Live and Practice Great Outdoors Mrytle Beach
Live and Practice Great Outdoors Mrytle Beach

Live and Practice: The Great Outdoors 2022

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Haley Cahill-Teubert

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Tucson’s laidback nature, weather and outdoor activities make it a fit for Valentine Nfonsam, M.D. – Photo by Audria Abney

The job hunt isn’t just about the job. It’s equally as important to think about what you’ll be doing when you’re not at work. The good news? Cities all over the U.S. offer plenty of ways to relax and recharge in the great outdoors.

Take Tucson, Arizona, for example. With sunshine nearly every day, you’ll find easy access to biking, hiking, skiing and even birdwatching. And in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you can go fishing, boating or surfing before you punch the time clock. In Saratoga Springs, New York, you can relax at one of the city’s many natural mineral springs or be a spectator at its iconic racetracks. And in Portland, Maine, you can unwind by paddleboarding, exploring nearby islands or walking along sandy beaches.

So whether you love the thrill of adventure or prefer a slower pace, you can find your perfect fit in one of these four cities.

Tucson, Arizona

Outdoor lovers rejoice! Tucson, Arizona, boasts more than 350 days of sunshine each year. With the warm weather and low humidity, it’s easy to see why Tucson residents love to spend time in the great outdoors.

Hikers will enjoy hundreds of miles of trails across five area mountain ranges. Bikers, walkers and joggers will love The Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a 136-mile network of trails. And adventure-seekers can explore the area’s natural limestone caves, or they can head to Mount Lemmon to ski or check out more than 2,700 climbing routes.

Tucson also has more than 500 species of birds, making it a popular birdwatching area. And it has wildlife not easily found in other parts of the country, such as the Gila monster and kangaroo rat. You’ll find these rare creatures in the surrounding Sonoran Desert, a desert unlike many others.

“When people hear desert, they think tumbleweeds, but it is actually so green,” says Heather Wuelpern, director of communications for the Tucson Metro Chamber. “When the desert is in bloom in March and April, it is incredibly vibrant.”

Even more surprising, you’ll also find water activities like swimming and fishing near Tucson. If you crave sandy beaches and crystal-clear saltwater, you can reach some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches by car in about four hours.

And after a full day of activities, you can always refuel at one of Tuscon’s amazing restaurants. In 2015, Tucson became the first U.S. city to receive the “City of Gastronomy” designation from UNESCO.

On top of its many attractions, Tucson boasts a close-knit community. It may have more than 500,000 residents, but Wuelpern says they call it a “big small town.” “People joke there’s only one or two degrees of separation here because we’re all connected,” she adds.

No wonder so many people fall in love with Tucson. Valentine Nfonsam, M.D., certainly did. “I have lived in multiple places in the last 20 years—the Midwest, the East Coast, Florida and finally the Southwest, which is Tucson. And I can tell you I love Tucson for several reasons,” he says. “One: It’s a very friendly environment. It’s laidback. People get along. Two: I love the weather. There’s no humidity. Three: There’s so much outdoors stuff to do.”

Nfonsam has lived in Tucson for 11 years, the longest he has lived anywhere in the last two decades. He was born and raised in Cameroon and attended college in Nigeria. He then moved to the United States, where he attended graduate school at Michigan State University and medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

For Nfonsam, a desire to pursue medicine came naturally. He says he grew up in an under-resourced country and came from a family with little means. This often meant receiving inadequate care at hospitals, which fueled his passion.

“Even from that very young age, I always wanted to get into medicine to serve in a way that, regardless of your background or means, you can still have access to good medical care,” says Nfonsam. “I carried that aspiration with me through college and ultimately went to medical school with that being one driving force of me going into medicine. I am very passionate about patient care and providing excellent care regardless of who you are and where you come from.”

Nfonsam is a colorectal surgeon at Banner University Medical Center Tucson. He is the interim chief of the surgical oncology division at Banner University Medicine North: University of Arizona Cancer Center. It’s the state’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.

BUMCT is a 649-bed hospital, and it is the only Level I trauma center in southern Arizona. Over 250 faculty physicians teach students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and lead residents and fellows.

“We have a pool of very talented people who are always collaborating,” says Nfonsam. “It creates an environment where it’s easy to work because these are people that are invested in one common goal, which is taking care of patients.”

The hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility features advanced technology and diagnostic tools. According to Nfonsam, this has transformed the patient experience. Even more noteworthy, a multidisciplinary approach has improved patient outcomes.

“Every Thursday, for example, for colorectal, about nine different disciplines all meet in one room and discuss our complex patients. I think that is a significant bragging right because patient outcome is determined by experts who use evidence-based modalities,” says Nfonsam. “I don’t think that has been emphasized enough.”

This approach is one of the many things that makes BUMCT such a noteworthy facility. It has been named one of the best hospitals by U.S. News and World Report.

Physicians also enjoy fantastic benefits, according to Linda Montano, physician recruitment sourcing strategist for BUMCT. “The motto of the Banner benefits is: You take care of others; let us take care of you,” she says. “I really love talking about it with physicians when we get to the meat and potatoes of what they’re looking for.”

Additionally, Montano says physicians enjoy the work environment. “When you walk into a Banner Health facility, you can always expect to see freshly renovated facilities,” she says. “Even though you’re in health care, it can feel like you’re at a resort engulfed by these stunning views everywhere.”

Needless to say, BUMCT is a great place to work—and a great place to receive care. Nfonsam and his colleagues feel fulfilled by the work they do. “If you want to work in an environment that is very welcoming, less stressful and where you can serve a diverse group of people, this is the place to be,” says Nfonsam. “I just love doing the work I do. I wouldn’t trade this for anything else.”

BUMCT is currently recruiting for neurology, ophthalmology, surgery, radiology, psychiatry, anesthesiology, dermatology and oncology.

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“Everyone who works here has the opportunity to have their ideas expressed and looked at and to see if they can make a change—a change for the better,” says Lucretia Carter, M.D., of Tidelands Health. – Photo by Paula Player

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With 60 miles of sandy coastline, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has no shortage of activities. Whether you head to the coast, the inlet or the marshes, you’ll find a huge variety of things to do. Choose from parasailing, scuba diving, fishing, surfing, wakeboarding, speedboating, jet-skiing and wakeboarding. Or head to one of Myrtle Beach’s two state parks to enjoy hiking, biking, birdwatching and nature tours. And that’s just the outdoor activities.

The city has a population of about 32,000, but over 19 million tourists visit annually. This means there’s also plenty of entertainment, dining and shopping. “There’s so much to do,” says Jeremy Stephens, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Tidelands Health in Myrtle Beach. “Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it.”

The fun activities and great dining combine with gorgeous weather. And other great beach towns like Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, are nearby. It’s no wonder Myrtle Beach is so popular. And it’s not just for tourists. More and more professionals are putting down roots in the area.

“This used to be an area where a lot of people came to retire, so our population was much older, but we’re not seeing that as much anymore,” says Stephens. “Now, it’s a lot of younger families and a younger population.”

In fact, many people love the area so much they end up returning.

That was the case with Lucretia Carter, M.D., pediatric medical director at Tidelands Health. She worked at Tidelands—known then as Georgetown Hospital—several years back. She left in 2011 to open her own private practice, but when she got the chance to come back, she jumped at it. She was excited to return to the hospital where she loved to work.

“It’s one of the few hospitals I’ve worked at that seemed to really center on the physician,” says Carter. “Everyone who works here has the opportunity to have their ideas expressed and looked at and to see if they can make a change—a change for the better. That was really one of the things that attracted me back to Tidelands.”

Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider. It has 330 beds and more than 2,500 employees across 60 locations. Its specialties include cancer care, neuroscience and orthopedics.

From beautiful facilities to advanced technology, Tidelands has a lot to interest physicians. It recently became the first facility in South Carolina to perform a brain tumor biopsy with cranial robotics technology and will soon begin using the da Vinci surgical system.

Tidelands also has nationally renowned staff members. American Medical Association president Gerald Harmon, M.D., serves as the vice president of medical affairs for Tidelands. And American Osteopathic Association president-elect Ernest Gelb, D.O., is a family medicine and geriatric physician at Tidelands.

“We’ve got a lot of credibility with national organizations,” Stephens says. “We’re not just this little thing out here on the beach. We have a lot of notoriety and respect at the national level.”

Carter also notes the close relationship Tidelands has with the Medical University of South Carolina. “We have the opportunity to have the expertise of a large academic center, yet we have a good collaboration,” she says. “So we have access to the latest and greatest in academic medicine as well as the latest and greatest in community medicine.”

Carter wasn’t just excited to return to work at Tidelands. She was also excited to be back in the Myrtle Beach area. “It’s fun to live where other people vacation,” says Carter. “We’re not in a big city, so you don’t have that congested feeling or hustle and bustle of city life. But we do have a lot of the conveniences.”

The wide variety of family-friendly and outdoor activities doesn’t hurt. “You can go running on the beach or surfing in the morning and then go to the office,” Carter says. “A lot of people don’t have that opportunity.”

Tidelands Health is recruiting in oncology, OB/GYN, neurology, gastroenterology, hospital medicine, rheumatology and hematology.

Saratoga Springs, New York

Saratoga Springs, New York, has all the typical outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking and golfing. But that’s not all. This charming city of nearly 28,000 also has an array of rare and unique offerings to keep you entertained year-round.

For starters, their famous natural mineral springs have attracted wellness fans for years. Residents claim the city’s 21 springs have healing properties for dyspepsia, gout, skin ailments and more. And if drinking the fizzy mineral water isn’t up your alley, you can relax in a mineral bath instead.

Saratoga Spa State Park is also a must-see for outdoor lovers. The 2,379-acre state park has mineral springs along with miles of running, walking and biking trails. Take a dip in one of the two pools or hit the links at either of two beautiful golf courses. There’s disc golf, tennis, equestrian trails and fishing. The park’s amphitheater, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, hosts lots of outdoor concerts, festivals and events. And for the winter months, there’s ice hockey, ice skating and approximately 12 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.

You can also get outdoors at the Saratoga Race Course, named one of the greatest sporting venues by Sports Illustrated and 150 years old.

If you want to get out of town, there are plenty of options. Hiking, skiing, biking and more are less than a two-hour drive away in the Adirondack Mountains. Boston, New York City and Montreal are all within about three hours.

Like any well-rounded area, Saratoga Springs has a vibrant downtown with plenty of great shops and restaurants to visit after a day outdoors. The revitalization of Saratoga Springs over the past few years has attracted new residents, as well as plenty of returners.

Denise Romand, a medical staff recruiter/practice liaison at Saratoga Hospital, lived outside the area for many years. She moved back after seeing all its recent growth. She says that Saratoga Springs is an amazing place to live and that the hospital is an amazing place to work. Having been employed by Saratoga Hospital for 33 years, she believes its people are its greatest asset.

“There’s a sense of community here with all the staff, like a sense of family,” she says. “It’s really an exceptional, unique, collaborative work environment and collegial between physicians, clinicians, support staff and administration.”

Saratoga Hospital is a 171-bed acute care facility and is an affiliate of Albany Med. It was named a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report for 2020-2021 and one of the World’s Best Hospitals 2021 by Newsweek.

“I’ve seen continuous growth since 1988 but truly an enormous amount of expansion since 2000,” says Romand. “In the last decade, we built a 41-bed emergency department, a 19-bed state-of-the-art ICU and a new surgical suite that has 10 ORs that are open at this point. We also recently renovated our women’s health unit, and we have a unit that is specifically for bariatric surgery and orthopedics.”

The mental health unit and the oncology center have also had renovations. And the hospital stays up to date with advanced technology, including da Vinci surgical robots.

The facility isn’t the only thing expanding. The staff has seen exponential growth as well. When Romand joined, fewer than 1,000 people were on staff. There are now more than 3,000.

Disha Mookherjee, M.D., FACC, joined the staff at Saratoga Hospital in 2019 as a cardiologist. Before coming to Saratoga Hospital, she was a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Having grown up in upstate New York, Mookherjee took the opportunity at Saratoga Hospital to be closer to her family.

And for Mookherjee, being closer to family isn’t the only benefit of living in Saratoga Springs. She also loves that the community has a high regard for personal health. “They’re into being healthy and taking care of their health, and I really appreciate that a lot,” she explains. “They want to take personal responsibility for their health, and they look to you for guidance.”

Mookherjee also says Saratoga Hospital gives physicians a lot of autonomy. This makes it an exceptional place for physicians at any stage of their career. The support and mentorship of coworkers also helps.

“Physicians seem really happy here,” Romand says. “And I agree.”

Saratoga Hospital is now recruiting for cardiology, endocrinology, primary care, hematology, oncology, hospital medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and pulmonary care.

Portland, Maine

Located on the state’s southern coast, Portland, Maine, has all the lobster, lighthouses and beaches you’d expect. But this coastal town also has boatloads of activities for tourists and residents.

Thrill seekers will love the water rafting, surfing, kayaking and paddleboarding. And for those who prefer leisurely activities, Maine’s incredible 6,000 lakes and ponds are perfect for your next fishing trip. Or relax and recharge at any of several beaches.

Portland also has seven islands right off the coast known as the Casco Bay Islands. You can reach them by ferry, private charter or sea taxi. And once you do, you’ll find residential areas, restaurants and shopping, plus plenty of areas to walk, bike and explore.

On the mainland, Portland offers ice skating, walking tours and more. You can even break a sweat with the Old Port Historic Workout. After a light warm-up, you’ll take a brisk walk or light jog to local landmarks and monuments. It’s the perfect way to learn about the area’s rich history.

Nearby Bradbury Mountain State Park is known for its fall foliage, and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is great for birdwatching. Maine’s famous Acadia National Park—which offers rock climbing, biking and hiking along 125 miles of trails—is less than three hours away. So is Baxter State Park with over 200 miles of trails to explore.

Easy access to mountains and beaches makes Portland a perfect fit if you love the outdoors. Spend your days off skiing, biking, hiking, surfing, boating, fishing or swimming. Then wind down at one of Portland’s many food trucks or breweries.

Christina Tsui, D.O., hails from Townson, Maryland, but she’s lived in the Portland area for several years. She attended the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in nearby Biddeford, Maine. Now, she’s completing an internal medicine/pediatrics residency at Maine Medical Center. Residents in this four-year program get board-certified in both adult and pediatric medicine. Tsui chose this specialty because she wanted to understand her patients’ full lifespan.

“In the field, we’ll say it’s called cradle-to-grave or womb-to-tomb care,” she explains. “It’s the idea that we get to have experiences with patients of all ages, and I think that’s really special.”

Tsui says her parents sparked her interest in medicine. “There have been a lot of personal instances where I can see how precious health can be and how life-changing it is to have a doctor or a health care professional who can affect you positively in moments when you feel very vulnerable,” she explains. “So I thought that was going to be a really meaningful way for me to dedicate my time and build a career. I really felt that was my purpose going forward.”

Now that she’s six months into her four-year residency, Tsui says Maine Medical Center’s work environment is friendly, collaborative and supportive of all learners. “We have protected didactic time that’s set aside for teaching and lectures,” she says. “We’re going over core content every week with all of our programs and carving out that space for dedicated learning and education.”

Maine Medical Center is Maine’s largest medical facility and the flagship facility of MaineHealth. It has 637 beds and more than 9,600 employees. Its specialties include surgery, endocrinology, nephrology and palliative care.

According to Tsui, the center’s diverse patient population is an unexpected benefit. “We serve all comers in the state of Maine. That could be from people living down the street, a rural Maine farmer who is coming from seven hours away, or it could be an immigrant or asylum seeker,” she explains. “We have such a diverse population of patients that we see a lot of breadth in our medicine, and we get to learn about all different types of people. It’s taught me a lot about global health.”

Tsui also appreciates how integrated and collaborative the teams are. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the high workload,” she says. “Every hospital right now is kind of bursting at the seams, and I think the thing that helps everybody get through it is knowing you have a team to support you and people you can go to when you need help.”

If coastal living, outdoor activities and a collaborative environment interest you, consider Portland.

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Haley Cahill-Teubert

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