Virginia clinic launches new physician program

Minnesota State Roundup

Published April 1, 1995  | April 1994 issue

When Edmund Draper's two-year medical residency began at Virginia's East Range Clinic in March, the event marked the start of a new program to lure physicians to the northern Minnesota clinic.

By offering a residency program, the clinic provides a unique opportunity to trained physicians, like Draper, who need to be re-licensed or who plan to switch specialties, says Bill Doran, director of physician recruitment at East Range Clinics Ltd. Draper relocated to Minnesota from Great Britain, where he practiced medicine for 15 years, but he needs re-licensing to practice in this country.

The new residency program, modeled after a similar one at the Olmsted Medical Group in Rochester, Minn., is only the second in the country, according to Doran. And while the clinic's residency program is uncommon, creative physician recruitment programs are common in rural areas.

Prior to hiring Doran in May 1990, the clinic relied on recruitment agencies for physician referrals, with less success. Since Doran joined the staff of the clinic, which has branches in Eveleth and Aurora, the number of physicians has increased by 13 to 30. The clinic's goal is 49 physicians.

East Range Clinics' physician recruitment efforts, which operate in conjunction with the area hospital, Virginia Regional Medical Center, include direct mailings to medical students, advertising in medical journals and a 13- minute videotape highlighting the clinic and the community.

The northern Minnesota climate is the biggest negative factor in luring potential candidates to Minnesota, according to Doran. Another issue is employment opportunities for candidates' spouses. Despite those potential drawbacks, recent hires include a general surgeon from San Francisco, a dermatologist from Baltimore and an optometrist from West Virginia—none with any ties to Minnesota.

In addition to a minimum salary of $100,000, physicians have the option of becoming a clinic shareholder their second year. And local bankers have worked with the new hires, many of whom face a large medical school debt burden, to acquire mortgage financing.

With a competitive salary and the ease with which new physicians build their private practice, keeping physicians has not been an issue, according to Doran. "We are recruiting for growth not turnover," he says.

Diane Wells