Lovers of the great outdoors enjoy living and practicing in these four cities
Lovers of the great outdoors enjoy living and practicing in these four cities

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Live & Practice: The Great Outdoors 2021

Table of Contents

Tia Chakraborty, M.D
A role at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids helped Tia Chakraborty, M.D., both live near family and pursue her career as a neurologist. – Photo by Alfield Reeves

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the craft beer brewing culture and the many hiking and biking trails come together to form the Grand Rapids Ale Trail, a self-guided tour of 80 local breweries.

Provo, Utah, attracts skiing enthusiasts and movie stars as it plays host to the annual Sundance Film Festival.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Mississippi River hugs the city, and the Mississippi River Levee Path provides an opportunity for locals to enjoy getting outside and being right on the river.

The picturesque town of Stowe, Vermont, has six distinct seasons, two of which—fall and winter—draw tourists from far corners of the country for leaf peeping the northern Vermont foliage and skiing the Stowe slopes.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids is primarily known for two things: outdoor activities and craft beer. There are more craft breweries per square mile in Grand Rapids than anywhere else in the world. (There are more than 80 breweries in the city of 198,000 people).

The Grand River runs through the city’s downtown, which underscores how nature and urban life are knitted together here. There is easy access to hiking, biking and golfing, and Lake Michigan is only 40 minutes away.

Tia Chakraborty, M.D., had an indirect but informative introduction to medicine: She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical engineering. But once she entertained the pharmaceutical device industry, the work was less meaningful than she expected.

Chakraborty decided to pursue medical school and attended Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit. “Simultaneously, I was shadowing a neurosurgeon who I did engineering research with at the University of Michigan,” she says.

“That experience really piqued my interest in the neurosciences. I ultimately chose neurology based on the problem-solving and localization aspects of the specialty. Then I chose the critical care subspecialty since I gravitated towards the dynamic nature of acute care, fusing systemic medicine with neurology, and helping loved ones navigate goals of care decisions.” Chakraborty completed her residency and neurocritical care fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

When Chakraborty was finishing her training, she looked for a role in Michigan, because that’s where she grew up and where her family still lives today. “The stars aligned,” she says, because the neuro ICU at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids was hiring.

“I had heard about Spectrum Health from a co-fellow when I was at Mayo, who spoke extremely highly of her time as a medical student there,” says Chakraborty.

Butterworth Hospital includes a children’s hospital, a cancer hospital and a heart center. Butterworth Hospital has 476 beds and is a Level I trauma center.

When Chakraborty interviewed, the kismet continued. “When we visited for my interview, my husband, Paul Berglund, and I had a great interview experience. The people we met were exceedingly warm and welcoming…I continue to be so impressed with how genuinely kind everyone is that I’ve met and worked with thus far. People are eager to go out of their way and above and beyond for their patients. The culture is very collegial while fostering academic curiosities.”

Plus, Grand Rapids felt like a strong fit for Chakraborty and her husband.

“We liked what we saw of Grand Rapids in that it was somewhat metropolitan while having a small-town charm. After interviewing in various parts of the country, we ultimately chose Grand Rapids based on my career goals, proximity to my family, and on Paul’s career goals as a chef with Grand Rapids having a growing and exciting culinary scene.”

“Grand Rapids offers a great blend of big-city amenities with small-town charm,” says Kate Lieto, director of marketing for Experience Grand Rapids. Lieto says that there are over 80 breweries in the area and a thriving local food scene.

In fact, some call Grand Rapids “Beer City, USA” or “Brew City.” The Beer City Ale Trail is a tour of all 80+ breweries in Grand Rapids. Those on a quest to try all of Grand Rapids’ breweries are called “brewsaders” and there’s an app for them to track their progress.

In Grand Rapids, they are also serious about the great outdoors: The city was designed to integrate city life and nature.

Says Lieto, “One can find excellent biking, hiking, fishing, golfing, boating and more all within close proximity to downtown. In fact, the Grand River runs right through downtown and is undergoing an extensive revitalization to allow for even more recreation opportunities right in the heart of Grand Rapids.”

Lieto says that many people who are new to the area are surprised that Lake Michigan is so close to the city and so beautiful. Says Lieto, “Within a 30 to 45 minute drive, you’ll encounter beach towns similar to those in Cape Cod, only without salty water!” With 22,000 square miles of surface area, it’s not surprising that towns along Lake Michigan resemble oceanside communities.

There are also ample cultural opportunities in Grand Rapids.

There is an African American Art and Music Festival, the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival, and of course, craft beer and food festivals. The arts are also a major focus in the city. “ArtPrize is our ‘Superbowl’ event at Experience Grand Rapids,” says Lieto. “ArtPrize is a 19-day international art competition that takes place in Grand Rapids. Historically, the festival has featured over 1,500 artists competing for over $500,000 in prize money. It is a sight to see.”

Provo, Utah

Provo, Utah, is home to Brigham Young University, the nation’s most well-known Mormon-affiliated university. It’s also close to Sundance Resort, a destination ski resort spanning 5,000 acres. Many people in Provo like to ski or enjoy some form of outdoor sports. The beautiful scenery and proximity to nature inspires locals to get outside.

Christopher Gordon, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, Utah, always knew he wanted to be a physician. But his love of learning drove him to pursue a well-rounded education. He majored in business at Brigham Young University, always planning to attend medical school. After his basic medical training in the Cayman Islands for medical school, he spent the bulk of his specialty rotations in New York City.

Says Gordon, “Though I loved almost all specialties, I wanted a job that allowed me to sleep in my bed every night and spend time with my family on the weekends. Medicine can be tricky when trying to balance work and home life, but sports medicine has allowed me to work hard during the weekdays while also having the opportunity to tuck my kids into bed each night and plenty of time to play with my wife and kids on the weekends.”

With work/life balance and a high quality of life as priorities, Gordon returned to Utah, where he works with student athletes at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. “As physicians, we have opportunities to make small differences in the lives of the patients we care for,” he says.

“It has been a long time since I completed my training, but my education has not ended. After my sports medicine fellowship here at Utah Valley, I was hired as a full-time physician, sports medicine fellowship faculty and team physician for BYU and UVU. I often joke that my fellowship never ended because I continue to learn from my partners in all specialties, particularly my orthopedic and radiology colleagues. My learning has really never stopped.”

Utah Valley Hospital has a distinct and positive culture. He says that the organization has a focus on treating the whole individual.

Says Gordon, “I am able to see and help patients from all walks of life, young to elderly, without bias toward seeing only those with private insurance. Most of all, we have great colleagues that are supportive of one another. Though I am quite experienced in my field, I do not claim to know everything. If I have questions regarding a diagnosis or treatment, I have well-trained and knowledgeable partners, specialists and colleagues to draw on their expertise, which helps me provide some of the best care you’ll find in the valley.”

Gordon enjoys living in the Utah Valley. “We have two amazing universities within minutes of each other with competitive sports…Within 20 minutes from home, I can be skiing in the winter or mountain biking, boating, and kayaking in the summer. Utah Valley has activities that can occupy all who want to be active.”

There is great hiking in Provo, but the trails may be a bit intense for some. “The hiking here is different and more intense than other places around the U.S., but the locals here are introduced to this at a very young age and you will be surprised how many people with little ones go hiking,” says Dan Cogburn, marketing manager for Explore Utah Valley.

Other popular outdoor activities include riding ATVs, wakeboarding at Utah Lake, fly fishing on Provo River, rock climbing at American Fork Canyon and mountain biking. Skiing is a huge part of the culture in Provo. Sundance Resort, 13 miles northeast of Provo, is a major attraction. Purchased by Hollywood actor Robert Redford in 1968, the ski resort became a year-round resort, which eventually spawned the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Film Festival is a huge local event, as is the Fourth of July. Provo takes the Fourth of July seriously with the Freedom Festival. It is one of Utah’s biggest annual festivals that include a full week of activities such as parades, carnivals, art shows and hot air balloons. The week’s headlining event, the “Stadium of Fire,” is a concert usually featuring an A-list musician.

Cogburn is emphatic that Provo is a family-friendly city: “The number of kid-friendly activities will blow your mind, not to mention scenic places to take your kids for a picnic or a quick walk in the woods.”

Gordon was a student athlete and is a lifelong outdoorsman. “In high school I ran cross country and swam. I loved being in the outdoors: boating, skiing, hiking, cycling and camping. In college I was always on an intramural team, swam and played racquetball. As a physician, my current sports include skiing, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and boating. I can hardly believe my older kids are now better skiers than I am.”

Gordon encourages other physicians to round out their educations and seek continuing education opportunities.

“Knowledge and education has always been important to me. Being a physician was always something I wanted to do. I often use skills from my undergraduate in business management and graduate degree in health service administration… My fellowship in faculty development has helped me become a better educator. Most of all my sports medicine fellowship provided me with the skills, knowledge and confidence to care for my patients in an effective manner. I chose to diversify my education, and it has benefited me in my practice as a sports medicine physician.”

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is known to be much less raucous than its sister city, New Orleans. But Baton Rouge still offers a culture of celebration, where a year-round warm climate is marked by seasons of celebration. Mardi Gras and Louisiana State University football season rival one another for the biggest community events of the year.

“Louisiana is known as the Sportsman’s Paradise!” says Kelly Bienn, senior vice president of marketing for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce. “Baton Rouge offers more than 184 parks with free activities ranging from rock climbing to paddle board lessons, fishing and golfing. Residents enjoy the walkable and bikeable Mississippi River Levee Path, and recreation on and around the lake system surrounding LSU’s campus.”

The city also recently launched a “Gotcha” bikeshare system and is undertaking a Ped-Bike Master Plan to coordinate greater integration of walking and biking pathways throughout Baton Rouge.

There are a wide variety of hospitals and health care organizations for physicians considering a move to Baton Rouge.

Ochsner Medical Center Baton Rouge is a 150-bed medical center with 13 subspecialty clinics on its campus. Ochsner Medical Center is unique for its Birthing Center, with eight dedicated labor and delivery rooms and four built-in birthing tubs.

Baton Rouge General Hospital is the flagship organization for a health system of hospitals, outpatient clinics and primary care offices throughout Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge General Hospital is licensed for 600 beds across three facilities. Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Bluebonnet campus is a 201-bed facility that includes an outpatient burn unit, a Crohn’s and colitis center and an oncology clinic, among other specialties.

LSU Health Baton Rouge is a not-for-profit health system that is operated as a collaboration between Louisiana State University, the state of Louisiana and Our Lady of the Lake, a health care ministry.

“Baton Rouge is also home to LSU, the state’s flagship university, which produces incredible research through institutions like LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, one of the top nutrition centers in the country,” says Bienn.

Baton Rouge is unique in that its medical community comes together—literally.

“The metro has an incredibly collaborative and forward-thinking medical community, formalized by the Baton Rouge Health District, which brings together the health systems to leverage unique capabilities to deliver high-quality health care in a way that is greater than the sum of their parts,” says Bienn.

Member organizations include virtually all the hospitals that operate in Baton Rouge, as well as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“I’d put Baton Rouge’s climate as one of our most competitive advantages,” says Bienn. “Sure, it gets hot in the summer, but we have a fantastic sub-tropical climate that sees more sunny days than the average U.S. city. Baton Rouge enjoys pleasant weather all year round, so we don’t always experience your typical four seasons. Our culture has instead molded its own seasonality with life down here revolving around things we love like football season, Mardi Gras season, crawfish season, the holiday season and more.”

Stowe, Vermont

JP Begly, M.D.
For JP Begly, M.D., Stowe, Vermont, provides both access to outdoor activities and a family friendly community. – Photo by Jesse Schloff Photography

Stowe is a destination for the outdoorsy set for its sweeping views of the Vermont mountainside. In the summer, Stowe is traversed by hikers with their packs and attracts skiers from across the country in the winter. Stowe is approximately two hours south of Montreal and 40 minutes from Burlington, Vermont.

J.P. Begly, M.D., was strategic in moving to Stowe, Vermont. He and his wife were living in Vail, Colorado, where he hiked weekly. If he were going to accept a new position, it needed to be near good skiing.

Appropriately, Begly is now an orthopedic surgeon at Central Vermont Medical Center, a rural hospital in Vermont that provides easy access to Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in all of Vermont.

Begly attended McGill University in Montreal for his undergraduate degree and went directly to medical school at Johns Hopkins University. After a residency at NYU, Begly landed in Vail, which rekindled his passion for the slopes. Stowe doesn’t disappoint.

Central Vermont Medical Center is part of the University of Vermont Health System. “It’s been nice to be part of the network,” Begly says. “We can see things from a small rural hospital perspective, but if someone needs multidisciplinary care, the University of Vermont is right up the road. The sports medicine surgeons up there are terrific. So, it’s nice to have an academic medical center available, while practicing somewhere that’s smaller.”

Stowe is surrounded by the northern Green Mountains and Worcester mountain range and dotted with rivers, reservoirs and farmland. In the winter, locals and visitors alike enjoy snowy outdoor sports.

Another hospital in the area is Copley Hospital, a 25-bed not-for-profit community hospital that was founded in 1932.

For those who want to be part of a larger organization, the University of Vermont Health Network cares for communities on both sides of Lake Champlain, from the Adirondacks in northern New York State to the Green Mountains of central Vermont and beyond.

The system’s flagship is the University of Vermont Medical Center, affiliated with the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the University of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Says Sarah Child, a physician recruiter for Central Vermont Medical Center, “Central Vermont offers a great lifestyle for folks who enjoy being active outdoors and seeing the impact their work has on a community. It’s so satisfying that year-round I have easy access to the things I love to do, such as trail biking, kayaking and snowshoeing.”

“Our medical staff benefit from very collegial and respectful relationships. The true understanding that no specialty is more important than another facilitates strong collaboration between departments,” says Child.

The University of Vermont Health System is currently recruiting outpatient family medicine physicians, a rheumatologist and a neurologist.

Says Begly, “From when I started out, everyone has been really helpful and really approachable in the new role. Specifically at Central Vermont Medical Center, I work with three partners. I’ve been really impressed by everyone’s expertise. Even though it’s a small hospital, people are so smart and experienced.”


Liz Funk

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