Building Community as a Small-Town Pediatric Practice

Primary Care Matters is a guest column written for MedStat by a local pediatrician or primary care provider.

(From the January 2019 Issue of MedStat

By Cheryl Kirkby, MD 

Dr. Kirkby, pictured here with her family, is a pediatrician at Mill Valley Pediatrics. She attended medical school at Pennsylvania State University and completed her pediatric residency at Emory University Hospital.

Dr. Kirkby and family

When I wrote my admission essay for medical school, I described my dream job as being a pediatrician in a small town. I wanted my practice to be close to a bigger city, but still have a rural feel. Through a series of twists and turns, I ended up with this very career! So when I was asked to write an essay on the perks and challenges of being a pediatrician in a small town setting, I was happy to do so.

I have the privilege of practicing in the community of Marysville. Marysville is a city along Columbus’s growing north-west corridor. It has a population of about 24,000 with about 1/3 of the population being under the age of 18. The population has a wide variety of socio-economic and education levels. We also have patients from smaller communities surrounding Marysville, with some of them driving over an hour to come to our practice.

One of the things I have enjoyed in our small town is the ability to become involved in the community. Since our practice’s origin, we have sponsored a variety of events in which our pediatric population is involved — including soccer teams, baseball teams, show choir, etc. Of note, our MVP baseball team has won the league championship the last 2 years — so we get to display the trophies in our office! We set aside a dollar amount every year and sponsor as much as we can. This is a good way to advertise as well as an avenue to support our youth.

Another project that occurs in the late fall is our annual Marysville Food Bank collection. We ask patients to bring in food donations during our appointment reminder calls. If anyone brings in a donation, we exchange it for a small token of appreciation.

This past summer, we erected a book lending library near the entrance to our office. We keep it stocked with books for both children and adults. Since it is outside, families can access it even if the office is closed. Our office has also partnered with our local United Way to make sure that families are aware of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library — a program that mails free books monthly to children under the age of 5. We include this information in our newborn folders so that parents can get started with reading early. (We also include information about a variety of local programs for newborns and young children in the folders.)

In addition, I think that a small town may lend itself more easily to collaboration between pediatric offices. For example, recently it was noticed that within several practices we had what we thought was an increasing amount of pediatric cancer cases. Marysville Primary Care-COPC, led a conference at our local hospital, Memorial Hospital of Union County. Dr. Cripe from Nationwide Children’s Hospital hematology-oncology department was present along with several epidemiologists from the Union County Health Department. Every office that has pediatric patients was also in attendance. It was good to know that the data suggested that the number of cases was within normal limits, but perhaps it just felt like more since we KNOW these children and their families so well.

The pediatric offices in Union County also get together 2-3 times annually for a night program that Nationwide Children’s hospital hosts. We discuss various topics applicable to our pediatric populations. It is a time to brain-storm and learn best practices from fellow pediatricians. I enjoy the comradery and the information. Otherwise, it is difficult to make it to many of the offerings that Nationwide Children's has to offer on a busy work day with a long commute to the hospital. However, I do sometimes listen to Nationwide Children's podcasts on my way to work (shout out to Dr. Mike’s podcasts which give free CME).

All in all, I really enjoy where I work. However, we do have some challenges since we are a little more outside of Columbus. First, as previously mentioned, it can be difficult to utilize some of the education programming that Nationwide Children's hosts. We also do not have local access to some of the sub-specialty clinics, behavioral health services, and more specialized radiology. Usually our families are able to make the drive to where those services are offered, but occasionally this can be difficult.

Most of the time, however, Marysville feels not too big, not too small, but just right.

 

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