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Live & Practice: Tennis Towns

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A love for tennis comes with countless options. Indoor or outdoor? Social or competitive? Spectator, singles or doubles? Fortunately, these cities—which boast great opportunities for physicians—offer everything a tennis aficionado could ever want. From a casual game at a new, state-of-the-art facility to match point in paradise, tennis players will love these locations and all the other career and lifestyle benefits that come with them.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Stillwater has been called America’s friendliest college town. As home to Oklahoma State University and Stillwater Medical Center, the city of just under 50,000 boasts a strong sense of community. It’s not just the city that receives accolades, though; Stillwater Medical Center has been named one of the “Top 100 Places to Work in Healthcare” for seven years in a row. With access to a highly educated patient population, as well as abundant athletic and cultural opportunities, physicians can find a great work-life balance in Stillwater.

As a surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center, Cara Pence, M.D., is able to both practice medicine and participate in medical missions in her spare time. -photo by Josh Dean
As a surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center, Cara Pence, M.D., is able to both practice medicine and participate in medical missions in her spare time. -photo by Josh Dean

Cara Pence, M.D., knew she was meant to be a surgeon. Still, she wrestled with the decision. She attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Tulsa and intended to specialize in family practice and ultimately go on medical missions. She had not enjoyed her rotation in family practice, but she tried to dismiss her doubts.

Then, when Pence was on her surgery rotation, a patient who had been stabbed in the heart arrived in the emergency room. He needed his chest opened and sutures in his heart.

“I knew I was probably the lowest person on the totem pole in the room, but I ended up being able to hold and touch his heart, retracting and holding back lungs,” she says. The patient survived, and Pence says the experience stayed with her, even as she fought against surgery’s calling.

“I kept telling myself there was no way I could be a surgeon,” she says. “I thought I wouldn’t have time to be a wife, have a family or be a good mom and Christian.” Instead of pursuing surgery, she decided to go into pediatric neurology because her sister has cerebral palsy.

“I was a couple weeks away from starting my internship in Houston for pediatric neurology when I started to get sick to my stomach. I knew it wasn’t right.” As Pence recalls, she told her husband, Jared, she wanted to be a surgeon. He replied, “Yeah, I always knew you were going to be a surgeon.”

Six months later, Pence finally acknowledged that surgery was her calling.

Now, as a general surgeon at Stillwater Medical Center with the ability to go on medical missions in her spare time, Pence knows she is where she is meant to be. “I knew I wanted to work at a place with a supportive team atmosphere while also working with physicians that challenge me.” She says she knew without a doubt her colleagues at Stillwater Medical Center would foster that type of environment.

Because Stillwater Medical Center is a community hospital, there are also other benefits. “All decisions are made by local leadership, both on the management and board level. This allows us to have a cohesive medical team that makes the patients, not the bottom-line, the priority,” says Joy Haken, a recruiter at Stillwater Medical Center. Haken also notes the facility is “one of the few community-owned hospitals that has operating margins averaging 7.5 percent over the past five years,” indicating a strong sense of financial stability.

The 117-bed acute care general hospital serves patients across north-central Oklahoma, and is staffed by more than 1,200 employees and over 100 physicians. In addition to the hospital’s recurring awards for high employee satisfaction, the organization has also earned recognition for quality in patient performance and outstanding leadership.

According to Haken, Stillwater Medical Center also offers “the latest in technology so our patients don’t have to drive out of town to receive medical care,” with advancements that include robotic surgery, Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots and 3D mammography.

The hospital is currently recruiting for gastroenterology, internal medicine, hospitalist, interventional cardiology, invasive/noninvasive cardiology, psychiatry, pulmonology and emergency medicine. When Haken talks to prospective physicians, she highlights that Stillwater is a “small city with a small-town feel, with all the qualities of life that are needed for families to prosper,” including great schools, affordable housing and entertainment.

Cristy Morrison, president and CEO of Visit Stillwater, underscores the strength of the community in the small city.

“Stillwater is an extremely educated and tight-knit community,” Morrison says. “We are lucky to have great university and community relations that encourage graduates to remain a part of the community post-graduation, or visit throughout the year to attend cultural and athletics events.” The university is part of the Big 12 Conference, and the city also has the ability to accommodate regional and national NCAA events, as well as Pro-Ams in various sports.

Those who want to play or watch tennis are in luck, as the sport has become even more popular since the completion of the Michael & Anne Greenwood Tennis Center on the OSU campus. The 50,000 square foot center includes 12 outdoor lighted courts, as well as an indoor facility that houses six courts and can seat at least 350 spectators. According to Morrison, the center was “the only collegiate facility to receive recognition by the United States Tennis Facility with an ‘Outstanding Facility Award.’” Looking forward to 2020, the university will host the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Division I Tennis Championships.

Outdoor recreation, including golf, is also popular, as are cultural events like the Annual Stillwater Arts Festival, which, now in its 41st year, is one of the city’s longest-running events. There’s also the Calf Fry, a music festival featuring popular “red dirt” and country artists, the Land Run 100 bicycle race, the Stillwater Blues Festival and the Payne County Fair.

“The wonderful thing about Stillwater is that there is always something going on in town,” says Rachel Burnett, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce business services coordinator. “All ages can enjoy the culture of the town, while appreciating the food, music and fun offered by local community business and organizations.”

Pence says she loves living in Stillwater because of the people. “There is a special bond in this community, and we always step up to take care of each other. My kids love their schools, too! It’s a great place to raise a family.”

Honolulu, Hawaii

With great weather and beautiful vistas, it is not hard to find a reason to get outdoors for a tennis match in Honolulu. Located on the island of Oahu, Honolulu is known for its diverse population, its welcoming aloha spirit and its year-round moderate climate. Hawaii is known as one of the healthiest states in the country, but it also has an aging population, and physicians on the island interact with patients from many ethnicities and backgrounds.

Rajive Zachariah, M.D., an internal medicine physician, moved to Honolulu for his residency at the University of Hawaii. Now, he works at Straub Medical Center, which employs over 400 physicians and serves patients in more than 32 different medical specialties.

“Honolulu has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” he says.

The good vibes that result from great year-round weather and beautiful scenery make a strong case to physicians considering Hawaii, but that is not all that makes Honolulu special. According to Peggy Andes, a physician recruiter at Straub Medical Center, there is something different about Hawaii’s culture that makes it attractive to candidates.

“Hawaii is unique in that our population is a blend of many diverse cultures and ethnicities. The concept of the aloha spirit—and being kind, welcoming and good to one another—is something that resonates with candidates,” says Andes.

Straub Medical Center is serious about welcoming new members to their team, as Hawaii is currently experiencing a physician shortage. “We are always looking for physicians who are interested in making a difference, providing quality care and contributing to our mission,” says Andes. The organization is currently recruiting physicians for internal medicine, family medicine, neurology, otolaryngology, cardiology and urgent access.

The medical center, which is part of Hawaii Pacific Health, has 159 beds and includes a network of neighborhood clinics on Oahu, Lanai and the Big Island, as well as a visiting specialist program that reaches throughout the state. According to Andes, Straub Medical Center is also home to the Pacific region’s only multidisciplinary burn treatment center and has been on the forefront of bringing new technologies and innovative practices to Hawaii, including minimally invasive cardiac surgery and total joint replacement.

With Hawaii ranking as one of the healthiest states in the country, physicians in Honolulu focus on keeping their patients healthy, emphasizing prevention and proactive care. Because the state does have an aging population, there is also an emphasis on chronic disease management. Given the diversity among Hawaii’s population, physicians have the opportunity to interact with patients of many different backgrounds. When serious health issues arise, Straub’s specialists in bone and joint care, cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology and beyond are among the best in the state.

When it comes to lifestyle, physicians have it all in Hawaii, says Andes. “Our moderate climate offers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities year-round, like golf, hiking, surfing and many other water sports.” Physicians can even get their exercise on their commute to work, thanks to a recently launched city-wide bikeshare program that has a stop right next to Straub. (No fear, biking-averse: There is also a great public bus system.)

Of course, there is also tennis. The Hawaii Tennis Open, which falls around Thanksgiving, is a Women’s Tennis Association tournament sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. A relatively new event, it is only in its third year, but the world-class tennis draws a crowd.

There are also numerous tennis associations and clubs that offer opportunities for social tennis or competitive matches. The Aloha Tennis Association, the Diamond Head Tennis Center and the Beretania Tennis Club all offer a variety of different opportunities. Whether you want to play a leisurely game and meet new partners or compete in a tournament, you will find a fit among all of Honolulu’s facilities and organizations.

On the tennis court, encompassed by green space (as you are at the Diamond Head Tennis Center), it is easy to forget that a cosmopolitan city is steps away. Honolulu boasts an eclectic food scene, a shopper’s paradise, and stunning arts and culture landmarks. There is historic Pearl Harbor and iconic Waikiki Beach, as well as vibrant annual celebrations of the local arts and cultures, including Chinese New Year, Honolulu Festival, Mele Mei (a month-long celebration of Hawaiian music), the Ukulele Festival and many more.

Of course, there are lots of opportunities to soak up the beauty of nature, too.

In his time off, when he is not stand up paddle boarding or exploring a new hike, Zachariah says he sometimes likes to enjoy the view of Diamond Head—a defining feature of the landscape, whether you stand atop or below it—from one of Honolulu’s nice restaurants.

“I am reminded how lucky I am to be here every time I step outside,” he says.

Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic, which was recognized as the best hospital in the nation for 2017-2018 by U.S News & World Report. Devoted physicians, scientists and researchers all call Rochester home and can enjoy the relaxed community life that embodies the Minnesota way. With four distinct seasons, there are ample recreation opportunities whether it’s 20 or 80 degrees outside, including plenty of excellent outdoor and indoor tennis facilities.

Every two weeks, you can find pediatrician Angela Mattke, M.D., hosting a Facebook Live show called #AsktheMayoMom. As a pediatrician in the Division of Community Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, Mattke brings in experts to talk about topics relating to pediatric health, fielding live questions from viewers along the way.

“During my third-year pediatrics clerkship in medical school, I fell in love with pediatrics,” says Mattke. “Despite being exhausted, I was excited each morning for rounds. Practicing medicine in pediatrics energized me, and still does.”

As a born-and-raised Minnesotan, Mattke earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota, spending her first two years at the Duluth campus, where there is a special focus on producing primary care physicians dedicated to serving Minnesota’s communities.

When it came time to choose her residency program, Mattke says she was thrilled by the caliber of the education at Mayo Clinic. “The attending physicians—called consultants at Mayo Clinic—showed genuine interest in the education of their medical students and residents.”

“At Mayo Clinic, staff are surrounded by some of the most talented, experienced physicians in the world,” adds Amy Boxrud, director of physician recruitment at Mayo Clinic. “We have a strong culture of teamwork, professionalism and mutual respect where the needs of the patient always come first.”

Now, Mattke works collaboratively with other physicians to deliver the best outcomes for her patients, and it is one of the things she finds most rewarding about Mayo Clinic.

“The collaboration between medical providers—primary care, specialists, the whole care team—is what makes this place one-of-a-kind,” she says. “The needs of the patient truly come first.”

Mayo Clinic’s patient population is far-reaching, with over 1.3 million people from all 50 states and 136 countries visiting the center for care this year. The organization employs over 4,500 staff physicians and scientists and close to 59,000 administrative and allied health staff. Mayo’s extended campus comprises about 30 buildings, and the integrated medical center provides medical diagnosis and treatment in virtually every specialty.

Rochester, with a population of about 125,000, is “considered a smaller or medium-sized city with world-class health care,” says Brad Jones, executive director of Experience Rochester Minnesota. “Mayo Clinic is the community. Everything is integrated.”

According to Jones, Rochester provides plenty of opportunities for work-life balance, allowing physicians to “slide into a more relaxed community life” once they leave work.

“You don’t feel like you need to fly away to get away,” he says.

With its abundance of great schools and organized activities, the city is also known as a great place to raise families. “There’s always something to keep kids engaged,” says Jones.

The seasons in Minnesota are pronounced, and outdoor and indoor recreation activities abound regardless of the temperature outside. If you are looking to play tennis in February when a typical day is in the 20s, you can head to the Rochester Tennis Connection or the Rochester Athletic Club, both of which also have outdoor courts for when days turn warmer.

Even though Rochester is an urban area (with all the culture and benefits that go along with it), Mattke says she does not have to travel far to go hiking or biking with her family.

In the city, there are plenty of events to entice locals and visitors. Rochesterfest is the city’s annual gathering—a 10-day celebration in June that highlights the city’s people, places and food. In the heart of winter, there’s SocialICE, an outdoor ice bar experience (complete with bonfires) that celebrates the bold north. During the summer, there is a street festival every Thursday, which encourages locals to get outside and take in the good weather.

For those who need a dose of the big-city life, Minneapolis is not far away. Many who come to Rochester find the small city strikes a perfect note and has everything they want.

“People who move here, once they become ingrained in the community, they like it a lot,” says Jones.

“Rochester is a great place to live, thrive and raise a family,” adds Mattke. “The community is wonderful, and opportunities continue to develop.”

Allentown, Pennsylvania

The thriving Lehigh Valley is home to Allentown, where a major renaissance has occurred over the past several years. Featuring state-of-the-art athletic facilities, a vibrant food scene, and great schools, this city with a small-town feel is a great place for physicians to settle with their families. The Lehigh Valley Health Network has been ranked as one of the country’s top hospitals by U.S. News and World Report for 22 consecutive years, and physicians there are able to serve patients and provide excellent care that is fueled by progress and innovation.

In the mid 1960s, when Leonard Parker Pool’s wife, Dorothy Parker, had cancer, they traveled from the Lehigh Valley to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for treatment. Pool wanted her to have the best care available, and at that time, that meant going to New York City.

"It was a great place to grow up, and it's been an even better place to raise my kids," says Timothy Friel, M.D., of the Lehigh Valley. -photo by Tim Gangi Photography
“It was a great place to grow up, and it’s been an even better place to raise my kids,” says Timothy Friel, M.D., of the Lehigh Valley. -photo by Tim Gangi Photography

Pool would later donate the first large sum of money that made Lehigh Valley Hospital—then under a different name—possible. He vowed that no one in the Lehigh Valley would have to travel to receive exceptional care again, and that credo lives on in the area today.

“That has always been a core component of who we are,” says Timothy Friel, M.D., chair of the department of medicine who specializes in infectious disease at Lehigh Valley Health Network. In everything the health network does, “that message and motivation lives on.”

Friel earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School before completing his residency in internal medicine and his fellowship in infectious disease, both at Massachusetts General Hospital. Though it was not immediately clear to Friel when he entered medical school that infectious disease would be his specialty, he was inspired by the physicians around him.

“Some of the best and most engaging mentors that I encountered happened to be infectious disease doctors,” says Friel. “It was the specialty that I found most rewarding and inspiring during my training.”

For Friel, who works heavily in the realm of HIV, the ability to work with patients over long stretches of time and to incorporate newly developed medicines and innovations in care are big reasons he loves being an infectious disease specialist. “We’re now able to manage patients in such a way that they’re living healthier lives,” he says.

As for how he landed in the Lehigh Valley? “I’m a local boy,” he says. He met his wife, who is an OB-GYN, on the first day of medical school. They both wanted to position themselves to have the best possible family life in conjunction with rewarding careers. For them, the Lehigh Valley and the chance to live close to family, combined with the community-oriented, progressive values of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, presented the best of all worlds.

According to Friel, a commitment to forward thinking is at the heart of the network’s philosophy, and has helped expand care in the HIV program and beyond. “One of the things I’ve loved about working here is that the organization has always been very supportive of new ideas, of new innovations,” says Friel. “It has always prided itself on the delivery of high quality care and putting patients first.”

“We are known for our progressive health care,” adds Brittany Kulp, a physician recruiter at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “Our physicians have strong relationships with their patients and play a key role keeping both local and visiting populations healthy and safe.”

The Lehigh Valley Health Network has eight campuses, including a 929-bed flagship facility with a Level I Trauma Center. As one of the nation’s largest medical groups, the Lehigh Valley Physician Group has more than 750 physicians and over 400 advanced practice clinicians in 59 specialties across over 160 practices, according to Kulp.

The network is actively recruiting for physicians in endocrinology, family medicine, neurology, psychiatry, urology and other subspecialties. Kulp speaks to many candidates who want to return home or be closer to family in the Northeast, but she is quick to tell candidates from all backgrounds that the Lehigh Valley is a great place to live and work.

“You can have a great quality of life, from the cost of living to good schools,” says Kulp, also noting the abundance of recreational opportunities, cultural activities, concerts and more.

Residents of Lehigh Valley often find that everything they need is at their fingertips. The area has everything from top-rated colleges and universities to minor league sports teams.

“Lehigh Valley is one of the fastest growing regions of the state, with Allentown representing the state’s third largest metropolitan area,” says Kaitie Burger, social media and communications manager for Discover Lehigh Valley. Across the region, says Burger, “there’s a fantastic mixture of small-town feel partnered with large-scale events.” Musikfest (the nation’s largest free, non-gated music festival), PA Bacon Fest (featuring hundreds of bacon-centric food and drink items), and horse-drawn carriage rides along streets lined with lights and holiday markets are just a few favorites of locals and visitors alike.

For the tennis-inclined, options abound. Winning Touch Tennis offers social, instructional and competitive opportunities to all levels, and the Oakmont Tennis Club was voted one of the 12 best places to play on red clay by Tennis Destinations.

“The Lehigh Valley truly offers something for everyone,” says Kulp. And as one of the top five regions in the northeast for development, Lehigh Valley’s renaissance continues on.

“It was a great place to grow up, and it’s been an even better place to raise my kids,” says Friel. “There’s everything we could have ever imagined here, and the area continues to grow. Over the last few years, it’s been really fun to be part of a really dynamic community. I think it continues to get better and better.”


Liz Funk

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