What could be more enticing than "a magic place at the center of stunning landscapes, small-town values and progressive, business-friendly attitudes"? That is how the local chamber of commerce describes Clearfield, sitting on the edge of Moshannon State Forest, 35 miles from Allegheny National Forest and not far from the Appalachian Mountains, not to mention the Susquehanna River flowing through the area. "It’s a beautiful part of the country," says Linda Cindric, a recruiter at Penn Highlands Healthcare (PHH), which operates four area hospitals in Du Bois, Clearfield, Brookville and Elk.
It’s also a short 35 miles from State College, home of Penn State University, and about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh, both of which, as county commissioner John Sobel points out, offer "all the amenities of city athletics." He adds that outdoor activities abound, including hunting and fishing. On a more citified note, "This is an active arts-related community," he notes. "There are several local galleries, a music group and an umbrella arts organization." Not to mention the movie theaters and several restaurants, including Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub. (Among other beefy challenges, they offer a 123-pound burger. Price: $379.)
Clearfield County itself could confound a newcomer with its variety of population centers - one city, 18 boroughs, 30 townships, 12 "census designated places" and four unincorporated communities. The city is actually Du Bois, 20 miles from Clearfield, the county seat.
The hospitals have their own version of consolidation. While all provide standard services needed in any community, each offers its own set of specialty treatments. For more advanced procedures, patients can be referred to hospitals in Pittsburgh, Altoona or Danville. PHH also offers educational programs and other public health related services.
Last July, Mary Clare Maninang-Ocampo, M.D., joined the staff at Penn Highlands Center for Children’s Care, affiliated with the Clearfield hospital. Born in the Philippines, she moved with her family at age 8 to California, but her medical school choice was in her home country, where she also completed her internship and was licensed before returning to the U.S. for a residency and chief resident position at what is now the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. The advantage of a Filipino license is that she has a foot in the door to go back there on medical missions, an opportunity, she says, that she "really loves."
In the meantime, all of her family members had returned to the Philippines except for one sister still living in the Garden State. Maninang-Ocampo wanted to be close to the sister but preferred to leave the state to practice, partly because of the high cost of living. She adds, "I didn’t want to be involved in a big institution, (but) in a small community-based (hospital and/or clinic) in a medium-sized city." And a good place to raise her two children. "I didn’t know anybody in Clearfield, but when I saw the group I’d be working with I had the feeling that I would just fit in." And her sister is a mere four hours away.
Maninang-Ocampo rotates between two locations, one in Clearfield and one in nearby Philipsburg, where, she says, "they want to build a bigger practice and a new clinic. It’s kind of challenging. I’ll probably be the first pediatrician here."
Sobel promotes the area as "a nice place to live and raise a family, where crime is really low and where people can still leave their houses unlocked and cars don’t get stolen."
But that doesn’t take modernization - or entertainment - off the page.
In a new project, the city is fostering a mile-long walkway, complete with a boutique hotel, plus a new park. With more improvements coming, such as streetscape and riverfront projects, the Clearfield Revitalization Corporation and Main Street Program are working to set up a youth council as a way to encourage young people to stay.