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.
“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.
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.