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.”

 

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