Live and practice: top sports towns to consider
Live and practice: top sports towns to consider

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Live & Practice: Sports Towns 2020

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After finishing undergrad at Harvard, Chris Lewis, M.D., returned to his hometown of Cincinnati—and chose to stay for his career. - Photo by David Stephen Kalonick
After finishing undergrad at Harvard, Chris Lewis, M.D., returned to his hometown of Cincinnati—and chose to stay for his career. – Photo by David Stephen Kalonick

In some areas of the country, sports are so embedded in the local culture that they practically become part of day-to-day life. Ask any Dallas resident, and they’ll tell you the Cowboys are widely loved, regardless if they have won or whether one truly follows the sport.

In State College, Pennsylvania, Penn State alumni return to campus to see their Big 10 teams compete.

In Anaheim, California, locals can root for minor league teams—or join in the Lakers mania in nearby Los Angeles.

And Cincinnati’s baseball team, endearingly referred to as “the Reds,” is the only MLB team that, as a rule, has their first game of the season at home, making for a full day (and evening) of team spirit and celebration.

State College, Pennsylvania

State College is nestled in a valley surrounded by beautiful central Pennsylvania mountain ranges. While the scenery is bucolic, State College can be an action-packed place to be. It’s home to the flagship campus of Penn State University, with nearly 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

The Penn State community is devoted to the university football team, and football season is practically synonymous with fall. Penn State is a “Big 10” school that competes with sports teams at other large universities like the University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and Northwestern University.

Christopher Hester, M.D., heeded an early calling to internal medicine. “I realized that I wanted to be a physician in high school. My family physician was an older provider that had cared for members of my family since my mother was a child. Everyone in my family trusted our physician’s medical judgment. I hoped that patients would trust me some day the way my family trusted our family physician,” he says.

Hester attended Penn State College of Medicine at the Hershey Medical Center, an academic medical center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, near the state capital of Harrisburg. The environment clicked for Hester and he continued at Hershey Medical Center for his internship and then residency training.

“I interviewed with a group in the area and was amazed by the level of talent of the providers in the group and by their strong reputation among my training physicians at the Hershey Medical Center,” Hester says. He’s nearing his 25th year with Mount Nittany Physician Group.

Mount Nittany Health can trace its roots back to 1902 and is now one of the predominant health care providers in central Pennsylvania.

Says Nichole Monica, director of marketing and communications for Mount Nittany Health: “We have more than 18 Mount Nittany Health locations–with 16 Mount Nittany Physician Group locations–in six counties.” Mount Nittany Health employs more than 2,800 people. Mount Nittany Health operates Mount Nittany Medical Center, a 260-bed hospital in State College.

“As the area’s largest multispecialty group [Mount Nittany Physicians Group], our more than 170 providers serve nearly 100,000 patients each year, offering primary and specialty care services at a growing number of offices throughout central Pennsylvania,” says Monica.

Hester’s long tenure at Mount Nittany speaks volumes to its culture. Says Hester, “I still work with many of the same people since my first day nearly 24 years ago. …The providers, nurses, front desk staff and administrators I work with at Mount Nittany Physician Group are excellent and are committed to providing the highest quality care.”

Other opportunities in the area can be found at outpatient clinic Geisinger – Patton Forest and SunPointe Health, a physician-owned internal medicine practice in the area.

Outside of work, “Happy Valley” has lots to offer, particularly when it comes to special events and outdoor activities. Says Edward Stoddard, communications director for the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, “We have all the excitement, opportunities and culture of a small city, plus small town roots. You can enjoy reasonably priced fine dining with a spectacular valley view or a pleasant drive among rural fields—20 minutes from downtown State College.”

Stoddard emphasizes that State College’s appeal is in its dichotomies. “One of our strengths here is all of the outdoor opportunities located nearby the urban mix of Penn State University. Spend the weekend enjoying nightlife, a concert and shops, or drive 10 minutes, hike for 30 minutes and escape every sound of civilization.”

Hester appreciates the local access to the outdoors and top-notch sports. “I most enjoy the outdoor activities including mountain biking at Tussey Mountain, boating at nearby Raystown Lake and sporting events at Penn State.”

“Whatever one’s definition of adventure is, we believe it can be found here,” says Stoddard.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is a special place. It is a midwestern, medium-sized city with a lot of local pride. And there is a lot of be proud of. The people of Cincinnati played a large role in the abolition of slavery with a number of “stops” on the Underground Railroad. Today, local museums and exhibitions celebrate and preserve Cincinnati’s social justice roots.

Another source of great pride is the city’s predominant health care system, UC Health (University of Cincinnati Health). With a diverse patient population and a system-wide focus on community health, UC Health is a place for physicians to marry their medical expertise with a passion for improving the overall health of their city and its residents.

Chris Lewis, M.D., began his medical career at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. It was an easy choice: His mother worked at the university, and family members were eligible for full tuition remission. Lewis was a biology and pre-med undergraduate at Harvard University, and he liked living in Boston.

“My initial plan was that I would go back to the East Coast after medical school,” says Lewis. “But I fell in love with the health care industry in Cincinnati. We have a plethora of hospitals and doctors. In Cincinnati, we have a fairly sizable equity gap in terms of who gets access to health care. What I love about Cincinnati is that we have a whole bunch of people closing those gaps.”

Solving that challenge and working with passionate people eclipsed the allure of going back to Boston. “It seemed wrong to take my medical education and go back to Boston when there was so much that could be done here,” says Lewis. This decision was spot-on foreshadowing for Lewis’ activism at the intersection of health care and social justice.

Lewis stayed on at UC Health—the health system anchored by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center—for his residency, then joined a family medicine practice and firmly put down roots in Cincinnati.

“It’s a fantastic place to live and work,” he says. “We have world-class industry. We have arts, ballet, symphony, soccer, baseball and football. We have a downtown area that is undergoing a real resurgence. My wife and I are foodies, and we can’t keep up with the restaurants on every corner.”

Indeed, food, history and sports are important parts of Cincinnati’s culture. Says Jenell Walton, director of strategic initiatives for the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, “We have a sort of big city/small town feel.

Here, we have Fortune 500 company headquarters, world-class arts and culture experiences, big league sports, historic architecture and an incredibly unique culinary scene.” The Cincinnati region is home to 2.2 million people, while the city of Cincinnati itself represents just over 300,000.

The Cincinnati Reds is the city’s beloved baseball team. “Reds Opening Day in Cincinnati has been a special tradition, and an unofficial holiday, for a century and a half,” says Walton. “There are several local parties throughout downtown Cincinnati, especially near the Banks Entertainment District near the ballpark, that keep the celebration going all day and night,” says Walton.

Lewis returned to UC Health as a practicing family physician and took on an academic role as the assistant dean of diversity and inclusion. “The College of Medicine puts a huge emphasis on diversity and inclusion. They are great about giving money for scholarships for health care students of diverse backgrounds,” says Lewis.

What Lewis is perhaps most known for at UC Health is his work on the Village Life Outreach Project, a non-profit organization he founded that organizes volunteering in Tanzania and bringing Tanzanian teachings and wisdom back to Cincinnati.

Lewis still sees patients one day a week, but most of his time is devoted to his role as vice provost for undergraduate programs at the University of Cincinnati.

“I started as the assistant dean of Diversity and Inclusion. I wouldn’t have made it through medical school without the people who started that office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. I needed support and guidance and some handholding as a medical student. When I was given an opportunity to join that same office, it was a no-brainer. Then I got the academic bug.” He pivoted into higher education administration.

Lewis has advice for medical students to feel supported on their path: seek mentors.

Says Lewis, “I encourage students to develop a network of mentors, and to pursue a step beyond mentors, which are sponsors. Mentors are people who will give you advice and be sounding boards. A sponsor is someone who is willing to stick their neck out for you. Every amount of career success I’ve experienced has been attributed to a mentor, group of mentors or sponsors.” This ethos of creating an interdependent community of people who give and share seems influenced by the generous culture of Tanzania, and is also highly useful career advice.

Dallas, Texas

With a home base in Dallas, James Pinckney, M.D., started a medical concierge company to provide patients direct physician access and upscale care. - Photo by Kelly Williams
With a home base in Dallas, James Pinckney, M.D., started a medical concierge company to provide patients direct physician access and upscale care. – Photo by Kelly Williams

Dallas, Texas, comes with a lot of preconceived notions about what it’s like to live there: There are cowboys (the people), the Cowboys (the team), and everything is “Dallas big.”

Dallas is indeed big; it’s the ninth largest American city with a population of 1.4 million people within the city and 6.8 million residents in the greater Dallas metro area. Dallas has a big personality, too, and for good reason: It’s a big city with a high quality of life and a low cost of living (and no state income tax!).

When James Pinckney, M.D., was a small child, he discovered a television channel that showed medical procedures, namely surgeries. He was transfixed. “My mom thought that was a little weird,” says Pinckney. But he knew he wanted to be a doctor as soon as he could operate a remote control. As he got older, he developed a special interest in anatomy and physiology that dovetailed with his passion for playing football.

Pinckney grew up in the suburbs of Dallas and was a star on his high school football team. “High school football is huge here. Like Friday Night Lights. People love coming out to support their high school football teams,” says Pinckney.

Alas, he was sidelined by a sports injury; he seriously broke his leg on the field. So he headed off to college at Wake Forest University with full focus on his dual major in pre-med and biology. That focus paid off: Pinckney landed a full scholarship to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. His goal was to become a surgeon.

Pinckney had what he calls a “quarter-life crisis” during his general surgery residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I love being in the OR, but I’m a people person,” he says. “As a surgeon, most of your time spent with your patients is when they’re half-asleep at 4 a.m. before their surgery or they’re asleep on your operating table.”

After some soul-searching, Pinckney decided to pivot into family medicine. He landed a residency with Methodist Health in Dallas, and became a board-certified family medicine provider. This proved to be a better fit, and he began to think in a bigger way about how to add more depth and meaning to the patient relationship. He wanted to make going to the doctor a better experience.

Today, Pinckney is the founder of Diamond Physicians, a primary care concierge that circumvents insurance companies by having patients pay for a membership that gives them more direct access to their doctor and an upscale patient experience. Pinckney was happy to set up shop in his hometown of Dallas: “It’s a great place to live,” he says.

“Dallas is a very user-friendly city,” says Stephanie Faulk, the director of marketing and communications for VisitDallas. “It’s easy to live here. The weather is great. We can do year-round sports, year-round growing in our gardens. There’s lots of space, and it’s affordable.”

Faulk says that one of the most important aspects of culture in Dallas is its sports teams. “Dallas is definitely a sports city. We are one of the few cities that has a team for every major league sport: hockey, baseball, the NBA, the WNBA, and of course, the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas is synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys.”

In fact, the city’s growing population called for a bigger stadium for the Cowboys. After 10 years of planning and construction, the new stadium was completed in May 2017 and can accommodate a whopping 80,000 people. “Our stadium is new enough and big enough to really make an impression. It’s an experience,” says Faulk.

For those who like to travel, Dallas is an excellent place to call home base. The Dallas-Fort Worth international airport is one of the largest airports in the country and serves as home base for American Airlines and Southwest. “We can fly anywhere direct,” says Faulk. “We can get to either coast in under four hours.”

Pinckney has been doing some traveling himself. He’s working to build out Diamond Physicians as a national brand with franchising opportunities for physicians who are entrepreneurial and passionate about the benefits of concierge medicine: less middlemen and more time with patients.

Says Pinckney, “When I see a patient, I spend, on average, an hour with that patient. The national average is seven minutes. When patients come to see me, I personally come greet them, and we sit in my office and talk. We have nice exam rooms, but they’re just for physical examinations. After I examine a patient, we will go back to my office to talk about options and treatment.”

Outside of work, Pinckney thoroughly enjoys living in Dallas. “If you want to be in the city, you can have a rich city life. If you’d rather have more space, there are many suburban areas that all have a different feel, and excellent schools,” he says.

After living and practicing in a handful of other cities— Winston-Salem in North Carolina, Houston and Los Angeles— Pinckney is happy to call Dallas home and happy to call Dallas home base for his business.

Anaheim, California

When most people think of Anaheim, California, they think of Disneyland. But there are ample job opportunities beyond the mouse ears. Anaheim is approximately an hour southeast of Los Angeles, but Anaheim offers culture and industry that makes LA seem like a distant mirage.

“Anaheim is rich in many things including history, culture and activities. The city continues growing, evolving and flourishing as a dynamic destination with its own cultural footprint in the arts, cuisine, entertainment, sports, and recreation. It’s home to activities and attractions that provide residents such a unique living experience,” says Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim.

With a population of 333,000, Anaheim is a large city that has a small-town feel. Says Burress, “No matter where you go, you’re greeted with a smile and a warmth that’s hard to find elsewhere. Neighbors care about you, about your family and about your work.”

Center City Anaheim is a hub of activities, including a yearly Halloween parade. Anaheim’s mild to warm year-round weather is conducive to the weekly outdoor farmer’s market in Anaheim.

For visitors interested in relocating for a health care career, Anaheim has a lot to offer. There are several hospitals and health care systems that may be of interest to physicians considering a move.

Anaheim Regional Medical Center is a 233-bed facility owned by Advanced Healthcare Management Corporation (AHMC), a for-profit health care system based in Southern California.

Kaiser Permanente Orange County-Anaheim Medical Center is the largest health care provider in Anaheim and the largest employer of health care professionals in the area. It is a 484-bed facility with specialists in pulmonology, neurology, oncology and obstetrics.

For Anaheim-based physicians, there is no shortage of things to do during their off time, especially if sports are of interest. Anaheim is the proud home of both the Los Angeles Angels (MLB) and the Anaheim Ducks (NHL). The Angel Stadium of Anaheim and the Honda Center are across the street from each other. Not only can you catch a game all year round, you might even score a doubleheader when the seasons overlap in April, May and October.

Burress has a “pro tip” for those who want to watch the game from the comfort of a restaurant or sports bar: Many of the breweries, bars and restaurants near “Platinum Triangle,” the sports district, will comp your parking during the game, so head out early for a pregame celebration.

“Whether you come for work or play, choose your own sun-soaked Southern California adventure,” says Burress. For a week’s vacation or a long, happy career in health care, you will find plenty to do in Anaheim.


Liz Funk

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