WHO: Paul Pelletier, M.D., a native of Wallagrass, Maine, was recruited to Eagle Lake Health Center in 1990. Pelletier is the medical director and is board certified in family practice. He graduated from Tulane University Medical School in 1986 and completed his residency at the University of Kentucky in 1990.
WHERE: Eagle Lake, Maine, is in Aroostook County in northern Maine. It is 247 miles north of Portland, Maine, 345 miles north of Boston and just 16 miles south of the Canadian border. As well as its beauty characterized by rugged, sloping terrain, it offers an exceptional quality of life. There are four seasons of recreational opportunities, a low crime rate and abundant natural resources.
What is the history of the Eagle Lake Health Center?
There was a hospital opened by the Franciscan Nuns in 1930. In fact, there was a book written about the practice in the 50s called Green Wood and Chloroform (by Anthony Betts, M.D.; published in 1998). It is about a young English doctor who settled in rural Maine. It has a lot of stories about the town of Eagle Lake. The history of the Eagle Lake Health Center begins around 1978 as a nonprofit. It’s been here ever since.
We do more than just medical care. We have dental care, mental health, podiatry and home visitation services, which is a support program for expectant mothers and mothers of young children. It comes close to 30 people. Rural health care and education are big employers, not just in Eagle Lake. However, we no longer have a hospital here. The original hospital that started in the 30s is now a nursing home.
What’s the community like?
It has a population of 1,000 people. It’s small, but there are smaller towns in the area. The major industries are tourism and logging. It’s primarily Franco-American. There are a number of French-speaking people.
The hospital is 20 miles away, which is in Fort Kent, a town of 5,000 people. The nearest specialty care is in Bangor, 180 miles away.
As a community health center, it serves the underserved. That is its primary role. However, being the only health facility in town, it serves the entire town, which would otherwise be underserved. Patients would have to travel 20 miles to the nearest primary care physician.
Are you currently recruiting?
We are; however we have not been successful. The biggest draw for physicians would be the ability to practice to your full potential. You can practice the scope of family medicine. The other niche that would be interesting for a recruit is that in this area we see multi-generational families. Not just parents and children, but grandparents and great-grandparents. On occasion, even great-great-grandparents. We have up to five generations that use the facility, which is probably pretty unique.
What would be advantages to physicians who might be interested in coming here?
A full spectrum of medical practice for primary care. A rural environment and a good relationship with patients who really appreciate your services. Also, there are great people to work with in the health care community as well as the community in general. There are rural outdoor activities including the biathlon and dogsledding.
What is it like to work in your position?
There’s really no average day. Eight hours in the office and then maybe the hospital or nursing home. Perhaps doing deliveries or taking care of sick children. I live between Fort Kent and Eagle Lake. However, it’s gotten much easier now that there’s a hospitalist at Fort Kent. I miss more of the hospital practice but at this point in my career, I’m fine with giving up the adult inpatient medicine. I do, however, still do hospital practice for obstetrics and pediatrics.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
There are a lot of towns and communities around here that are unique. Another thing that attracts some people is the ability to practice a full range of medicine such as cardiology, minor surgery, adult medicine, ICU to nursing home. You can do as much as you feel comfortable doing. The need is here. The relative remoteness of the practice attracts some people; it also discourages some people. The best part of the practice is dealing with the patients. I like the interaction with the patients and their families.