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Tales from the Road February 13, 2017

Dr. Van Breeding of Letcher County, Kentucky Is Staff Care's 2017 Country Doctor of the Year

Dr. Van Breeding of Letcher County, Kentucky Is Staff Care's 2017 Country Doctor of the Year

Continuing a decades-long tradition of recognizing the important work of our nation's rural physicians, the 2017 Staff Care Country Doctor of the Year has been announced: Meet Dr. Van Breeding, a rural physician working hard to provide quality healthcare to the people of eastern Kentucky.

Based in Whitesburg, the county seat of Letcher County, Kentucky, Dr. Breeding provides dedicated, seemingly tireless care to that county as well as neighboring Harlan and Hazard Counties. In doing so, he "stands at the confluence of societal ills that are threatening the well-being of his home region," as Staff Care leaders state in the 2017 Country Doctor of the Year news release.

And the difficulties facing Dr. Breeding's eastern Kentucky home base are significant. At the heart of coal mine country, and an area facing a severely diminished economy with many out-of-work citizens, both the poverty rate and unemployment are more than 25 percent in the counties where Dr. Breeding provides care. “Opiate addiction is common," and “many former coal miners suffer from black lung and other respiratory illnesses," the news release adds.

But Dr. Breeding, son of a local coal mine worker, faces these challenges with fortitude and aplomb. “Dr. Breeding is more than an outstanding primary care physician,” Staff Care President Sean Ebner stated in the news release. “He is one of the pillars on which his community stands.

“The people, the health system, and the economy of his region simply could not do without him,” Mr. Ebner adds.

“My heart is in these hills and with these people,” Dr. Breeding told Staff Care. “My patients are my friends and in many cases my relatives. I can’t imagine living or practicing anywhere else.”

“When I get up in the morning I love coming to work, I love seeing patients,” he told WYMT Mountain News, the local CBS affiliate. “I love helping them feel better and feel better about themselves and help them work through their medical problems."

2017 Country Doctor: A Commitment To Care & Community

Dr. Breeding has been providing care in the Whitesburg area for more than 25 years, since completing medical school and his residency at the University of Kentucky back in 1991. "On an average day, Dr. Breeding puts in 16 hours of work, rounding on patients at the hospital at 5:00 in the morning, seeing some 40 patients in the clinic, and often rounding on nursing home patients in the evening," the news release explains. "He also continues to make house calls to bed-ridden patients."

Impressive as it is, Dr. Breeding's impact on his community transcends his stellar commitment to direct patient care. He's also spearheaded protocols to deal with a local opiate-addiction epidemic; supported nutrition programs to combat diabetes, and inspired an increase in colon cancer screenings from 18 percent to 60 percent. As the result of the latter accomplishment, Dr. Breeding was invited to write a blog on colon cancer screening for the Centers for Disease Control.

It came to an as little surprise to his colleagues, then, that Dr. Breeding was named Staff Care's 2017 Country Doctor of the Year.

“He gets up at 4:30 in the morning, makes rounds at the hospital, then he runs for his exercise, and then he’s here at the clinic between 8 and 8:30, ready to see patients,” a co-worker told WYMT.

For his part, Dr. Breeding humbly shares the accolades with his co-workers, family, and patients. “To work with them and to be a part of their life makes it worthwhile,” he told WYMT. “It makes it a great job to have. I really enjoy my job, I really enjoy my work and I really enjoy my patients."

For being named the 2017 Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Breeding will receive two weeks of vacation time as Staff Care provides a locum tenens physician to fill in for his duties at no charge. He'll also receive the award’s signature plaque, an engraved stethoscope, and a monogrammed lab coat.

For more information about Dr. Van Breeding and Staff Care's Country Doctor of the Year program, we invite you to visit our Country Doctor Award page. For media inquiries, please contact Phil Miller, Staff Care Vice President of Communications, at (469) 524-1420 or

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