December 26, 2012

Editorial: Doctors healing in a new way

We all have more than just our health for which to be grateful to our doctors in our community. Now, we can add putting their money where their mouths are.

If that sounds a little flippant, it is. But the expression has some truth in it, in this case.

We’ve been hearing for years how difficult it is to recruit physicians to the North Country. Simply put, young doctors coming out of medical school can pick where they live and practice from a virtually unlimited array of settings.

While the North Country has plenty going for it, it also has one enormous drawback: A physician can count on making lots less money in a lifetime in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties than in many other sections of America.

Not only that, the pace of life and variety of experiences here also pale compared with, say, a metropolitan area. The Sun Belt offers what most consider ideal weather. Why would a young physician choose the North Country?

Well, we all cherish our dramatic four seasons, our outdoor recreational venues, our historical heritage, our still-low crime rate, our proximity to Montreal.

But, stacked up against warm weather and more money, those assets won’t often carry the day.

The Northern New York Medical Foundation, which counts among its membership many of the doctors who practice locally, has pitched in to help offset some of the disadvantages recruiters have been fighting for decades.

The foundation is offering $10,000 or more in scholarships to medical students eyeing a family practice if they’ll agree to establish their practice in Clinton, Essex, Franklin or St. Lawrence County. Dr. Sohom Patel, president of the foundation, would like to expand the menu to include obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics and orthopedics, as well.

All of our area hospitals have had to be resourceful from time to time to provide adequate medical coverage. In the case of CVPH Medical Center, agreements have been struck with doctors in Burlington to treat patients in Plattsburgh one or more days a week because specialists here were not available. Some communities in rural parts of our counties have desperately sought ways to attract doctors, who surely would have found a far more lucrative environment elsewhere.

The doctors in the foundation should be credited for the compassion they’ve shown in participating in this endeavor. We hope these scholarships do what they are designed to do and provide a steady stream of doctors to keep us all well.

Thanks, Docs. Recruitment is a lot less your problem than ours. We’re glad you’re able and willing to help.

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