Live & Practice: The Great Outdoors 2020

By Liz Funk | Live & Practice | Summer 2020

 

Residency in Greenville led to Adam Scher, M.D., and his family building their lives there. – Photo by Red Apple Tree Photography

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of peace and calm outside, underneath the wide sky. The noise and stimulation of the health care workplace—the beeping, the phones ringing, all the people—feels a world away. That’s why many physicians opt to live in areas where they have easy access to the great outdoors: for rest and relief. For others, the great outdoors presents an entirely different (and louder) slate of activities: outdoor sports to the enjoyment of both the athletes and the onlookers.

In Reno, Nevada, physicians enjoy the sunny, dry weather that is conducive to getting outside year-round. Chattanooga, Tennessee, was built around the Tennessee River where open swimming and a lively riverfront boardwalk provide year-round entertainment. Indianapolis, Indiana, is most known for car racing and, for a little less horsepower, cycling. In Greenville, South Carolina, golf is available practically year-round, and nature lovers can marvel at the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Greenville, South Carolina

Located in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, Greenville is equidistant between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina. This corner of the state—the greater Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson area—is often referred to as “the Upstate” of South Carolina. Greenville is a lively small city with a vibrant downtown area, and total wilderness is just a short drive away.

When Adam Scher, M.D., first visited Greenville to interview for his residency, something just clicked. It was winter, and he ate downtown at a BBQ restaurant. He walked outside to the quaint street lit up with Christmas lights. “It was like a Hallmark movie,” Scher said. He called his then-girlfriend (now wife) back in New York City, raving about Greenville. “You are not going to believe this place,” he said. Scher grew up on Long Island and was in the mood for a change.

Says Scher’s wife, Taryn: “My thinking at the time was, ‘OK, worst case scenario, it’s a three-year commitment.’ Within a week, that was it. I was all in.”

Today, Taryn is so passionate about Greenville that she manages PR for Visit Greenville, one of her accounts at her public relations firm, TK PR. “My feeling on Greenville is, ‘You really can’t pack your bags fast enough,’” she says. “It’s a wonderful place to live and work. We came from a really big city, and we were nervous that we were going to miss out on the amenities. This did not turn out to be the case. Greenville is a small town, but we still have touring Broadway shows—Hamilton is coming through soon. We have James Beard-nominated restaurants. We have food festivals, art festivals, and it’s really affordable.”

In addition to a bustling health care community, both BMW and Michelin Tires have their headquarters nearby. The companies’ suppliers set up camp close to these headquarters, so there is industry humming away and steady job opportunity. Thus, there are often transplants moving to the area and getting acclimated to Greenville.

Taryn Scher says that community members like to volunteer and plan events, which makes it easier for new residents to become part of the community. There is also an entrepreneurial spirit fostered by local business owners who are collaborative and passionate.

Says Adam Scher: “If you walk around downtown Greenville, you probably wouldn’t feel like you were in a small southern town. You’d feel like you were in the ‘new south’ or metro south. But drive out 10, 20, 30 miles, and you’ll see farmland and forests.”

The Schers have built their lives in Greenville. Adam completed his three-year residency through Prisma Health-Upstate (at the time, the health system was called Greenville Health System) and then joined Prisma Health-Upstate’s outpatient internal medicine practice. Prisma Health-Upstate offers 19 residency programs. The University of South Carolina School of Medicine is located within Greenville Memorial Hospital (also owned by Prisma).

Scher’s group practice is called Cypress Internal Medicine. It’s located on the campus for Prisma Health Greer Memorial Hospital. Says Adam Scher, “Within our hospital system, the buildings and the structures are just beautiful. It looks like a hotel with a shopping mall. My practice is at the second biggest satellite campus in the area for Prisma.”

Says Hannah Sandberg, a physician recruiter for Prisma Health, “Across all eight campuses, Prisma Health Upstate employs 16,000 people, including over 1,200 physicians on staff.” The system is licensed for 1,627 beds across eight campuses.

Greenville Memorial Hospital, the health system’s flagship hospital in the area, is licensed for 814 beds. Greenville Memorial has the only comprehensive stroke center in the Upstate and also has a children’s emergency room. The maternity ward delivers 6,000 babies a year.

Sandberg is currently recruiting for “a little bit of everything: internal medicine, primary care, internal medicine specialties, emergency medicine, surgery, radiology and psychiatry.”

Adam Scher recommends that physicians in the mood for a change consider Greenville, not just for its quality of life, but also for the opportunity. “Our hospital system is really big, and then there are two other hospital systems in the Greenville-Spartanburg area,” he says. “There are tons of job opportunities. It’s an incredible medical community down here.”

When the Scher family has downtime, they tend to head to the great outdoors. “We love driving around the mountains or taking the kids to the golf course and putting them in the golf cart.”

Taryn Scher encourages those considering moving to Greenville to look at the Visit Greenville website and check out the events page to get a sense of how much is going on and what kinds of activities there are. Says Taryn: “It’s the best possible mix of everything in one. It’s a little hidden gem. I’m dumbfounded that more people aren’t here.”

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Tennessee River runs through and around Chattanooga, a city of 180,000 in southeast Tennessee. Chattanooga is home to a large research university, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, as well as a health system that is investing in neurology research and state-of-the-art patient treatment. It is a scenically beautiful place for physicians to practice medicine and sharpen their skills.

“While practicing in Nashville, I spent some weekends in Chattanooga exploring the natural beauty of eastern Tennessee,” says neurologist James Fleming, M.D. Fleming heard the Erlanger Health System was doing innovative work in a dedicated neuroscience center, so he decided to interview. “I found a visionary program serving a population with unmet needs in a city I already enjoyed. There was no need to overthink it,” says Fleming. Fleming practices at the Erlanger Neuroscience Institute, the largest and most comprehensive neurology practice and research center in the southeastern region.

Fleming grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky. He was a first-generation college graduate when he finished his degree at Kentucky Wesleyan University and was accepted to the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. But first, he wanted to make time for a unique academic adventure.

Fleming says, “I asked for two years to pursue interests in bioethics and philosophy, leading me to Yale and then the London School of Economics where I completed a master’s degree. Then I returned to Kentucky, completed medical school, and headed off to Nashville to finish my internship and neurology residencies at Vanderbilt.”

He ended up at The Erlanger Neuroscience Institute, unique for its cutting-edge approach to neuroscience and its full range of patient care, particularly given that it is not located in a major metropolis.

Susanna Edmonson, a recruiter for Erlanger, says, “Erlanger is a health system that operates seven hospitals with a total of 950 acute care beds in Chattanooga.” She is actively recruiting for primary care, cardiology, pulmonary/critical care, OB/GYN, urology, endocrinology and neurology. Erlanger’s flagship hospital, Erlanger Baroness Hospital, is an academic teaching hospital located in downtown Chattanooga. It has a Level I trauma center and a Level IV NICU.

“Erlanger is also academically affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga,” says Edmonson. “Erlanger is the clinical practice site for around 190 residents and fellows each year. We also see around 240 medical students from the University of Tennessee Medical School (located in Memphis) rotate through our facilities.”

Edmonson says that Chattanooga is a great place to live and practice, whether you are just starting out or starting to eye retirement. “Chattanooga is a vibrant mid-size city with a friendly, southern culture that appeals to all backgrounds and ages,” she says.

Says Marissa Bell, the public relations manager for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau: “We are a great outdoor city with a lot of options within a close distance. It makes a great quality of life. We have a walkable, livable downtown and a great culinary scene. All that’s going on makes people feel at home and feel like part of a community.” Taking in the great outdoors is also part of the local culture, says Bell. “Chattanooga centers around everything outdoors, which draws visitors from all over. Within Chattanooga and the surrounding area, you can find hiking trails, camping, fishing, golf, hang gliding, rock climbing and caving. Our temperate climate makes the outdoors accessible year-round.”

Chattanooga also draws an older group of transplants looking to retire somewhere with mild winters and beautiful scenery.

Fleming describes himself as “an avid mountain biker and outdoorsman.” Nature is integrated into Fleming’s day-to-day life, including his commute over the Tennessee River. “My commute lasts only minutes and takes me over a beautiful bridge built at the turn of the last century,” he says.

Says Fleming, “Erlanger provides services to a large and grateful population not otherwise available in the area, particularly comprehensive stroke care. As a stroke neurologist, I am privileged to care for these folks.”

In fact, Fleming describes his diverse patient population as “like a Sunday afternoon in the park.” Fleming continues his metaphor: “We care for a racially and ethnically diverse crowd, including movers and shakers on cell phones, young families picnicking, adolescents getting into trouble, homelessness, and elderly resting on the bench. Basically we care for everybody, and I prefer it that way.”

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is experiencing a rebirth in its downtown. Hoosiers who want to get outdoors and get moving have great motivation: Indianapolis is considered one of the most bikeable cities in the country, and it’s an easy drive to nearby lakes and hiking paths.

When Kevin Gebke, M.D., was growing up on a farm in Illinois, he planned to become a veterinarian. “But I thought it would be better if my patients could tell me what was wrong,” he says. When he enrolled at Southern Illinois University, he was the first person in his family to go to college. Because he knew he wanted to be a physician, he didn’t have to do much soul-searching before enrolling in medical school in Chicago at the University of Illinois.

But things changed for this Illinois native when he went to Indianapolis. “I came to Indianapolis to Indiana University to do a one-year fellowship after my residency. My intention was to move back to Chicago. Twenty years later, I’m still in Indianapolis. There are great opportunities out here,” he says. Gebke is the vice president for community medicine at IU Health, as well as a family medicine academic department chair at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

IU Health also operates 50 advanced specialist practices and 50 outpatient clinics. IU Health’s flagship hospital is IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, licensed for 625 beds. IU Health operates 17 hospitals across Indiana and employs nearly 30,000 people across the state.

Gebke praises IU Health’s administration for encouraging internal medicine physicians to explore their professional passions or pursue dual specialties. Says Gebke: “We have family physicians who do lots of obstetrics. We have people who are pediatrics and sports medicine. We encourage people to figure out what your area of passion is so you can have a defined niche. And that can range and evolve because you have that full spectrum of family medicine.”

Indianapolis is on the rise. It is a city of 1 million residents and is the United States’ 13th largest city. What’s unique is that people are moving to downtown Indy. Says Morgan Snyder with Visit Indy, “We have the highest downtown residential occupancy that we’ve seen in our city.” Snyder says that part of the city’s appeal is that it’s tight-knit, despite its size. “There’s always something—festivals or community events—going on, so people can get to know their neighbors,” she says.

“One of the coolest things is that while you’re in this vibrant city, you can reach lakes and hiking trails. It’s an extremely bike-friendly destination.”

Gebke is a “Hoosier” through and through. And “I have four Hoosiers of my own,” he says. “They are 17, 15, 13 and 10. Indianapolis is a really good place to raise a family. There are amazing opportunities and options for schools. There are public schools that offer great accelerated programs and AP classes.” Plus, for Gebke, his commute is a cakewalk compared to when he lived and worked in Chicago. Gebke says, “Indianapolis has the big city amenities without the traffic jams. Any commute from any corner of the city to another corner of the city doesn’t take more than 30 minutes.”

Says Snyder: “Overall, you won’t find another city as welcoming, affordable, or approachable as Indy. It’s a humble city with great momentum for the future.”

Reno, Nevada

Reno, Nevada, holds unique appeal: It’s close to the west coast, but it is not the west coast. It’s a unique region that appeals greatly to those who love to get outside in relatively temperate winters or sunny summers. In fact, Reno has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year. Physicians also tend to appreciate Reno’s close proximity to Lake Tahoe, a 22-mile-long scenic lake with sandy beaches on the California/Nevada border. Lake Tahoe is a beloved vacation destination for families and Los Angeles celebrities alike (think: glamping).

Matthew Gordon, M.D., is a PracticeLink success story. When he was looking for his next opportunity, he looked on PracticeLink.com and connected with Kim Crandell, the director of business development at Carson Tahoe Health, in Carson City, Nevada. Gordon would eventually see the beauty of the region and the modern atmosphere at Carson Tahoe Health facilities. But before his site visit, what piqued Gordon’s interest in this opportunity were the conversations he had with Crandell.

“His friendliness and his laid-back attitude truly made me want to visit. I liked Kim immediately because he was not pushy,” says Gordon. Sometimes during job-search conversations, Gordon says, there is some pressure put on the physician. Gordon was impressed that Crandell wanted to get to know him and wanted him to get to know Reno.

“Carson Tahoe Health has been welcoming from square one. And they did a great job being welcoming and inclusive of my wife, who visited with me,” says Gordon. Once Gordon met the physician leaders, it was a done deal. Today, Gordon practices at an outpatient internal medicine clinic in South Reno, operated by Carson Tahoe Heath.

Carson Tahoe Health is a local, not-for-profit health system. Crandell says this foments an especially pleasant work environment. Says Crandell, “Management is really flat. Our last CEO was here for almost 25 years. We don’t have a lot of turnover, and we have a lot of consistency.” Crandell is recruiting for internal medicine, family medicine, cardiology, general cardiology, neurology and pulmonology/critical care.

Carson Tahoe Health operates 20 sites across Carson City and Reno. Carson Tahoe Health operates a long-term acute care hospital, a psych hospital with an inpatient psych unit, as well as their flagship, Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. There is a surgical hospital on the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center campus; they are technically distinct facilities all under one license. A source of pride for Carson Tahoe Health is the visual beauty of their facilities. Says Crandell, “The buildings and patient rooms are well-maintained, and it creates a really great atmosphere. We work hard to keep them up.”

Carson Tahoe Health is especially hospitable to international physicians. Says Crandell, “In Nevada, in our system, a J-1 visa is for a physician who is not a U.S. citizen. If a physician does their residency or fellowship training here in the U.S. and they want to stay, they have to get a company to sponsor them. We never use all of our slots, so we can bring anyone in anytime of year.”

Gordon is from Toronto, Canada, and his wife is from Milwaukee. “We are extreme outdoor enthusiasts,” says Gordon. “We love whitewater kayaking, downhill skiing, mountain climbing. When we flew out here for an interview, we landed at night. I got up in the morning, and I couldn’t believe how mountainous it was.”

“People often think of Nevada and think that it’s all desert. But there are rivers and bodies of water that flow down from Lake Tahoe,” says Ben McDonald, senior communications manager for Visit Reno Tahoe.

In fact, Reno is a popular destination for kayaking enthusiasts, with a whitewater river that runs through the city.

Says McDonald, “In the warmer months, that’s one of the things that brings lots of people here to visit. It kicks off in May with the Reno River Festival. It’s a national kayaking competition right in the heart of downtown Reno.”

McDonald echoes that heading outdoors is a big part of life in Reno. “There is skiing, fishing, snowboarding, trail riding, mountain biking and rock climbing. Lake Tahoe has beautiful sandy beaches around the 72 miles of the lake.”

Another advantage to exploring opportunities in Reno is the substantial professional opportunity for physicians’ spouses. “We have a giant, behemoth technology park just a little bit outside of Reno,” says Crandell. “It’s the largest industrial park in the U.S.; both Tesla and Google have offices there. It’s hard to explain how big this place is. This campus employs a lot of people. We’re seeing a lot of growth in Reno mainly due to that, and that helps everything else grow.”

Indeed, Reno may be approaching its moment of sudden expansion, like Austin, Denver and Portland before it. Says Gordon, “Reno is having a real up-and-coming moment. It’s the best-kept secret. Sometimes I’m tempted to say, ‘Oh, don’t come to Reno, you wouldn’t like it.’” The high quality of life and affordable housing is a major perk. “There is lot of new development, especially new housing developments, and you can have beautiful views from the houses. My wife and I have a house we love, and I have a cabin in back with a wood-burning stove, so I can relax by fire,” says Gordon. That still counts as enjoying the great outdoors, right?

 

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