These cities provide a lot of entertainment options while practicing medicine in a college town.
These cities provide a lot of entertainment options while practicing medicine in a college town.

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Live & Practice: Sports Towns 2016

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Having a major university in town helps make Madison a thriving cultural center in the Midwest, with eclectic restaurants, a variety of arts and culture offerings and, of course, ways of practicing medicine in a college town.

Madison’s entertainment options

Brad Schmidt, M.D., would be the first to tell you about Madison’s full range of entertainment options. He lives in Madison with his family and is the Medical Director of Inpatient Specialties at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital–Madison. SSM Health, an integrated delivery network, operates more than 55 medical group locations and three hospitals across south-central Wisconsin.

“I have always been interested in science. I enjoyed combining the biology and science of medicine with connecting with people. I had done a little bit of research, but I missed the interactions with people. Working in a hospital was a way to put it all together. I started as a hospitalist, and (back) then it was a much newer and different field than it is currently,” says Schmidt.

Brad Schmidt, M.D.
Brad Schmidt, M.D., was born and raised in Wisconsin and is happy to call Madison home. “Our experience has been great,” he says. · Photo by Ueda Photography

Schmidt has enjoyed raising a family in Madison. He and his wife have three children, and they take advantage of the full range of entertainment options in the area. “With the university here there are many sporting events and cultural events. It’s a very high quality of life with a very engaged city. We like that, even though we have so many options, it has a smaller town feel.”

Appropriately, the Schmidt family members are sports fans. “We are diehard Packers fans. We also have season basketball tickets, which has been great over the past few years.” The Badgers are the University of Wisconsin’s Big Ten NCAA men’s basketball team. Schmidt says that there is strong local devotion to the team and that virtually everyone can get tickets to see them play: “In Madison, it’s generally pretty easy to get tickets.”

SSM Health Dean Medical Group

SSM Health physician recruiter Christopher Kashnig says that Madison’s attractiveness piques physicians’ interest, but what seals the deal is the culture at SSM Health Dean Medical Group, which has been around since 1904. “We tend to be innovative as an employer. We try new things. We try to be state-of-the-art. We pilot a lot of projects and we try to be cutting-edge,” says Kashnig.

For example, SSM Dean Medical Group was an early adopter of the patient-centered medical home. “We received a large grant from a major philanthropic organization to pilot a patient-centered medical home. We chose six of our primary care clinics for a pilot study; we looked at how to structure staffing and workflow.”

In total, SSM Health Dean Medical Group has more than 55 locations in 18 counties across Wisconsin. “We have four big clinics in the city of Madison, five clinics in suburbs of Madison, and the rest are in small towns across Madison. In Madison, we admit to St. Mary’s Hospital.” St. Mary’s is a full-service hospital with 440 beds.

“We are competitive financially with other offers around the country and around the city. We have Madison, and Madison sells itself. Madison has culture, it has sports, it has theater. When you have a big college campus and a state capital, there is a lot to do,” says Kashnig.

Judy Frankel, director of public relations and communications at the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, moved to Madison from Long Island, in New York. She was pleasantly surprised by the extent to which Madison is a busy and bustling area. “I’ve been here for 15 years. Madison is an amazing place to raise a family. It has great public schools, and the university is world-class. The university brings in a lot of opportunities for families whether it’s lectures or performances, music and theater.”

UnityPoint Health System

For those interested in potential employment opportunities in Madison, another employer of physicians in the area is UnityPoint Health System, which operates a clinic in Madison, called UnityPoint Health-Meriter. UnityPoint operates a number of clinics across Wisconsin, providing family care, urgent care and emergency medical care.

The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, which serves as a linchpin for a number of state-wide health promotion initiatives, runs a 25-year-strong physician recruitment program to place talented physicians in jobs across Wisconsin. Their nonprofit physician placement program works with clinics, hospitals and other healthcare providers to recruit physicians who are a match. According to the website, “Physicians placed into these sites promote and sustain a high quality of life, especially in rural, underserved areas.”

Schmidt was born and raised in Wisconsin, and feels good about his decision to stay in the state and build a life in Madison. “Madison has a state-of-the-art performing arts theater at the Overture Center. A family donated $250 million, so we have Broadway shows come through, everything from The Lion King to Stomp. We have a great farmers market with local food products; it’s fun to have those kinds of options and know where you’re getting your milk. That’s what creates the feeling that you have many choices with regard to restaurants, theater, comedy, performing arts, and still feel connected to the local community.”

This applies when it comes to sports, too. The University of Wisconsin basketball team may have the biggest fan base, but the university’s large sports program has something for everybody. “There are ways to enjoy sports beyond the high-profile teams you read about. I can take my daughter to a volleyball meet at the University of Wisconsin. I can take my son to soccer games at the University of Wisconsin.”

Says Schmidt, “Our experience has been great. We feel like our kids get a great education. There are lots of things in Madison that we can choose to have our kids experience. Overall, we love it.”

Whether you “bleed blue and gold” or you’re more of a casual sports fan, you’ll find scores of opportunities in Morgantown to enjoy the West Virginia University athletics program. For physicians, building a career with WVU Medicine offers flexibility and room for upward growth.

Working at WVU Medicine

“I’ve always had an affinity for college towns,” says Taylor Troischt, M.D., the medical director of a pediatric clinic operated by WVU Medicine. “I like the vibe; I like the variety of culture. You get the amenities without the stress or expense of a big city. My wife’s family lives in Hagerstown, Maryland. We knew we wanted to be closer to her family. When we were looking for jobs, we started by looking at college towns within a two- to three-hour radius of where her family lives. WVU Medicine seemed to be the best situation; we could both find a job in the same field in the same area. It’s not always that easy.”

Taylor Troischt, M.D.
“I like the vibe, I like the variety of culture. You get the amenities without the stress or expense of a big city,” says Taylor Troischt, M.D., of living in a college town. · Photo by Rebecca Devono

“WVU Medicine offers a really good blend of career opportunities and a good lifestyle,” says Troischt. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities to relocate with other jobs and other areas; the fact that we’re still here says a lot.”

Working in a college town

Troischt and his wife, who is also a pediatrician in the same office, had a fairly specific idea of what they were looking for in a community. In Morgantown, they feel they’ve hit the jackpot.

“I love college sports and college athletics. I don’t ‘bleed blue and gold’ like a lot of people who grew up here, but it’s always fun to see the teams do well,” says Troischt. “I love football. I love basketball. We love going to the games. It’s a lot of fun being part of a major athletic conference for basically every sport. It’s great that WVU is part of the Big 12.”

“The sports scene is huge,” says Katie Webster, the visitor services specialist at the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Football season in the fall is an awesome time. Football is the pride of the school and the state. Around the whole state, you see people wearing WVU stuff. Whether or not they went to school there, everyone is supportive of the college.”

“Our academic flagship hospital sits adjacent to the WVU Football stadium and in close proximity to our baseball, soccer, swimming and basketball venues, so sports are never far away from reach and the minds of WVU Medicine employees,” says Deveran George, director of talent management and physician recruitment for WVU Medicine.
The WVU Medicine flagship academic hospital and Level I trauma center is Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. “However, we are also part of a system with more than 12,000 employees and nearly $2 billion in annual revenues, the WVU Medicine – West Virginia United Health System,” says George. WVU Medicine – West Virginia United Health System also operates eight other hospitals and numerous clinics throughout the Morgantown area as well as the state of West Virginia and surrounding region.

Ruby Memorial Hospital is currently 532 beds, but an upcoming expansion, a 10-story tower addition, will bring the count to 646. Other hospitals and associated clinics in the WVU Medicine – West Virginia United Health System include Potomac Valley Hospital, Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital, the WVU Cancer Institute, and the WVU Eye Institute.

Says George, “It is a time of unprecedented growth at WVU Medicine, so we are expanding and growing our footprint throughout the state and region to meet the needs of our patients, state and surrounding region. . . . As a result of this growth and demand for our services, we are recruiting for every department—primary care and specialty. Some of the needs and focus include heart and vascular, orthopedics, pediatrics, neurology, oncology, rheumatology and digestive diseases, to name a few.”

The Morgantown community

For Troischt and his wife, building careers with WVU Medicine and raising their children in Morgantown is a choice they’re very happy with. “It’s a good community where people look after each other. My kids make cracks at me about this: When we’re out, they’ll see me saying hi to four or five families. When you’re a pediatrician in a small town, you’re going to get to know a lot of people.”

Webster says that the Morgantown population tends to be outdoorsy and takes advantage of local outdoor activities. “During the summer it’s especially great, because there is so much to do outdoors. We’re right on a lake and a river, so there’s boating, fishing and water rafting.”

For those interested in a day trip, the great outdoors is just beyond Morgantown.

“Morgantown is surrounded by forests and parks. Within a couple of hours you can get to so many parks, waterfalls and caves. People like to hike and bike on the trails, especially,” says Webster.

Troischt’s son and daughter are both athletes, which increases the family’s affection for where they live. “My kids love Morgantown,” says Troischt. “They have a great peer group. If you put time and effort in, you’ll be amazed what kind of opportunities there are here.”

Troischt says, “My daughter is in the ninth grade; she does track, and she does ballet. She has been busy with her dance career. She’s had amazing opportunities to train with professional dancers downtown at the Metropolitan Theatre. My son is a swimmer and participates in a swim league organized by WVU. His coach is going to the Olympic Trials, and he does lessons one-on-one.”

“It’s really amazing what opportunities a small town like Morgantown can have,” says Troischt. “There is opportunity, charm, safety. You’re not going to find all that in a lot of places.”

The northwest Arkansas area has experienced a growth spurt in the past 10 years; the population has grown, as have cultural offerings and job opportunities. Still, one thing remains the same: a devotion to the Razorbacks, the University of Arkansas’ beloved sports program.

“I moved here in 1987 after my residency training. Since 1990, there are 24 net new people living in northwest Arkansas every day. There is no prediction that that’s going to slow down any,” says Stephen Goss, M.D., president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas.

Goss was born and raised in southeast Arkansas. Inspired by his upbringing on a farm, he initially planned to become a veterinarian. He attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he pivoted onto a medical science track and met his wife. “The college was in my wife’s hometown, and both of her parents were professors at the university.” Goss attended medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and trained in internal medicine and pediatrics.

Fayetteville: A great place to raise kids

Old Main.jpg
Finished in 1875, Old Main is a well-known symbol of higher ed throughout Arkansas.

Goss has two adult sons, both of whom were raised in northwest Arkansas. Goss says the area was a great place to raise kids and that virtually everyone who grows up in the area is a fan of the Razorbacks. “I have season tickets to the Razorback football and basketball games. It’s hard to grow up in Arkansas and not be a Razorback fan. Win, lose or draw, we’re for Arkansas.” Goss says that the University of Arkansas is undergoing a stadium expansion, in part to accommodate the growing number of locals who want to go to games.

Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas

This population growth has been great for Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas. “We have robust recruitment for Mercy in NWA. We still have plans for much more over the next several years. We’re becoming a really vibrant area in the Midwest. We’re the only community where they have seen a 25 percent growth rate. The closest place to that, in terms of growth, is Austin, Texas,” says Goss. In fact, Fayetteville’s growth appears to mirror the transformation that Austin has undergone, with new housing developments, more restaurants and young professionals moving there every day.

“Our town used to have a small-town feel, but now there are lots of new restaurants, lots of biking trails and many more amenities,” says Goss.

The bike trails are hugely popular among locals, according to Kym Hughes, the executive director of Experience Fayetteville. “The city trails really inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. Many people are avid cyclists, and they enjoy the system here.” The Experience Fayetteville office is quick to mention the many accolades that Fayetteville has earned from national media, including Best Affordable Place to Live in America and the No. 3 Best Place to Live in America according to U.S. News and World Report in 2016. The city was also ranked No. 23 on Forbes’ 2015 Best Places for Business and Careers.

Economic growth in Northwest Arkansas

Dayna Pangle, a physician recruiter for Mercy, says that northwest Arkansas is widely known for its local economic growth. This certainly applies to her organization: “We are in the process of a $250 million expansion; we’re looking at adding 100 physicians in the next five years.”

Says Pangle, “Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas is currently 220 beds. We have approximately 135 integrated physicians and 60 advanced practitioners.” Pangle says that her main recruiting focus is primary care, and she is actively looking for primary care physicians. Mercy also has 10 clinics within the health system.

“We offer the opportunity to be part of a larger health care system,” says Goss. “Being part of a larger system lets you be a part of more things than if you were a stand-alone. We’re truly an integrated group of physicians. It’s not a hospital employment model. We have the whole organization integrated. We work together between hospital and clinic. We’re often looking at how we can solve health care issues as a system. We get lots of good traction and more robust programming as a result of that.”

For example, Goss describes their hybrid lab, where surgeons are able to perform a new procedure for the replacement of aortic valves. “Another thing we’ve gotten started is what we call our heartburn treatment center. We’re doing a better job diagnosing and giving better treatment for people with heartburn,” says Goss.

The Razorback football team is closeby

Pangle has another powerful talking point to use when she is selling job candidates on Mercy Hospital: “The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville—and the beloved UA Razorback football team—is just 20 minutes away.”

Al Gordon, M.D., is a family physician at FirstCare Family Doctors-North, part of the Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas (MANA), a multispecialty group that provides an umbrella for about 75 physicians in private practice to share common administration, marketing and billing offices. Gordon not only helped start MANA, but he also was on the first primary care team for the University of Arkansas athletic department.

Gordon’s relationship with the Razorbacks started in 1994; today he is the head team physician for the University’s Department of Athletics and medical director of the graduate program in athletic training.

“As far as University of Arkansas sports, it’s almost like everyone in the state supports them, no matter who you might be supporting otherwise,” Gordon says. “To be an integral part in that, there’s a lot to be said for that. …The relationships that are formed with these student-athletes, that’s also a big part of why I do it. I have student athletes who participated 20 years ago who are still in contact with me. That means more to me than anything.”

An Arkansas native who grew up in the eastern part of the state, Gordon headed north to Fayetteville for residency after completing medical school in Little Rock.

“In Northwest Arkansas, we’re rather spoiled,” he says. “There are so many things to do, whether you’re a music, art or sports enthusiast. It’s just one of those kinds of areas, and we’re fortunate to have that.”

Another employment option for physicians looking in northwest Arkansas in the Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic, also part of MANA. The Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic offers a wide spectrum of specialties at one location, including internal medicine, gastroenterology, rheumatology and sleep medicine.

Or, consider Washington Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in Fayetteville that’s part of the locally governed health system Washington Regional. The system also operates several specialty clinics in the northwest Arkansas area.

Arkansas: An area of increasing opportunity

“This is an area where there is a lot of opportunity, and we are recruiting a lot,” says Goss. “A lot of people think, ‘Arkansas?’ But they owe it to themselves to do a little research and see all that we have to offer. It’s a very unique place. We have a nice regional airport, and we’re well-located geographically. We’re not that far if you want to take a drive to Dallas, St. Louis or Tulsa. We have a great public school system, all four seasons, and lots of outdoor activities. It’s a great community, it has good people, and it’s a good place to grow your life.”

Says Gordon: “I like to visit areas all around this great country, but I’m always glad to be going home.”

When you think of Florida, the warm climate and alligators tend to come to mind. In Gainesville, Florida, there is great local affection for the Gators—that is, the University of Florida’s athletics program—as well as the sunny weather that makes outdoor recreation, farmers markets and biking to work possible.

“I was born in Auburndale, Florida, between Orlando and Tampa. Most folks when I was growing up were Florida State, Miami or Gators fans,” says Ryan Nall, M.D. Nall attended the University of Florida, which he says “lays the groundwork for being a huge Gators fan.” Nall also completed medical school at the University of Florida, but left the area for his residency. “I did my residency at Beth Israel in Boston. I lived there for four years.” After a stretch of time away, Nall and his wife were eager to return to Florida and put down roots.

Now, Nall is a general internist with UF Health, the University of Florida health system. He and his wife have an 18-month-old baby and enjoy their community and friends in Gainesville.

Gainesville is a college town

“As a medical student, you see one side of Gainesville, centered around the university. Coming back, working here now, there is a strong community here of a lot of academic folks. People have their kids play together; it’s great.”

Fans gather at the country’s 12th largest college football stadium—Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nicknamed “The Swamp.”
Fans gather at the country’s 12th largest college football stadium—Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nicknamed “The Swamp.”

Nall is quick to cite his favorite thing about Gainesville. “It’s a nice college town that offers a small-town feel with the benefit of the culture provided by the university being here.” That, and the sports.

“I love the football games. A big focus of the town in the fall is football. It’s a lot of fun. I did medical school here and returned here after my residency. I loved cheering for the Gators as a medical student, and it’s been fun moving back here.” Nall says that the spirit around the Gators contributed to his dedication to the University of Florida medical community. “The sports colored my interest, and UF certainly is a great school and program. It’s a fun place to live and work and train.”

“The quality of life here is very high. Being a college town, the amenities we have are not common in the region. If you look around, it’s a very rural area except for Gainesville. We bring in people from all over the world for the university,” says John Pricher, executive director of Visit Gainesville.

“In the county, there are 248,000 people. The majority of those people are in Gainesville proper. The schools are astounding. The high schools have a magnet program. There are two different honors programs,” says Pricher. “Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa are all within two hours. If you want to visit those places, it’s easy.” Pricher says that part of Gainesville’s allure is its affordability. “Compared to those areas [Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa], we definitely have a lower cost of living. Even with the university taking so much land off the tax rolls, it’s still really affordable to live here.”

Pricher is also a University of Florida alumnus. “I came to school here and never left. I really like the pace of life. It’s a small southern town when you get down to it. People are friendly, and everything flows like the rivers and the springs in the area. It’s a steady nice pace, and things get done when they get done. No one is in too much of a hurry.”

University of Florida College of Medicine

Of course, a career with UF Health isn’t much like a lazy river. Says Arman Razavipour, a physician recruiter for the University of Florida College of Medicine, “UF Health is the Southeast’s most comprehensive academic medical center, and the only one in the U.S. with six health colleges and eight research institutes on a single contiguous campus.”

“There are 996 licensed beds among the five Gainesville hospitals in the UF Health system,” says Razavipour. “We’re building two new hospitals in Gainesville, a $415 million project, to meet the increasing demand for care. The UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital will deliver concentrated care to patients with some of the most complex health conditions.”

Razavipour says that he has been actively recruiting physicians and researchers across a wide spectrum of specializations, including oncology, diabetes, genetics, cardiology, neuromedicine, orthopedics and transplantation.

Another employer of physicians in Gainesville is North Florida Regional Medical Center, operated by HCA North Florida. North Florida Regional Medical Center is an acute care center with 445 licensed beds.

Activities and people of Gainesville

Outside of work, physicians in Gainesville have plenty of entertainment options beyond the stadium. “We have such a wealth of nature-based activities, whether you want to ride horses or snorkel in one of the cold water springs,” says Pricher.

Razavipour echoes this: “Gainesville is known for its natural beauty and many springs, lakes and rivers. The climate encourages outdoor activities and residents enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, bicycling and camping.”

Nall says that commuting to work by bike is common in Gainesville and that “they are in the process of completing a big bike trail.” Since 2013, the Florida Department of Transportation has been at work on an extensive trail construction project that will both create new paths for walking and biking within the UF campus and connect these bike paths with existing ones off-campus.

Nall also enjoys the dining and arts scene in Gainesville. “There is a growing food and restaurant scene with local chefs that are creating some wonderful places to dine. There is a microbrewery group that is developing; it will be the third microbrewery in the area. There is a wonderful farmers market downtown. [On] Wednesday nights there is a farmers market/art market. It’s a great place to go and enjoy everything that’s made in the area. Gainesville is often viewed as this small college town, but there is so much more happening in terms of art and public works, making it a better place to live and work.”

Nall says that his favorite part of the job is taking care of the patients and engaging with the people of Gainesville. “Everybody is unique and brings their own story, which is what makes this job so interesting and exciting. Now that I have been here for three years, you begin to connect with people as you get to know them over time. It’s invigorating.”


Liz Funk

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