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In the realm of desirable living situations, Roanoke Valley’s health care is right at the top of the heap.
For a population of just over 299,000, the valley has grabbed some big-time honors: notably the #6 ranking for health care performance out of 402 North American metropolitan areas. And, according to, 2007’s Cities Rated and Ranked, there’s more:
Such life-enhancing factors as below-national-averages cancer mortality and stress rates. Higher per capita numbers of physicians and hospital beds. And growing national recognition. In all, an impressive 93.9 rating out of a possible 100.
What’s behind all these happy accomplishments?
Two all-star achievers: Carilion Clinic and HCA Lewis-Gale.
If there are identical truths about Carilion and Lewis-Gale, they’re these: Both are rock-solid 100-year-old institutions in the Roanoke Valley. Both have leapt into the 21st century with eyes focused on growth, revolutionary technology and patient care.
Carilion Clinic is the biggest employer sector in the region, encompassing not just the Roanoke Valley but the surrounding area. It owns seven hospitals – including Roanoke Memorial, Roanoke Community and Franklin Memorial – and co-owns an eighth with Centra Health. In addition, it operates more than 100 physician offices and out-patient facilities, employs 12,000 people, and has a total of more than 600 physicians on staff.
But Carilion’s reach doesn’t stop there.
In 2009, the system launched the Westlake Center for Smith Mountain Lake with Urgent Care and other services. During the same calendar year, it opened 3 Riverside, its newest outpatient facility, located in Roanoke’s Riverside Center at the corner of Jefferson Street and Reserve Avenue. Both are small pieces in the Carilion growth spurt that has paid off with such patient-centered refinements as two LifeGuard emergency helicopters, an entire fleet of EMT-staffed ambulances and the area’s only Level-1 trauma center with the highest level an emergency facility can achieve.
Now being reorganized along the lines of the Mayo Clinic with more doctors in a wide number of specialties, Carilion has earned the 18th spot on the list of top integrated health networks published by SDI Health.
As Carilion grows into a major force in today’s medical world, however, nothing has piqued the community’s interest and pride more acutely than the joint Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, whch will welcome its first class in the fall. With more than 1,400 applicants and only 42 slots to fill, the four-year school is designed to answer the need for “research-competent physicians who can translate research from the bench to the bedside and into the community.” In addition, it will help relieve the shortage of physicians, a priority with the American Association of Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.
Also a source of public confidence, Consultants in Cardiology is the largest cardiology practice in Southwest Virginia and joined Carilion Clinic in January 2009. Purpose of the switch: to develop a Congestive Heart Failure Clinic with the Department of Medicine, an atrial fibrillation treatment center, expanded imaging services, health screenings and an expanded regional heart alert program. 266-6000; carilionclinic.org.
HCA Virginia Health System
Headed by Salem’s 521-bed Lewis-Gale Medical Center, HCA’s comprehensive healthcare network serves thousands of patients annually through such valley facilities as Lewis-Gale Imaging Center, Blue Ridge Surgery Center and the Lewis-Gale Breast Center.
Marking its 100th anniversary in 2009, Lewis-Gale acts as a regional referral center for specialized procedures and like the system’s three other regional hospitals, consistently ranks in Virginia’s top 10 in Anthem’s Quality-In-Sights® Program, based on patient safety, health outcomes and member satisfaction. In addition, the facilities also score in the top 10 percent of all U.S. hospitals in four core measures established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: heart attack care, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical infection prevention.
Providing diagnostic and surgical outpatient care and committed to a quality hospital experience and clinical outcome, Lewis-Gale is the first valley facility to offer patients a fully accredited Chest Pain Center. Its services include a complete range of cardiac care, including diagnostic and interventional procedures such as Prime ECG used to detect pending heart attacks, angioplasty and the region’s only cryoablation and radiofrequency treatment for atrial fibrillation, a common type of irregular heartbeat that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
A regional cancer center, Lewis-Gale serves individuals with intensity modulated radiation therapy that can deliver treatment with pinpoint accuracy; Synergy S, the advanced linear accelerator with radio-surgery capabilities for inoperable tumors; and clinical trials. The center also is equipped with the new PET/CT Scanner used for diagnostic imaging to determine cancer staging and cardiac abnormalities; the region’s first digital mammography, and the only HDx3.0T MRI system, one of the latest high-definition systems available.
Besides Lewis-Gale, HCA also operates Alleghany Regional Hospital, Low Moor; Montgomery Regional Hospital, Blacksburg, and Pulaski Community Hospital, Pulaski; Women’s and Children’s Center at Alleghany, and the Imaging Center at Montgomery Regional. 776-4000; lewis-gale.com
Catawba Hospital, Catawba, Va.
Observing its centennial year of service and set on an idyllic 850-acre campus 10 miles from Salem and 17 miles from Roanoke, Catawba Hospital is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s public mental health system, specializing in adult care. Once a facility for the treatment of tuberculosis, Catawba was reorganized as a mental health center serving persons with severe mental illnesses in 1974, and today accommodates 110 beds – 60 geriatric and 50 adult – offering both short-term acute care units and dedicated geriatric units in private and semi-private rooms.
Affiliated with the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Catawba offers specialized referred care for the region, serving citizens of the Roanoke Valley and surrounding regions in psychiatry, psychology, social work, music therapy, recreation therapy, specialized psychiatric nursing and other disciplines. Also a focus for which Catawba is recognized is its work in suicide, aggression-risk assessment and risk reduction, work that has been presented nationally.
The facility also has presented nationally on its psychosocial programming, which focuses on its recovery services. These services support people returning to the community in meaningful and safe ways. A public safety net for the community’s mental health system, Catawba works in partnership with the private sector partners and community service boards. A portion of its work also attends forensic patients who are adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity or are transferred from jail. 375-4200; catawba.dmhmrsas.virginia.gov
Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salem, Va.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center is a 298-bed operation that provides psychiatric care to all Virginia veterans, as well as medical, surgical and primary care to those in Southwest Virginia. Classified as a Clinical Referral Level I Facility, this teaching hospital offers a full range of patient care with state-of-the-art technology, education and research. Areas of care include medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry, geriatrics and extended care.
Affiliated with the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the center trains more than 200 University residents, interns, and students annually, as well as students from the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine and nursing students from many programs. In addition, 29 associated health-training programs are offered in affiliation with 44 colleges and universities, and a formalized sharing agreement is maintained for radiation therapy, allergy, gynecology, dermatology, oncology, ophthalmology, teleradiology and mammography.
Authorized beds include 182 general medical, surgical and psychiatry; 90 at the Extended Care Rehabilitation Center; 26 in the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, and 10 in long-term Substance Abuse. The center’s Extended Care program is based at the Community Living Center.
Specialty programs cover a wide range of concerns, from geriatric evaluation management and women’s health to sleep disorder evaluation, memory disorders, smoking cessation and amputation care and treatment. The facility is recognized as a National Center for Excellence for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. The center also has Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Danville and Tazewell. 982-2463; salem.va.gov
Virginia Veterans Care Center
Located next door to the Veteran Affairs Medical Center, VVCC opened on Veterans Day 1992 as a state-of-the-art model for long-term health care. The state home for Virginia veterans, the 240-bed facility is set on handsome grounds surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains and is intended to provide affordable, comprehensive nursing and resident care to state residents admitted there, as well as the aged, infirm and honorably discharged armed forces veterans.
It offers assisted living, rehabilitation, skilled nursing, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and provides comprehensive care with on-site x-rays, physical therapy, podiatry care, and other services.
Besides health care, patients can take advantage of wheelchair-accessible nature trails. deck, library, chapel, barber shop and billiard room. They can also enjoy the fully enclosed wander garden for safe inside and outside walks. 982-2860; dvs.virginia.gov
Blue Ridge Cancer Care
A private group of oncologists and hematologists practicing in Southwest Virginia, with primary locations at Carilion Medical Center, Lewis-Gale Medical Center and the New River Valley, BRCC was originally founded in 1976 by Dr. Steve Rosenoff. Today, it boasts 18 physicians and five mid-level practitioners.
Services and treatments include medical oncology, radiation oncology, hematology, diagnostic testing and clinical research. Through its affiliation with U.S. Oncology, a national network of cancer professionals, and the region’s two medical schools, BRCC conducts the largest research trial program in the area, and patients are thereby offered the latest treatments in the comfort of their own communities. In addition to education and community support, the group recognizes the need for full family support and care in the treatment of all cancer patients.
Other offices are located in Rocky Mount, Low Moor, Bedford, Christiansburg and Wytheville. 1-800-543-5660; 982-0237; blueridgecancercare.com
Mount Regis Center
A 25-bed inpatient treatment center, Mount Regis specializes in the treatment of substance abuse and chemical dependency. In operation since 1947, the facility provides 24-hour nursing care, inpatient medical detox, inpatient rehab, day treatment/partial hospitalization and an intensive outpatient program. The center’s work has been recognized as a National Center of Excellence for quality alcohol and drug dependency treatment programs. 389-4761; mtregis.com
Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare
One of 40 Code of Virginia local community services boards, this organization supplies Roanoke and Salem cities, as well as Roanoke, Craig and Botetourt counties, with care for individuals who are seriously mentally ill, have substance abuse problems or an intellectual disability.
With multiple program at a variety of locations throughout the valley, it employs 400 individuals who provide support or services via state and local government funding, federal and private grants, reimbursement from federal agencies, client insurers and private payment. Emergency service is available 24 hours a day; however, assessment is generally required prior to admittance to any program. Services include counseling, psychiatric and emergency services, sexual assault response and awareness, medication monitoring and other life skill help. 345-9841; brbh.org.
In addition to professionally trained healthcare physicians, specialists, psychologists, nurses and social workers, the valley offers a wide variety of other medical disciplines, including chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists and yoga and pilates instructors. To contact, please check phone listings.
A Passion for Healing
Scott Hansen doesn’t sound like a man with piety on the brain.
In fact, the New Jersey native comes across as a down-to-earth physician who thoroughly understands his job: heal the sick and do it with the big dose of compassion.
That credo has so impressed his peers that Hansen, a model of modesty, keeps garnering tributes: Last year’s Doctor of the Year citation from the Bradley Free Clinic plus Teacher of the Year honors from the Psychiatry Residency Program at Catawba Hospital, where he’s ministered to body and soul of the hospital’s mentally ill since 2006.
“A lot of the way I work goes back to medical school,” he says. “In my fourth year, I had to do two community rotations – one in an urban setting, North Philadelphia, a very rough neighborhood, and the other a rural setting in Colorado. That was frontier medicine. They crystallized everything.
“I became a National Health Service Corps scholar. Essentially, it’s a program for students who want to do primary care in under-served areas. It paid for everything for the two years I had it. In return, I owed the government two years, so I went from my residency to Bland County, where I even made house calls. It was very challenging but very rewarding.”
Other “service” positions followed, including six years as a staff physician and medical director of the Kuumba Community Health and Wellness Center (now New Horizons), a federally qualified center where approximately 50 percent of patients were uninsured.
Finally, Hansen joined the private sector. He lasted only 15 months.
“The commercial influence,” he says, “just left me cold.”
Not so with the Catawba position.
“The appeal is of continuing to work with a group of people who have limited access to medical care,” he explains, “people who frequently slip through the cracks. Often these patients not only require a mental diagnosis but also physical diagnosis, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell where psychiatry begins and medicine begins and vice versa.”
Tough or not, Hansen sees his work as an honor.
“Being a physician – even when you hear doctors complain about today as opposed to 30 years ago – it’s a very privileged position. “I feel I have a responsibility to give back to society.”