The Great Outdoors

Live & Practice | Summer 2017

 

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

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

Glens Falls, New York

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

Chris Mason, D.O.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Columbus, Mississippi

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

John Reed, M.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangor, Maine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anchorage, Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saupe agrees that there are plenty of outdoor activities.

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

 

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