Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.
Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.

CV prep

History of healing

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This stiff level of competition discourages outside corporate HMOs from even getting a toehold against Centra’s all-inclusive PHO (known as Piedmont Community Health Plan) this decade. “Mainly, we want to protect our patients’ right to choose their doctor. We don’t want them dictated to,” says Mary Ann Tucker, executive director of Lynchburg Academy of Medicine, a component of the
Medical Society of Virginia. Medicare nd Medicaid, of course, do have doctor lists for their enrollees, but the restrictions stop there.

“When we get calls from companies looking to relocate, sometimes the executive will say, ‘We participate in such-and-such HMO.’ I reply, ‘That’s the same thing as telling me you’re wanting to bring a union in here!” Thompson laughs.

Economy: Stable and Growing

Economic stability is no joking matter in Lynchburg. As Mayor Druie L. “Pete” Warren detailed in his State of the City Address this year, unemployment rates hover at the 2.5 percent rate—among the lowest in the nation. Political leaders attribute this milestone to conservative planning that has attracted Frito-Lay and Tessy Plastics to join Ericsson, Wynn Precision, Weyerhaeuser, National TeleMarketing Services, and GE Capital Services as major employers. The new 450-acre Lynchpin Industrial Center promises additional growth. In fact, companies like Ericsson, Crown Simplimatic, and M&I Data invested $64.9 million dollars in the community in 1998 and added 550 new jobs. Since 1988, more than 11,000 new jobs have come on line in the area, with less than 10 percent
of the labor force card-carrying union members.

A growing work force equals a healthy patient load for Dr. Gail Ganser, a pediatric and neuro- ophthalmologist who joined the Piedmont Eye Center in February 1998. A single woman who received her medical degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and completed
fellowships in Miami and Iowa City, Ganser was footloose to choose any place that struck her fancy. Lynchburg won in large part because she found the medical community of 300 doctors large enough to represent all specialties yet still small enough to foster physician relationships and collegiality.
In just 12 months, she has met each of her fellow physicians at least once.

“And I’ve really been impressed with the cases referred to me,” Ganser says. “I’m constantly sent challenging cases, and rarely do I need to send a patient out of town for any advanced testing or
evaluation. Lynchburg has the diagnostic equipment I need for most cases.” Ganser also ranks physicians’ input into Centra Health’s direction as a plus.

She cautions that those who crave a fast-paced lifestyle might not adapt well to Lynchburg’s overall atmosphere, but it’s an asset for her. “The more I’m in this relaxed environment, the more I
appreciate how important it is to me as an individual,” she says. “Training is always so hectic for everyone, and yet some people just move right into a hectic job somewhere. Certainly I see a big
change in how I feel overall—my happiness and security—since I moved here.”

Thompson, who has lived in Lynchburg most of her adult life, agrees. “We’re an old city, and we have to talk about things a long time. But we get there,” she says. Indeed, the city that sprung up in 1757,
thanks to a ferry service established by Charles Lynch, has enjoyed a colorful past. Although it wasn’t incorporated as a town until 1805, it already boasted a tobacco warehouse, stores, homes, taverns, a church, and even a Masonic Lodge. Thomas Jefferson even built a second home, Poplar Forest, on the western reaches of the growing community. A contemporary mansion, “Point of Honor,” also stands in Lynchburg. This mansion was the home of Dr. George Cabell, Sr., who counted among his patients the Revolutionary War orator Patrick Henry.

Throughout the 19th century, with the help of the James River which flows through the city,  Lynchburg established its reputation as a progressive Southern transportation hub with an innovative water works system. In the years after Reconstruction, the region reaped prosperity from the iron works, blast furnaces, and steel mills which blossomed into the manufacturing atmosphere
the city enjoys today.

Among the community projects taking shape in 1999 is a renovation movement to restore historic buildings along the river, one of which will include a new children’s museum. Lynchburg also hopes to achieve membership as a “Community of Promise” in General Colin Powell’s national program for
youth, and develop a new $11 million four-mile stretch of highway.


Julie Sturgeon

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