont, “It’s really relaxed. It’s safe. It’s not so hectic. It’s a nice place to raise kids. I have two young kids, an 8-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. My husband is a doctor, too. So we have to coordinate our job life with our home life.”

Burns says living in Vermont and working for the VA hospital make work/life balance easier. “I didn’t want a job where I didn’t have any personal time left. Working at the VA allows you to have a life outside of work as well.”



Southeastern Missouri

Southeastern Missouri offers plenty to do as well as the freedom to create your own opportunities. Modern amenities and nearby Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau draw a diverse population and offer entertainment.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Spring 2016


Paul Caruso, M.D., has lived in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, since 1999. “Southeast Hospital is a great place to work,” says Caruso. And he would know. After spending time away from southeastern Missouri, Caruso couldn’t wait to get back. “I took five years off from working here to move to California to complete my fellowship in neonatology. After practicing in California for one year, my wife and I decided to move back. We both preferred living in the Midwest.”

Cape Girardeau is very family friendly. In fact, Caruso says, “That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to move back. It’s a great place for children to grow up. There’s a full array of private schools for all the religious denominations, but the public school system, Cape Girardeau Public Schools, is very good. Our kids go to the public schools and they’re getting a great education.”

Paul Caruso MD

Paul Caruso, M.D.

Both personally and professionally, Caruso has a passion for helping children.Today, he is the medical director of neonatology at Southeast Hospital, and he and his wife have nine children.

“My wife and I became involved in foster care when we moved to southeast Missouri,” Caruso says. “Kids are my life. I spend most of my free time at home with my wife and kids. If you’re going to catch me in the evening, I’m going to be sitting on the floor playing with the kids or playing cards with the older kids.”

Caruso’s wife also works for Southeast Hospital. She is a psychiatrist who works weekends for the hospital’s inpatient mental health unit.

“SoutheastHEALTH is definitely a family-oriented organization,” says Tatianna Parham, a recruiter for SoutheastHEATH, which runs Southeast Hospital, many outpatient clinics and three smaller hospitals in the southeastern Missouri area. “People are welcoming and warm,” she says. “People take time to get to know each other.”

Cape Girardeau has a population of 40,000 and a daytime population of 100,000 from people commuting to work from other parts of southeastern Missouri. The hospital has an even wider geographic draw. “We are the largest medical market between St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee, right along the Mississippi,” says Parham. “Our medical population is 675,000 individuals. It’s everybody just north of Memphis and south of Saint Louis, plus people from Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky. We get a lot of regional pull. We serve five different states’ residents.”

The hospital has 11 neonatologists, two NICUs, two cardiac centers and two cancer centers. Caruso says, “We have state-of-the-art equipment. We have PET scanners. Most surgeons use the da Vinci robot.”

“Not many cities that have a population of 40,000 have the high level of medical expertise that this city has,” says Caruso.

Stacy Lane, director of public relations for Visit Cape Girardeau, says Cape Girardeau combines a small-town friendliness with big-city amenities. That combination extends beyond health care.

“You get to have your cake and eat it, too,” she says. “You get to enjoy a lot of culture and things to do, but you don’t have any of the negatives of living in a city.” Lane notes that young professionals in southeastern Missouri are often able to buy homes. “The cost of living is really affordable. It’s not a barrier to entry for younger folks. My husband and I have a lot of friends in the St. Louis area, and they’re shocked at what we can afford. But if you don’t want to own, there are really neat apartments and condos in the downtown area if you want to enjoy downtown life.”

Paul Caruso with children

Southeast Hospital medical director of neonatology Paul Caruso, M.D., couldn’t wait to get back to the Midwest after fellowship in California.

Cape Girardeau’s downtown scene is both historic and upscale. “We have a thriving downtown with shopping on our historic riverfront. You can park your car on the street and see the neat historic buildings, shop at locally owned boutiques or just enjoy the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River. You can walk right down to the river,” says Lane.

According to Caruso, the area’s high quality of life and low cost of living encourage residents to engage in philanthropy and volunteerism. He says, “It’s amazing the experiences you can have here. …There are a lot of people who are involved in local and national causes. I have friends who are really into medical missions. There’s always a group going to Guatemala or Ethiopia and Haiti that provide health care. There are three or four trips to Haiti a year. There’s also a local organization called Room for One More [Child] that helps families adopt locally and abroad.”

Caruso even has his own nonprofit organization on a mission that hits close to home. He explains, “Five years ago, my wife asked me if we might be interested in starting a home for foster children. This is just one of those things that you feel is possible if you live in Missouri. So we started Hope Children’s Home Jackson, a group home for foster children in Jackson, Missouri. The home has more of a family atmosphere as opposed to an institutional feel. We are able to do this because of the support of our community. There are so many things you can do here that you feel are possible—that in a larger city you may not feel that way.”



Richmond, Virginia

The James River divides this historic city in two. Both sides offer career opportunities for physicians and entertaining activities for their families.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Winter 2016


“I was originally on a path to be a surgeon, but my wife was on a similar path,” says Sidney Jones, M.D. “We realized that our lifestyles would not be conducive to spending much time together.” Jones is now an internist and primary care medical director at Bon Secours Medical Group, and his wife is a child psychiatrist. They’re practicing happily ever after in Richmond, Virginia.

Sidney Jones

“It’s a very family-friendly city,” says Sidney Jones, M.D., of Richmond. “You can walk to restaurants, and it has a great proximity to the beach and to Washington, D.C.”

Jones grew up in rural southern Virginia. He attended Davidson College just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, but returned to his home state for medical school.

Jones found Richmond’s school system to be excellent. His two children, now 23 and 19, both went through Richmond public schools and had very positive experiences.

“Richmond is rich in academics,” says Karin Guye, a recruiter for JenCare Neighborhood Medical Centers. She adds: “I think from a professional perspective, there is a lot of opportunity for continued growth and learning.”

Richmond neighborhood

Richmond features both historic architecture and tall buildings.

The city itself is also growing, says Chelsea Miller, director of physician integration for Bon Secours Richmond Health System. She says, “Compared to when I grew up out in the suburbs of Richmond, Richmond has grown exponentially and has become increasingly culturally diverse.”

Bon Secours is one of the major health systems in Richmond and is growing fast, Miller says. “Bon Secours Health System is in six different states. Virginia is our largest market. We have been growing exponentially.” Bon Secours Richmond Health System has five area hospitals: St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital and Rappahannock General Hospital.

“It’s a Catholic health care system, and the major tenet is our willingness to see all patients regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, whether you’re here legally or illegally, insured or uninsured,” Miller says. “We really care for the people who are on the margins of society who might not have access to health care.”

“In 2011, St. Francis was voted one of America’s most beautiful hospitals,” says Miller. “It feels like a five-star hotel. It’s very soothing and calming. And St. Mary’s has repeatedly been voted the favorite place in Richmond to have a baby.”

Virginia Commonwealth University has also helped drive area growth, such as through its adaptive reuse approach to creating medical and office space in Richmond. “They have done a lot in terms of buying up old buildings and turning them into academic buildings or office buildings and dormitory space,” says Erin Bagnell, public relations manager at the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

VCU Medical Center, a 1,125-bed Level I Trauma Center, is in the middle of a large renovation and expansion of its operating room, and physician input plays an integral part. Aisha DeBerry, manager of physician recruitment for VCU Health, says that the physician leader in charge of the project often tells her, “When you are recruiting physicians, please tell them that I want them to be part of this revamp of the OR. Let them know that I would like to meet with them to hear their voice, to hear how we can make the OR more conducive in a perioperative space.”

VCU Medical Center also serves as the only NCI-designated cancer center in the area. It also has the area’s only full-service children’s hospital.

Virginia Community Healthcare Association is also based in Richmond, with member health centers both in the area and throughout the state. Suzanne Speer, a clinical recruitment services specialist for the organization, explains the association’s distinct mission: “Our health centers serve people of all ages, all incomes, whether or not you have private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. We also serve those who fall into that insurance gap and don’t qualify for any public health insurance, and they can’t afford private insurance on the exchange, even with the Affordable Care Act.”

To do this, Virginia Community Healthcare Association’s member health centers provide services on a sliding fee scale. “We are able to see everybody in the communities we serve,” Speer says.

In Richmond, there are scores of family activities. Bagnell recommends the Science Museum of Virginia, the Children’s Museum of Richmond and the Lewis Ginter Botanic Gardens, which has a children’s garden with a splash pond.

Another major local family attraction is Maymont. “It’s a 100-acre estate within city limits, focused on nature programming for children,” Bagnell says. “There’s an Italian garden, a Japanese garden, and a bamboo maze.”

Jones agrees that Richmond is great for raising children. “It’s a very family-friendly city,” he says. “You can walk to restaurants, and it has a great proximity to the beach and to Washington, D.C. It’s a great place to live. It’s great to be here, and it’s great to enjoy the broader area.”

That broader area has plenty of places to eat. “We’re one of the best foodie towns in the region,” DeBerry says. “There is a corridor in downtown Richmond where there are no chain restaurants allowed.”

Even though Richmond is an attractive place to live, housing costs aren’t sky-high. “Richmond is a little more moderate in terms of the housing market,” says Guye. “It’s probably more consistent with what the national median or norm is. Certainly it’s way cheaper than D.C. or New York.”

One unique feature of Richmond is the James River, which divides the city—and offers rafting on class-four rapids right downtown.

On both sides of the river, homebuyers and renters can choose from distinct neighborhoods. Jones, a historic architecture buff, says, “The city has rich history with preserved architecture. It has become vibrant, eclectic.” Bagnell concurs: “We’re a historic city—over 400 years old. There is beautiful historic architecture, and there are lots of new properties being built.”



Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs may be a winter wonderland with skiing and snowboarding, but it still has year-round sunshine.

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Winter 2016


As he planned for his future, Gregory Carlson, M.D., knew two things for certain: He wanted to be a surgeon, and he wanted to raise kids in an athletic, outdoorsy environment. He got his wish. Carlson is now a vascular surgeon at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.

Vascular surgery was in Carlson’s blood (no pun intended). His father had also been a vascular surgeon, so Carlson knew the job’s variety and challenge would suit him. “I always wanted to go into surgery because of the variety in your day,” he says. “I was attracted to vascular surgery because it was challenging and evolving.”

Carlson grew up in Denver and attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. After residency in Massachusetts, he returned to his home state, this time to Colorado Springs. “There were not a lot of barriers to starting my career here,” he says. “I got in with a group of good doctors and joined a private practice.”

After that, Carlson joined Memorial Hospital as a vascular surgeon. When he started there, Memorial Hospital was a large, private, for-profit hospital. Over the past few years, University of Colorado Health acquired Memorial along with four other community hospitals.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Carlson says this change benefited patient care. He explains, “When the hospital transitioned, it brought an opportunity to physicians to step up and meet the community’s needs.”

University of Colorado Health is one of the city’s two major health care employers.

“We are proud to have Memorial Hospital as part of our health system,” says Kelley Hekowczyk, physician recruitment manager for University of Colorado Health. “The hospital is a 500-plus-bed facility, and over 100 beds are dedicated to the Children’s Hospital of Colorado.” According to Hekowczyk, Memorial Hospital Central manages 320 open heart surgeries and over 100,000 ER visits each year, making it the busiest ER in Colorado.

“We have three CAT scanners, a PET scanner and an intraoperative CT scanner in the OR. We have 12 da Vinci robots, which perform robotic surgery primarily for gynecology and urology patients, as well as an O-arm [a surgical imaging system] that we use for spinal work for neurosurgeons. We have a 37-bed stroke unit.”

Memorial Hospital Central also has 11 operating rooms, 36 ICU beds and five isolation rooms. These certainly keep the 800 physicians on staff busy.

In northern Colorado Springs sits Memorial Hospital North, also a part of University of Colorado Health. “Memorial Hospital North operates more like a community hospital,” Hekowczyk says. “Patients needing more acute care will go to Memorial Hospital Central.”

Hekowczyk is hard at work bringing newcomers to Colorado Springs. She is actively recruiting for primary care, as well as a full range of positions, such as trauma surgeons interested in the growing trauma center. According to Hekowczyk, administrators are focused on strengthening this program. “We are currently a Level II facility. We are actively working to become a Level I Trauma Center.”

Another big player in Colorado Springs is Penrose-St. Francis, a part of Centura Health that includes Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center, which together offer 522 beds.

“St. Francis Medical Center houses our women’s services: women’s, OB/GYN, and also orthopedics, pediatrics and general surgery. We’re also a Level III trauma center,” says physician recruiter Susan Jenkins. “Penrose focuses on cardiothoracics, vascular, and also some orthopedic. We’re a Level II trauma center.” Penrose-St. Francis has also been named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals by Healthgrades for the past eight years, and is southern Colorado’s only Magnet Recognized hospital. Penrose’s hybrid OR is attractive to their surgical specialists. Their clinics are all based on the patient-centered medical home model—and are either accredited or on their way to becoming accredited.

“We are recruiting for everything,” Jenkins says. “We have a huge need for primary care, but we are also growing our orthopedics service line. We have embedded behavioral health in our primary care clinics.”

Colorado mountains

There are plenty of activities for outdoorsy families in Colorado Springs.

Medical opportunities aren’t the only things that draw physicians to Colorado Springs. Hekowczyk says the call of the great outdoors also plays a role. “We attract outdoorsy people,” she says. “We have four seasons of outdoor activities.”

Carlson certainly takes advantage of this in his free time. When he’s not treating patients, he hikes, bikes and skis. “This is a great place if you like outdoor sports,” he says. “There is sunshine almost every day. It’s also a fantastic place to raise kids. There are safe streets and bike paths. It’s the right size small city with lots of culture.”

“It’s a great place to live and practice,” Jenkins concurs. “Colorado Springs is very livable. It has lots to offer, including a thriving cultural arts scene and lots of college level sports. We have three colleges in town: Colorado College, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Professional sports are just up the road in Denver.”

Colorado Springs native Chelsy Offutt is director of communications for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Waking up to the gorgeous Colorado Rockies and Pikes Peak is pretty hard to compete with,” Offutt says. “The panorama is a draw. The mountains are visible from anywhere in town. We are well-known for the easy access to outdoors. We’ve been on lots of magazines’ top lists for everything from safest community to most active community to how to raise an outdoorsy kid.”According to Offutt, Colorado Springs’ most popular place to hike is Pikes Peak, also know as America’s Mountain because it inspired “America the Beautiful.” People also hike the Barr Trail, and the mountains offer other attractions for those who don’t hike. “Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is America’s only mountain zoo,” Offutt says, explaining that this makes it very different from the typical zoo. “It’s built into the mountainside, and they spend a lot of energy on conservation and making sure the animals have really beautiful, realistic habitats.”Offutt also recommends the kid-friendly Colorado Springs Science Center and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

In Carlson’s neighborhood, he reports, “We counted that there are 31 kids between the ages of 2 and 16. We have block parties, and we have a yearly back-to-school campout for all the kids who live on the cul-de-sac. There are always kids running around the neighborhood, and it’s nice to see parents around, too. You get to know everyone. It’s a fantastic place to live.”




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