This physician decided
This physician decided

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Community profile: Southern Delaware

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Rehoboth Beach
A mile-long boardwalk, bandstand and family-friendly fun beckon crowds to Rehoboth Beach.

Endocrinologist Francisco Padilla, M.D., considered himself a big-city guy, having lived in them all his life.

But as his fellowship at UConn Health Center ended and he began his job search, he signed up for PracticeLink and received a call shortly after from an in-house recruiter from Nanticoke Health Services in Seaford, Delaware.

Shortly after the call—and now five years later—Padilla his wife, internist Sandra Palavecino, M.D., and their two children are ensconced in Southern Delaware.

Safe and friendly Southern Delaware

“First, it’s safe,” Padilla says of the area. “It’s good to have my kids live in a place where they can play outside without having to worry. Everyone knows everybody. And working in a small hospital is nice. I know the hospital president and the network president, so we can interact. You can be more familiar and close with the administration.”

That close relationship is one benefit Padilla has found in making the move from big city to small—a move that gave him the ability to grow a department.

“If you go to a big hospital where there’s already an endocrine department established, you just have to get plugged into the department,” he says. “But when you go to a small hospital, you get the opportunity to build something from the ground up.”

There are several examples of innovative services pioneered in Delaware and, in some cases, in the entire Mid-Atlantic region, by the hospital and its practitioners.

Nanticoke Memorial: a hidden gem

“We’re kind of a hidden gem here,” says Nanticoke Memorial marketing director Sharon Harrington. “We’re a smaller hospital, but we have a whole lot of things going on.”

The same can be said for Seaford itself. When Padilla’s not busy with his expanding department, he is an avid bicyclist. Water also plays a role in his family’s life: His wife enjoys paddleboarding and his kids like to kayak.

“Summer is very active here for the beaches,” he says.

On the other side of Sussex County, 35 miles east, Lewes, Delaware, sits on one of those beaches—a resort town where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

“In the summertime, it gets pretty crowded with vacationers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and D.C. taking their one-week beach-rental vacations,” says Julie Holmon, M.D. “So we’ll often head out to do big-city things. We’re in this little oasis, but we’re not too far from major cities, even New York.”

She’s happy to be a permanent resident in “a safe, relaxed environment with farms and beaches influencing (our children’s) lives.” Not to mention the work satisfaction for Holmon, who is medical director of the hospitalist program, which started 10 years ago at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes and now has a staff of 20—and the search is on for more.

Holmon was recently named the Best Hospitalist for 2015 by the Delaware chapter of the American College of Physicians. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, Holmon and her attorney husband, Chris, headed east, where she earned her medical degree at Johns Hopkins University, followed by residencies at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware, and Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington.

Her plan was to practice internal medicine and pediatrics, and she soon signed on with a physician in nearby Milton.

She was already familiar with Beebe due to a residency rotation, and she loved the area. “I was also struck by how innocent the children were whom I was seeing (at the doctor’s office),” Holmon says. “Even girls as old as 12 and 13 were still climbing trees, in the 4-H Club and playing sports. They were not smoking and dating and things like that. I thought it was wonderful that they seemed to grow up slower down here than where I grew up in California and where I trained in Baltimore and Wilmington.”

Outdoor activities of Southern Delaware

Holmon has discovered bountiful outdoor activities available for her own children, a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. She’s been especially pleased with the number of small-group beach nature camps with different nature themes.

In addition, Holmon notes, “My kids have been taking sailing lessons since they were 5.”

The great outdoors also caters to adults. Fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and hunting are very popular, but Holmon’s personal favorite is bicycling on a nature trail that extends from Lewes to Rehoboth. “It’s a great way to get to Rehoboth Beach without getting on any highways,” she says. Rehoboth is the area’s best-known and most popular of five public shore locations in the area. Adding to the oceanfront ambience are two nearby state parks, fine dining and a variety of specialty boutiques.

Not surprisingly, with its huge waterfront, the city is a popular boating center with a good number of docking slips.

Meanwhile, at Beebe Healthcare, action is going full speed ahead, not only with physicians and the newest equipment to provide high-quality care, but also with efforts to bring care closer to where patients live and programs to help them maintain good health, and of course provide top-notch care when needed. The mix includes a cancer center complete with state-of-the-art equipment.

In other areas, president and CEO Jeffrey Fried points out, “We’re targeting high-risk patients with chronic conditions, trying to set up a safety net so they can be treated quickly.” Outpatient walk-in care is also available in many county locations.

An electrophysiology capability has recently been introduced to correct heart arrhythmias. In line with that effort, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease will soon begin at the Beebe Health Campus in Rehoboth.

Self-care in Sussex County

Julie Holmon MD
Julie Holmon, M.D., has discovered plenty of outdoor opportunities for her family in southern Delaware. “My kids have been taking sailing lessons since they were 5,” she says.

As for patient self-care, Fried notes the Healthier Sussex County Initiative started in 2012. It’s designed to engage area residents to do more to take care of themselves. “The goal,” he says, “is to make Sussex County the healthiest county in the country.”

Also helping the area’s health needs is a new Bayhealth hospital slated for groundbreaking soon in Milford, known as the Gateway to Southern Delaware.

The Bayhealth team is actively recruiting new providers in preparation for the forthcoming, totally new 150-bed facility. That means all new equipment and technology, too—“they’re not bringing anything over,” says senior physician recruiter Marc Powell, who is based in Bayhealth’s Dover facility, Kent General Hospital, about 20 miles north.

At the top of the state is Wilmington, the state’s largest city. The Christiana Care Health System is headquartered there, a major teaching facility that includes two full-service hospitals with a total of 1,100 beds. It’s the largest private employer in the state. It also hosts a number of forward-looking agendas to build its reputation as a center of innovation, both in medical advances and care regimens. It’s recognized as a regional center for excellence in cardiology, cancer and women’s services.

Among its more “humanistic” programs are the Value Institute and Lean Six Sigma Training, the first striving to develop care improvements at affordable costs, and the second to increase the quality of care by upgrading employee knowledge and skills. On the lighter side, Musicians on Call is a Wednesday-afternoon program in which instrumental and vocal artists go to patient rooms, using their skills as a way of cheering patients.

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Eileen Lockwood

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