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This month, Los Alamos Medical Center will celebrate, with hospitals across the country, “Doctors Day.” Traditionally marked on March 30, this date is known industry-wide as a special time set aside to recognize the invaluable contribution made by physicians.We’ve all seen the TV dramas staged around hospitals – emergency rooms, operating suites and doctors’ lives. While it’s easy to get caught up in those plot lines, it is vitally important for communities to realize that their physicians are the keys to a viable healthcare system. They are also real people with busy daily routines, who are often called upon to improve the quality of, or even save, the lives of their friends and neighbors. So what makes LAMC’s medical staff truly special?All communities think they are “unique.” Los Alamos is unique, especially when it comes to health care. A major employer the size and importance of Los Alamos National Laboratory generally provides support for a physician distribution rich in specialists.The county as a whole, and in particular LAMC (licensed for only 47 in-patient beds), is the beneficiary of this phenomenon. Our medical staff of more than 80 doctors includes providers not normally found in the typical “small, rural hospital.”For example, we have seven part-time or full-time pediatricians on our medical staff roster, all of whom have very busy practices. Industry standards, known as “physician-to-population ratios” would predict that a town of 19,000 people would have perhaps three doctors working part- or full-time in that specialty. Likewise, we have the luxury of more types of specialists than virtually any community our size might expect. Not all members of our medical staff are medical doctors (MDs). We have granted privileges to doctors of osteopathy (DOs), doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs), dentists and clinical psychologists. They are classified as active, consulting or courtesy staff, some working part time and some holding privileges that allow them to practice in our hospital only on an as-needed basis.But they all act as a team to offer our patients valuable access to healthcare services in our great home town.Beyond their professional positions, our providers contribute to the rich diversity of Los Alamos and northern New Mexico. Some are musicians performing in their “free” time for the enjoyment of the listening public.Chosen styles in that group range from jazz piano to symphonic bass to singing in church choirs. Others are masters-level athletes (and even a true Olympian) doing triathlons, bike races, hurdles and swimming. One is a hockey goalie! Some have their private pilot licenses and enjoy the beauty of northern New Mexico from the air, while others own champion-line dogs or horses.You will find them giving volunteer time on the sidelines at the Friday night football games, working in school parent-teacher organizations, and serving on multiple boards and commissions throughout the region.Specifically, Casa Mesita girls’ group home, Los Alamos Family Council, the Community Health Council, Boy Scouts of America, the United Way, Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Board, Los Alamos Heart Council, the Council on Cancer, and the Community Health Care Roundtable are among many organizations that have benefited from physician expertise through the years.Reaching beyond our state and national borders is not uncommon for our medical staff. LAMC physicians have been active at the state level in the Medicaid program and as adjunct faculty or preceptors for medical students. Some have served nationally in such professional organizations as the American College of Physicians.At least two have traveled to, and maintain regular contact with, our sister city of Sarov in Russia. Through their efforts, we periodically welcome visitors from Sarov to LAMC, sharing knowledge and common concerns with our colleagues from abroad.Others have joined pro bono groups going to third-world countries to provide health care to our neediest of fellow human beings.Most important, however, are the caring and compassion with which our doctors practice medicine.A more dedicated staff would be hard to find anywhere. So on March 30, take a moment to join with me and my staff in remembering and honoring our providers at LAMC. They make us the great hospital that we are.
Sandra C. Podley is the chief executive officer of Los Alamos Medical Center.