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 PGA.com.

“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.”

 

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