Early in 2017, Staff Care leaders announced the latest rural physician to join a distinguished list of hard-working, history-making rural physicians, as Dr. Van Breeding of Letcher County, Kentucky was named as the latest Country Doctor of the Year.
As Director of Clinical Affairs at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) in Whitesburg, Kentucky, Dr. Breeding provides tireless care to Letcher, Harlan and Hazard Counties. But he isn't just a pillar of his local community, but also a nationally renowned medical expert: Thanks to his role in increasing colon cancer screening from 18 percent to 60 percent in his community, he was asked by the Centers for Disease Control to blog on colon cancer screening, and is frequently consulted on issues of national importance.
And that level of expertise has been on display in recent weeks, as Dr. Breeding's Country Doctor of the Year award has coincided with a flurry of media coverage, in which he often speaks out about current legislative proposals to overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA). From NPR to USA Today, from Modern Healthcare to HealthLeaders Media, you'll find below a sample of the wide variety of media coverage dedicated to Dr. Breeding, our 2017 Country Doctor of the Year.
Dr. Van Breeding, Staff Care's 2017 Country Doctor of the Year, Talks about Community Healthcare
Fittingly, the first media source to break the news of the 2017 Country Doctor Award was Dr. Breeding's own local newspaper, WYMT Mountain News, the CBS affiliate serving Eastern Kentucky.
“I was really surprised, shocked and really proud to be named that,” he told WYMT. “Because you know, I feel like I work in the country and I’ve always been a country person."
His humility and dedication also shown through in the WYMT article. “When I get up in the morning I love coming to work, I love seeing patients,” he said. “I love helping them feel better and feel better about themselves and help them work through their medical problems.”
> Read the WYMT article here.
Another Kentucky news source, the Lexington Herald-Leader also talks about Dr. Breeding's commitment to community: "If you’re from around here, Dr. Van Breeding knows your name," writes Pablo Alcala in the article.
"Breeding’s take on that is that patients don’t call him unless they’re scared, and if they’re scared, he wants to be the one to help them," continues Alcala. "He takes care of patients from birth to death, from hospital to nursing home."
“He treats each patient as a friend and neighbor and is devoted to providing health care access to a population with the dual challenge of having some of the country’s highest rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes as well as being located in one of the most poverty-stricken areas,” Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Kentucky (where Dr. Breeding went to medical school) told Alcala.
> Read the Herald-Leader story here.
HealthLeaders Media emphasizes the challenges facing Dr. Breeding and his co-workers, as they work to improve lives in a "rugged corner of Appalachia" that has "some of the nation's highest rates of obesity, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, various cancers, and respiratory illnesses such as black lung and emphysema."
"Not coincidentally, the region is also one of the nation's poorest, and prospects have gotten bleaker with the demise of the coal industry," writes John Commins in the article, who also points out the 9 percent unemployment in Letcher County ("nearly twice the national average") and the 28 percent poverty rate is above 28%. What's more, "local healthcare workers say that many of the 500 or so annual births at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital are delivered by women addicted to opiates and other drugs."
Nonetheless, Dr. Breeding's dedication seems to be made all the stronger for the challenges the region offers. "Going somewhere else was never ever a thought," says Dr. Breeding of his home, where his father, a coal miner, was disabled and blind by age 50, and where the combination of a heart attack and lack of care nearly proved fatal to his grandmother.
Those experiences no doubt firmed Dr. Breeding's resolve to help a community badly in need of it. And his progress has been nothing short of phenomenal: "There were only five practitioners at MCHC when Breeding arrived more than 25 years ago," Commins writes. "Now there are more than 40 clinicians, and the clinic has expanded from two to seven sites.
Because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Dr. Breeding says that "MCHC has the funding to provide dental and optometry services, and even venture into population health."
> Read the HealthLeaders article here.
Dr. Breeding Discusses the Effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
As Modern Healthcare points out, the positive effects of the ACA on his community and practice have not been lost on Dr. Breeding, who has, in recent weeks, been outspoken in his criticism of plans to overhaul or repeal and legislation.
Much of MCHC's growth "occurred through the Affordable Care Act, which funneled funding to grants aimed solely at helping community health centers provide services not traditionally covered by third-party payers," writes Steven Ross Johnson in the article. "Between 2011 and 2015, local clinics across the country received $11 billion in Section 330 grants through an ACA provision called the Community Health Center Fund."
“It's just been so exciting and it's made the practice of medicine so much more meaningful,” said Dr. Breeding of the possibilities opened up by ACA funding. “Because I'm from the area, it's keeping my family, it's keeping my friends and it's keeping my kinfolk all healthier."
> Read the Modern Healthcare article here.
As USA Today reports, Dr. Breeding has even spoken to Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, about the importance of the ACA to his practice and community, "but says the former presidential candidate told him the ACA is too expensive." (To which Dr. Breeding responds, "What expense do you put on a life?")
"A patient with colon cancer may not mean much to a politician in Washington," Dr. Breeding told the article's author, Jayne O'Donnell. "But I'm from here and if we fail that person because we not able to get them screened at an early enough stage, it's a friend, it's a relative, it's an old classmate. We are all kinfolks here."
"This is an area that got more benefit from the ACA than any other state per capita," he adds. "Some of these people never had insurance in their entire lives."
> Read the USA Today story here.
Dr. Breeding speaks even more at length in defense of the ACA with a panel of experts assembled by Santa Monica, California National Public Radio affiliate KCRW.
"Half of my practice is based on Medicaid patients, so we take care of those who are the sickest and poorest and who have the least access to care," he said. "My patients don't have incomes to be able to afford to pay any kind of co-pay, or pay for much insurance. They're working poor, they maintain two minimum wage jobs just to get by, it's grandparents raising grandkids. So I'm really concerned that these folks that we have given healthcare to will now have that healthcare taken away."
"So here again we're attacking those people who are most vulnerable, who have the highest rate of illness, the highest rates of cancer, the sickest people in the United States, we're taking healthcare benefits away from those people who need them desperately."
> Listen to the complete NPR broadcast here.
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