The State of Kentucky is clearly proud of Dr. Van Breeding, an accomplished physician who was born, raised and currently practices in Whitesburg, the seat of Letcher County, Kentucky — in the heart of Eastern Kentucky's coal country.
Recently named as Staff Care 2017 Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Breeding, who serves as Director of Clinical Affairs at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC), has not hesitated to leverage the media attention to discuss the escalating need for medical care in his hard-hit home region.
"We're talking about the sickest, the poorest, the patients who have the worst diseases in the whole United States," Dr. Breeding told CNN in a discussion about healthcare difficulties plaguing the Whitesburg area. "If we were a weather phenomenon, it would be declared a disaster area."
Letcher County's employment rate has been decimated by the demise of the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. The county's "coal mine employment has declined by 87 percent since the year 2000, when employment reached 1,505," write the authors of the 16th edition (2016) of "Kentucky Coal Facts," a report produced by the state's energy department along with a coal industry group, the Kentucky Coal Association. That report also shows that Letcher County coal-related employment declined 50 percent from 2014 to 2015.
As employment declines, so too does health. "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," Dr. Breeding recently told NPR Radio affiliate KCRW.
“Because I'm from the area, it's keeping my family, it's keeping my friends and it's keeping my kinfolk all healthier,” he recently told Modern Healthcare in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act.
Kentucky Resolutions Honor Dr. Van Breeding
Dr. Breeding's resolute work to deliver care to a community beleaguered by health and economic problems, and his receipt of the Country Doctor of the Year Award, have received wide, well-deserved media attention in recent months.
“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, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Now, on top of the Country Doctor of the Year Award, these accomplishments have also been commended by the state of Kentucky itself. Before adjourning on March 31, Kentucky lawmakers issued an official resolution "honoring Dr. Van Breeding upon being named 2017 Country Doctor of the Year."
Pointing out that the Country Doctor of the Year Award "is presented annually by Staff Care" to honor "those rural physicians who go above and beyond their normal duties to deliver quality care to their patients," the resolution also emphasizes the selection committee's comments on "the years of quality service Dr. Van Breeding has given to the people of Whitesburg, Kentucky, and the surrounding areas 'in the face of extraordinary professional and personal challenges.'" Also cited is his "admirable commitment to treating patients regardless of their medical condition or ability to pay."
The State of Kentucky will also be honoring Dr. Breeding by putting up a highway sign reading "Home of Dr. Van Breeding, 2017 National Country Doctor of the Year," where Highway 23 meets Route 15 on the Letcher/Knott County line.
For more information about Staff Care's Country Doctor of the Year, and to access nomination forms for next year's award, we invite you to check out Staff Care's Country Doctor page. And you're also welcome to contact us directly with any other questions of concerns.
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