Gunnison Valley Hospital
 

GVH hires husband-wife team for new family clinic


By Laura Anderson
June 28, 2012
Courtesy of The Gunnison Country Times


It seems that Annamarie and Michael Meeuwsen and Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) were meant to be together.
 
The couple knew that they wanted to be in a rural area, yet finding a place that needed two family practice docs didn’t seem likely.
 
So when they heard that GVH was looking to hire one-and- a-half new family practitioners for a family clinic, they jumped at the chance.
 
“We knew we wanted to be on the West Slope,” Annamarie said. “This was a good opportunity and it matched up well.”
 
Their not quite-full-time schedules work out nicely to accommodate their growing family — the Meeuwsens have two young daughters and a baby on the way.
 
Though Gunnison is the smallest town the couple has lived in, they’re looking forward to raising their family here.
 
“Being in a small town, you have more of a sense of community,” Annamarie observed. “This is our first experience living in such a small town, so it’s kind of an experiment.”
 
Though some doctors may balk at running into patients at the grocery store, Annamarie said she’s looking forward to it.
 
“It’s kind of a nice thing in that you have that nice relationship,” she said.
 
They also hope that by living in a small town they will be able to realize the “ideal” of family medicine — caring for people from birth throughout their lives and caring for families from generation to generation.
 
The fact that they are a husband and wife team they believe gives them an advantage.
 
“We know how to communicate, and relay information to each other, ” Annamarie observed. “I can see if he feels the same way I do about a patient’s care.”
 
It also allows patients to choose between a male or female doc, should they have a preference.
 
“We don’t care who they see,” said Michael. “We just want them to be comfortable.”
 
They also recognize the advantages of having a practice within a hospital where medical supplies, lab, x-rays and MRIs, as well as doctors with other specialties for referrals or consults, are all in the same building.
 
The couple decided that they wanted to go to medical school before they got married and since then have aspired to go into rural medicine.
 
After their nuptials, the couple spent most of a year in Bolivia while they applied to medical school, where they climbed soaring peaks over 20,000 feet and volunteered at a children’s hospital.
 
“It was very eye-opening,” Annamarie said of their experiences working in the hospital, where, despite their lack of credentials, they were able to work with patients and assist on surgeries.
 
Following that experience, the two attended Loyola University Medical School in Chicago. After that, they moved to Denver to finish their residencies at the University of Colorado Medical School.
 
After finishing, they both stayed on as faculty and worked on a rural medicine fellowship, where they received additional training in emergency medicine and obstetrics.
 
This experience allowed them to work with high-risk pregnancies and births and see conditions that they might not often see in a rural health system.
 
Annamarie explained that the fellowship was developed based on surveys given to recently-graduated family practitioners who were asked what areas they felt they needed more training in.
 
Though this is only the second week of work at GVH, the new family practitioners’ appointments are filling up fast. According to Courtney Tanning, GVH’s community communication specialist, the point of hiring two new doctors was to help alleviate an already burdened system.
 
“Our goal here is that 80 percent of patients who come in, see a doctor in 24 hours,” she said, adding that due to a shortage of family practitioners in the area, some patients can’t get an appointment to see their regular doctor for weeks, and already over-booked doctors are reluctant to take in new patients.
 
Those patients often resort to the emergency room for immediate, yet more expensive, care. If a patient can’t pay, the hospital is left to foot the bill. Tanning said the purpose of bringing on new docs is to fill the void left by the recent retirement of several local practitioners — not to compete with those still in practice.
 
The Meeuwsens’ goal for the practice is simple, to provide high-quality, patient-centered care with open-access scheduling — in other words, same-day appointment — without excluding anyone despite a patient’s financial situation.
 
Tanning added that another hope is to keep patients from having to seek care elsewhere.
 
“We want to keep (medical care) in the community. It’s part of the ‘think local first’ philosophy,” she said.
 
(Laura Anderson can be reached at 641.1414 or laura@gunnisontimes.com)


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