The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 18, 2012

Staff passionate about their calling

By Lisa Shrewsberry
Lifestyles Editor

— The AccessHealth residents themselves are passionate about the path they’ve chosen, progressive thinkers still in some regards reminiscent of the commitment of doctors hailing from the house-call era.

Residents are students who have completed at least eight years of higher education (four undergraduate and four medical school). They’re doctors training on-the-job. For patients who encounter residents, many notice more time spent getting to know them and their condition than they are accustomed to, a trait that generally endears residents to those seeking care.

Far from the book-buried and passive listening set, residents are busy applying the concepts they’ve pored over the last four years. They maintain their own patient load, supervised by a fully licensed attending physician, and manage a continuity of care clinic that affords thorough evaluations and follow-up care for the economically strapped. Daily, working closely with their physician mentors, they partner in consulting with established patients.

“If patients are willing to take extra time and allow the residents to learn, they are not getting second-class care. Their appointments are longer with extra one-on-one time. What we hear all the time as physicians is, ‘My doctor doesn’t spend time with me.’ With residents, if anything, the doctor spends too much time with them,” Thymius illustrated.

About 450 patients between the AccessHealth Daniels and Mabscott locations are treated by the residents. Patient satisfaction, reported Thymius, has proven universally excellent from the resident-managed clinic component.

“The residents are actively contributing to this community.”

For the 2012-2013 year, there are four first-year resident physicians at AccessHealth: Michael L. Antolini, D.O.; Jamie Y. Blankenship, D.O.; T.C. Bramlee, D.O.; and Angela M. Pendleton, D.O.

Dr. Antolini, a graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, is a dyed-in-the-wool rural practitioner with interests in the growing fields of disaster medicine and preparedness and wilderness medicine.

He admitted while all residents are under pressure to learn as much as possible before beginning their own practices, the ability to actively participate in a patient’s health care removes an element of stress that is constant in the passive learning phase of medical scholarship.

“But you are also put on the spot in a different way in taking care of actual patients. What I’ve learned from the program so far is medicine is a business and it needs to be a sustainable endeavor. The sad fact is most of the time what makes you a good physician makes you a terrible business person. In the real world, you are not always funded adequately to provide good care. But you can’t let all those things influence your decision-making. Medicine is the easy part — it’s everything else that makes it difficult.”

Dr. Pendleton, a Shady Spring native, seconds the notion of putting care concepts into action as both her greatest blessing and stressor.

“As a student you have no clue, you’re just absorbing and learning all this information. Now, here we are thrown into the mix, with many responsibilities, learning to navigate through the health care hierarchy. All of us take our jobs very seriously.”

A busy mom, Pendleton isn’t the only resident who has had to juggle the rigors of academics, of hands-on patient experience and of maintaining family life while becoming a physician.

Before attending West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Bramlee, a father of four, served in law enforcement for more than a decade as a specialized and ranking detective. The Charleston native credits a high level of supportiveness from wife Carrie with his success in making it this far at the highest imaginable level of career transition.

“I’ve been in areas where it’s as rural as you can get. One of my top priorities is to stay here. I always wanted to be the old country doctor, to form a relationship with patients and to watch them get better.”

Surprisingly, the AccessHealth residents all plan on making the occasional house call, added Bramlee.

Dr. Blankenship, originally from Mercer County, also graduated from WVSOM before her residency in family practice. She examined other programs in her search and wasn’t satisfied with what the models might mean for her experience level.

“There are some residency programs where you never get to see the follow-up. In this program you actually get to fix people. It’s not a very common model, but this is where training is headed in the future,” she expressed.