The gold standard in attracting new residents – the lifeblood of thriving communities – is the professional.
Almost any credential of higher education will get economic developers’ pulses pounding as long as it’s associated with earning power. The coveted include engineers, scientists, attorneys and physicians. Maybe doctors most of all because their prestigious brand carries unique cultural cachet.
“My son (or daughter) the doctor,” is a cliché of pride that is routinely highjacked, as in:
“My neighbor the doctor.”
“My golf partner the doctor.”
“The new doctor at my church.”
A new doctor in town is seen as someone special. So we asked three recently arrived physicians how they see the Roanoke area as a place to live and work. We inquired about their likes, dislikes, comparisons with other places and prescriptions for improvement.
The Culture Seeker
Dr. Kinga Powers unabashedly describes the Roanoke area as “The Paris of The South.”
The 40-year-old trauma surgeon at Carilion Clinic, who moved here last year after practicing in Andover, Mass., near Boston, says Roanoke has everything for her active lifestyle: from the symphony to kayaking.
An eclectic music lover, she has attended such concerts as those by George Benson at the Jefferson Center and Elton John at the Roanoke Civic Center. “I went to the Roanoke Symphony’s Masquerade Ball. These things are very accessible,” says Powers.
She finds Roanoke’s restaurants don’t leave her missing big-city eateries. “Even when I lived in bigger cities I existed mainly in my own community. I would usually go to restaurants in, or near, my neighborhood,” she says.
“I think there are smaller restaurants here run by local people that are special,” adds Powers. Among her favorites: Alexander’s downtown and Rockfish in the Grandin area.
Renting a home in South Roanoke near Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and its burgeoning Riverside complex, Powers enjoys an independent grocer close by: Tinnell’s Finer Foods. “People there know who you are. They greet you.”
Powers says she may eventually buy a house in South Roanoke. The selection there is attractive, she says. “In bigger cities, usually when you live close to a hospital, you’re not in a very nice area. Here, you’re in a sought-after part of the city.”
She also enjoys antique hunting and shopping. If stores in Roanoke don’t have what Powers is looking for, no problem: “You don’t really have to drive that far to Richmond for your metropolitan experience, if you want, say, Nordstrom.”
Although the job at Carilion brought her here, with a chance to broaden her surgery opportunities and branch into research, it’s the lifestyle that could well keep Powers in Roanoke. Unlike some singles who complain about the Star City social scene, Powers finds it both lively and warm.
“I have made friends here who are professional photographers, others who work for the City of Roanoke and others who are musicians. Roanoke is just the right size to be able to go out and meet people who are professionals and are open to newcomers. The social circles are open.”
Carilion helped her break the ice. Medical staff officials routinely reach out to new doctors, says Powers, by organizing social functions “like a wine and cheese discussion at Cambria Suites” and a gathering at the upscale Shenandoah Club where recent arrivals received packets of information on everything from “hair salon choices to where to get shoes repaired to outdoor trips.”
Powers adds, “I found that a lot of the people who came to these gatherings, the new physicians, were in my age range.”
And she rates the populace high in sophistication. The abundance of colleges and universities in the area, she says, help create “a young city with a lot of energy. You have a lot of people here inclined to be more academic and intellectual. There’s a blend of culture, academics and nature that’s very nice.”