Community Spirit: High on Compassion
Opened in late 1998, the Johnson Health Center is the brainchild of Centra Health officials. To discourage people who don’t have a personal doctor from misusing the hospital’s emergency room, the organization funds an 800-square-foot facility to serve as a downtown primary-care center. Patients benefit from contact with a doctor who gets to know them rather than their momentary
illness. “And they didn’t just slap up a cinderblock building and put a door on it. This is a beautiful brick Colonial building,” Thompson notes.
To run this new clinic, Centra officials chose Lynchburg native son Dr. Peter Houck. A pediatrician, Houck agreed to accept the reins as the clinic’s medical director after 28 years in practice here. “What attracted me most was that I wouldn’t just be a doctor seeing patients in the downtown area,” Houck
explains. “I’m being asked to develop programs that will benefit the community.” And true to the spirit of the physician for whom the clinic is named—Dr. R. Walter Johnson, an African- American who practiced 30 years in the area and trained tennis great Arthur Ashe—Johnson Health Center defines community beyond medical situations.
That’s why Houck’s Stars for Success initiative tickles his sense of accomplishment. The first group to attend this computer/life skills program are teen-age moms who need the boost to their employment marketability. Lynchburg College provides the computer training; Alliance for Families supplies the resumé, dress for success, and job interview instruction; the Junior League of Lynchburg springs for
babysitting services for the students’ infants.
“We’re the envy of most people in the state as they deal with the HMO and managed-care turf wars,” Houck says. “While I can’t scientifically say that Lynchburg is the ideal community in the nation because I don’t have all the data, I do know from talking to others in the state that we’ve done a
good job of working together as a medical community to provide the services patients need.”
That made all the difference in the world to Drs. Robert and Stephanie chose Lynchburg to raise their family. Stephanie came from the still smaller town of Camden, South Carolina; Robert from Georgia, so they narrowed their job search in the summer of 1997 to the South. Lynchburg’s F. Read Hopkins practice was the final place they interviewed. “It was an automatic click for us. We didn’t even have to do a second look. We just knew it,” she recalls. Again, it was the professional congeniality that clinched the couple’s decision.
“When an idea comes to mind—as in hey, this is something we’re missing— lots of citizens in the community rally around and make things happen,” Stephanie Sullivan says.
“Physicians are very well treated in this town; there’s a lot of support for us,” she says. “I don’t know how to define that, it’s just something you feel in little things.” The Sullivans feel those little things strongly enough that they both are relocating their parents to Lynchburg to enjoy retirement with
the couple’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter and six-month-old son.
Fun outdoors and in
Neither side of the family put up much resistance. Because Lynchburg sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking—ophthalmologist Ganser’s activity of choice—skiing, fishing, and boating opportunities abound. Wintergreen Resort provides what Skiing Magazine labels “the best advanced terrain” in the Mid-Atlantic region while Smith Mountain Lake yields more than 20,000 acres of water surface and 500 miles of shoreline. Both are within a 45-minute drive. And because Lynchburg falls at what locals call “the fine weather line,” the city’s temperatures are mild with little snow in the winter. Fall brings glorious color to the region, along with visitors to gaze at Mother Nature’s painting.