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December 5, 2016

Live & Practice: Family Friendly Cities 2017

It’s likely you’ve spotted Charleston lately on top 10 lists of "Best Cities for Millennials," "Fastest Growing Cities" or "Best Places for Freelancers." Charleston has experienced a recent publicity boom and an influx of new residents. They’re drawn to the area by its fusion of southern hospitality and local urban flavor. Charleston is known for its great food, vibrant arts scene and colorful architecture.

"Boy, we’re getting a lot of people moving in and a lot of new docs," says John Rowe, M.D., a family physician with Roper St. Francis Hospital System in Charleston, South Carolina. "The city is coming into its own. It has a good feel to it with all these new people coming in. New doctors and people find friends very quickly and get to be part of the community."

Family-friendly Charleston

Charleston is known nationally for its friendliness, and it’s also a popular place for parents to raise families.

"For families, people like the depth and variety it has to offer," says Rowe. "We’ve got the beach and the water. We have a great parks system. We do get a little bit of winter, and it may last six to eight weeks. By May, the beaches are great."

Rowe comes from a long line of physicians, and he felt drawn to family medicine. "My personality has always been to know a little bit about everything, and my personality likes a diverse group of patients and people. So family medicine was really the job description written for me."

John Rowe, M.D.,
"New doctors and people find friends very quickly and get to be part of the community," says John Rowe, M.D., of living in Charleston, South Carolina. Rowe attended medical school in Charleston and has practiced at Roper St. Francis for 15 years. · Photo by Richard Bell Photography

Rowe attended medical school in Charleston at the Medical University of South Carolina. "We have a great medical community in Charleston because of the history of these two organizations [Roper and the Medical University]. They’re separate, but they’re right across the street from each other. That adds a little interesting dynamic to it."

Roper St. Frances, the state’s first community hospital

Rowe has practiced at Roper St. Francis for the past 15 years. Roper St. Francis operates three hospitals: two in Charleston and one in nearby Mount Pleasant. The system’s namesake, Roper Hospital, has 368 beds. Founded in 1829, it was the first community hospital in South Carolina. Roper St. Francis also operates more than 90 outpatient clinics and primary care practices in the area.

Rowe says his alma mater does more than educate physicians. It also instills an affection for Charleston in medical residents. "It does help having that residency program here. They fall in love. Physician retention at Roper is pretty amazing. For a lot of docs who come out of residency, they want to stay. They park it. They’re happy, and they don’t leave. There are a lot of doctors in our community that have been here a long time."

MUSC is working to grow its reach outside the hospital. Its primary care network has 13 primary care sites in Charleston and is expanding to include specialists within that network.

Charleston’s beaches and natural beauty

Misty Daniels, director of physician recruitment there, is a native Kentuckian who is new to Charleston. "You have the natural beauty: the beaches, the weather, the marshes," she says. "You have the man-made beauty: the beautiful architecture, the gorgeous bridges. It’s a really pretty city. Then there is a lot of inner beauty in terms of the personalities of the people you meet and who you work with. I never have a problem pulling into traffic. People are always willing to let you cut in. It was one of the things that I didn’t think about in making the move, but it’s been a really nice thing to discover about Charleston."

Patrick Cawley, M.D., is CEO for MUSC Health. He’s a native Pennsylvanian who has been on what he calls a "25-year Southward trend": Scranton to D.C. to Durham and, eventually, Charleston.

"I’ve worked here at MUSC for almost 15 years," Cawley says. "We have a great viewpoint when it comes to physician work. We’re pretty flexible when it comes to alternative hours or reduced hours if you need that. We have a lot of part-time physicians. At the same time, if you’re working full time, just about every department from my perspective balances that out pretty well. That’s the culture at MUSC and in Charleston - to make sure physicians enjoy life."

An excellent medical community

Cawley also credits the area’s medical community with helping make Charleston a great place for physicians to live and practice.

"This medical community as a group is always trying to make care better," he says. "That’s just a great environment to live in."

Forty-six new people move to Charleston every day. "That number comes to us from the Realtors Association of Charleston," says Daniel Blumenstock, chairman of the Charleston Area Convention Center & Visitors Bureau. "My family and I can’t go out to dinner without running into someone we know. So if you have a physician moving into town, if they don’t have a network already, they can easily grow a network of people they’ve met that have similar likes. One person connects to another person. That synergy is a positive thing."

"I absolutely love this area for raising my family," says Rowe, who has three school-aged children. "It’s a great environment. I think every city or area has its benefits, but I wouldn’t have my kids anywhere else. There are definitely parts that are super family-friendly and young-family-focused. Mount Pleasant is an area that has affordable housing and an incredible elementary school and high school. Summerville is another one of those areas. Our community planners have really seen, as we grow our community, that we need to couple new housing with excellent education."

Charleston’s great schools for children

Blumenstock says Charleston has a variety of top-notch educational options for children. "We have a lot of charter schools and magnet schools. We have charter schools that have a specialized focus, like the arts or technology. We have magnet schools that students test into. And we have an excellent public school system." Blumenstock has three children, ages 17, 14 and 12. He says, "I’m living proof that it’s great to raise a family in the Charleston area."

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta draws visitors from all over the world and attracts plenty of media attention, but it’s just one of many activities for families in this outdoorsy part of the country. Families also enjoy a climate that’s pleasantly hot but not humid.

Escape the cold in Albuquerque, NM

Christopher Calder, M.D., moved cross-country with his wife from New York to New Mexico mainly to escape the cold. "Long story short, I was in practice in upstate New York, and my adult daughter had moved to Albuquerque to do a master’s degree in public health," Calder says. "We followed her here. A lot of people end up here relatively serendipitously like that. It’s not a place that most people think of going, which is something many of us like about it."

Calder attended medical school in New Zealand, where he was born and raised. He completed his residency in neurology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. He had a practice in Albany, New York, until 2012. Today, Calder is the neurology department vice chair at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. "The job was an opportunity to move on and try an academic department instead of private practice. It was supposed to be a retirement job, and now I’m chair of the department."

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

San Felipe de Neri church

San Felipe de Neri church was built in 1793 and is still home to an active parish in Albuquerque.

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is the umbrella that connects the university’s academic programs, research programs and patient care. The University of New Mexico Hospitals operates five hospitals, including University of New Mexico Hospital, University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Center, University of New Mexico Carrie Tingley Hospital and University of New Mexico Young Children’s Health Center. UNM Hospitals also operates clinics, including a women’s healthcare clinic, pediatric clinics and an ophthalmology clinic.

"We are the service area for 2 million plus people," says Calder. "Albuquerque is the center of the state, so people come from long distances. We also see patients from southern Colorado and some from western Texas. Whatever field you’re in, there is usually a job. There is usually a good job. This is a good place to practice."

Presbyterian Healthcare Services

Kelly Herrera, a physician recruiter for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, echoes this. Presbyterian Healthcare Services is a not-for-profit health system that operates eight hospitals in New Mexico and employs more than 700 physicians in 50 specialties. "You have a great team to refer patients to. There’s a robust medical group," says Herrera.

Three of those eight hospitals are in the Albuquerque area. Presbyterian Hospital, the system’s flagship, is a 453-bed hospital that sees 70,000 ER visits a year. Kaseman Hospital has 55 beds and Rust Medical Center has 92 beds. Presbyterian Healthcare Services also operates outpatient clinics and urgent care clinics throughout Albuquerque. "We have been around for 106 years. The organization is very stable, and we continue to grow," says Herrera.

As if job stability weren’t enough, Albuquerque also boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. "Our area is known for people who want to be outdoors. It is classified as a dry heat. You’re not going to get that moisture that you would in other parts of the U.S. What’s really cool is that you can go up to the mountains and play in the snow and then come back and golf," says Herrera.

"There’s something for everyone. There is a lot of jazz and blues. There are a lot of playhouses here," Calder says.

Albuquerque, the hot air ballooning capital of the world

And of course, there are hot air balloons. "We are the hot air ballooning capital of the world," says Brenna Moore, communications specialist for Visit Albuquerque. "The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta happens every October. It’s nearly 600 hot air balloons going up all at once. You can walk on the field and walk between the balloons and talk to the pilots," says Moore. Nearly 1 million visitors come to Albuquerque to enjoy the nine-day festival. The event is a widely anticipated annual activity for local families.

Another popular family activity in Albuquerque is visiting local Native American pueblos. "We have 19 Native American pueblos within the state. It’s like a glimpse back in history. The Native American culture has so much influence on our food and ways of life," says Moore.

On feast days, families who live in pueblos across the state open their homes to the public and cook for visitors. Dancers perform for the crowds, and pueblo members wear traditional attire. Moore says another popular family destination is the Albuquerque BioPark, which comprises of an aquarium, zoo, botanical gardens, a small beach and a fishing lake for children. Moore adds, "Because the weather is so nice, many of our parks and outdoor activities are open sunrise to sunset every day."

Albuquerque’s friendly culture

The warmer temperatures in New Mexico suit Calder, who sees the climate as conducive to a friendly culture. "People are very friendly. People here enjoy a very nice outdoor lifestyle. From mid-April to the end of October, we will often sit outside to have dinner," he says.

Calder may not have raised his daughter in New Mexico, but now the state is home to them both. That’s not all they have in common. After pursuing graduate work in public health, Calder’s daughter decided she wanted to work more directly with patients. She became an EEG technician and works at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Connecticut is home to some of the best private schools in the country. The Hartford area also has magnet schools, charter schools and nationally ranked public schools. With two large local health systems in the area, it’s no wonder physicians relocate to raise their families in Hartford.

Although she was born and raised in Pennsylvania and did her medical training up and down the East Coast, Lisa Gronski, D.O., feels right at home in Connecticut. She chose to move to Hartford after observing the area and the workplace while in training.

Hartford: A family-friendly environment

Lisa Gronski, D.O.,

Sports medicine physician Lisa Gronski, D.O., returned to Connecticut after fellowship in Florida. The Hartford school system was a big draw for her family. · Photo by Jane Shauck

Gronski explains, "I rotated through the different hospitals and health care systems during my time there. And so I spent a lot of time at Hartford Hospital and in the outpatient offices with Hartford HealthCare." Today, she practices sports medicine with Hartford HealthCare.

Hartford’s family friendliness attracted her back to the area. She says, "That was another reason why we wanted to move back up to Connecticut. Where we live is a very safe area. There are a lot of activities for families to do together."

Outdoor activities in Hartford

Gronski and her family love the area’s outdoor offerings. She has a 4.5-year-old son and a 7-month-old daughter. "We like to be outside as much as we can, whether it’s ice skating, hiking, biking or fishing. We also like to take our son to various events throughout the state. There are lots of festivals and carnivals. There are beautiful parks to walk through. There is Elizabeth Park, which has a rose garden that has a pond where you can feed ducks, which my son loves."

It’s not surprising Gronski loves being active outdoors. She was an athlete in high school and college, and these experiences influenced her career path.

She chose the University of Connecticut for her residency, and she later became chief resident. She completed a fellowship in sports medicine in Florida and moved back to Hartford for a job with Hartford HealthCare right after.

Hospitals in Hartford

Hartford HealthCare operates five hospitals in the area, including Hartford Hospital, a teaching hospital in partnership with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. The hospital has 867 beds and a Level I trauma center. Hartford HealthCare Medical Group operates 56 outpatient locations, employing 196 physicians and 84 advanced practitioners, who perform primary care, urgent care, specialty medicine and outpatient surgery.

"Working in this area is nice because I can access all the specialists in the tertiary care center to refer our patients," says Gronski.

Another major employer of physicians in the Hartford area is Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Director of Physician Recruitment Christine Bourbeau says, "Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center has 617 beds. The Saint Francis Emergency Department works out of a new state-of-the-art, 70-bed Level II trauma and tertiary referral center with 85,000 visits. Hartford is the capital of Connecticut, and we’re a Catholic hospital, so we do take care of the uninsured. That’s our mission statement - that we care for everyone." Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center is part of Trinity Health, which operates 93 hospitals, five of which are in New England.

Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center operates nearly 60 outpatient clinics, some of which are on site at Saint Francis. Bourbeau says, "When you come in to Saint Francis Hospital, part of it is a whole medical office building. We have various clinics within our hospital setting."

Bourbeau is currently recruiting for psychiatry, internal medicine, maternal-fetal medicine, neurology, occupational medicine and OB-GYN. "The list goes on and on and on," says Bourbeau. "It’s usually because we’re building. We’re continually adding new talent. As big of a hospital as it is, when doctors come and visit us, they see that it’s not so big you get lost in the system. It’s not intimidating for physicians. It’s a warm, embracing place where there’s a collegial atmosphere." Perhaps this atmosphere is why Bourbeau herself has been an employee of Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center for 20 years.

Connecticut is known for education

When Bourbeau is recruiting physicians with families, Connecticut has a major selling point: education. "Connecticut has the best, best private schools. That’s what Connecticut is known for," she raves. Some of the top private schools in Connecticut are Choate Rosemary Hall, the Hotchkiss School, Miss Porter’s School and the Taft School.

Connecticut’s public education also has locals singing its praises. Chip McCabe, director of marketing for the Hartford Business Improvement District, says, "The Capital Region Education Council (CREC) runs a lot of great of high schools in the Hartford region. Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts is world-renowned for arts disciplines. They have everything from creative writing to dance to music. There is a sports sciences high school and an aerospace and engineering high school," says McCabe.

The schools were also a factor for drawing Gronski back to Connecticut. "The schools are top-notch and high-ranked throughout the country. That’s important because our son will be going into kindergarten soon."

Skokie, Illinois, has the best of both worlds. It’s a suburb with top-ranked schools, but its public transportation makes it easy to travel to Chicago and all the attractions and excitement of the city. Skokie sits on the northern border of Chicago and is the first North Shore suburb north of city limits. Even so, living in Skokie doesn’t require a morning commute into the Windy City. Skokie Hospital and NorthShore University HealthSystem offer ample job opportunities.

Northshore University HealthSystem

Jonathan Pomerantz, M.D., grew up five blocks from Skokie Hospital, but he says the hospital has changed since his childhood. It was acquired by NorthShore University HealthSystem, and today Pomerantz works there as an ear, nose and throat doctor. "NorthShore really improved the quality, the safety and the prestige that Skokie Hospital had," explains Pomerantz. "They took what I saw at the Skokie Hospital growing up, what used to be just one hospital, and made it a component of a really strong health system."

Pomerantz was attracted to his specialty early in medical school. He says, "I thought it had a little something of everything. I like that you treat patients from birth to end of life. It’s a big quality-of-life field. Every time you fix a sinus infection or improve someone’s snoring or the quality of their sleep, you’re making their life better. It’s a feel-good field."

With the exception of his undergraduate education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Pomerantz has always lived in greater Chicago - a sure sign of his affection for the area.

Skokie: A family-centered place

For Pomerantz, his wife and their two children, Skokie has proved to be a family-centered place. "It’s excellent. The schools are top-ranked in the state. The neighborhoods are beautiful. The people are friendly and diverse," he says.

Howard Meyer, executive director of the Skokie Chamber of Commerce and a Skokie native himself, echoes this. He says, "Skokie is a very dynamic community. . . . We have over 90 languages and dialects spoken in the school district."

It’s also one of the strongest in the state, featuring more perfect ACT scores than any other Illinois school district.

Skokie’s entertainment and amenities have been created with families with kids in mind. "We have probably one of the largest park districts for any north suburban area. Our forest district is forest preserve land. We are just finishing the last leg of our bike trails." These trails connect to Chicago bike trails and extend all the way to Green Bay.

Opportunities in Skokie

Those interested in relocating to Skokie will find ample opportunities. The Illinois Science + Technology Park is located in the center of Skokie and employs 3,500 people. NorthShore University HealthSystem is also one of the large employers in Skokie and greater Chicago.

NorthShore University HealthSystem is an integrated system with four hospitals: Evanston, Glenbrook, Highland Park and Skokie. There are almost 800 beds across the system. NorthShore also has a 900-physician medical group with over 100 offices, a research institute, and a foundation.

NorthShore is currently most heavily recruiting for primary care, urgent care and surgical specialists.

One perk of working at Skokie Hospital is its state-of-the-art equipment, and the hospital is constantly upgrading its facilities. Pomerantz says, "We have all brand-new operating rooms. They built a brand-new surgical intensive care unit. Everything in the operating rooms is state-of-the-art. We can have video conferences with colleagues in operating rooms at other sites. Students can listen to their surgeon instructor explain what’s going on. We have state-of-the-art instrumentation and new types of surgical techniques. It’s a very exciting place to work. Sometimes I find myself strolling into the other surgical subspecialties. It’s so exciting to see what’s going on."

"We’ve made a lot of interesting advances in sleep surgery, and we recently performed our first tongue implant for sleep apnea. It’s a new technology where you can implant an electrode into the tongue to keep from snoring. We were the first in the state to perform that procedure."

Pomerantz says the strength of the hospital’s integrated sleep program made that procedure possible. "We have sleep medicine consultants from neurology and pulmonary medicine. We work in a nice, tight-knit center to have comprehensive care for sleep surgery patients."



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