Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Flying doctor earns national honor

Paris named Family Physician of the Year

Express Staff Writer

Dr. Richard Paris, right, pilots an airplane from Hailey to the Challis medical clinic he serves. Accompanying the Hailey family practice physician is medical student Clay Josephy, who is one of many Paris has encouraged to become rural family doctors.

The flight from Hailey to Challis takes about half an hour, and it is part of how Richard Paris, a family practice physician with the Hailey Medical Clinic, makes his rounds.

Last week at a conference in Orlando, Fla., Paris was named the Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians, in part as recognition for his efforts to bring medical services to Custer County, where no physician is employed.

?Most of the time I can fly it,? Paris said. ?I would be exhausted if I had to drive. At the conference people said, ?Gosh you have a clinic where you fly???

Paris has worked in Hailey for more than 20 years with his wife Kathryn Woods, who is also a family doctor. Paris flies a Cessna 210, and has been a pilot for 25 years, something he started training for while he was still a medical resident in Missoula, Mont. It is part of how he makes rural medicine work for his community and his lifestyle, which includes trips to fly-in ranches for hunting and hiking.

Paris visits the rural clinic in Challis twice a month and will make rounds to the Stanley clinic when it reopens next summer.

?Both clinics are nice little clinics,? Paris said. The Challis clinic was built as the result of a donation. ?It has a good ambulance set up, assisted living across the street and a heli-pad. It is a good role model for rural health clinic. I work with them regularly.?

Paris is working to get the Stanley clinic up to par.

?We?re really motivated to get that clinic open again next summer and create a long term environment. That?s a serious concern,? Paris said.

In addition to flying to Challis, Paris reviews clinical photographs from the full-time physician?s assistant at the clinic and consults with her regularly on the telephone.

It is Paris? efforts to improve rural medicine in the region and his efforts to help educate doctors in training that helped him stand out as the family practice doctor of the year.

?Dr. Richard Paris epitomizes the ideals and standards of compassionate care,? said Dr. Michael O. Fleming, president of the AAFP. ?We recognize him for his extraordinary contributions to his own community, and to the larger community of family medicine.?

According to the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, the Family Physician of the Year award honors an outstanding American family physician ?who provides patients with compassionate, comprehensive and caring family medicine and serves as a role model professionally and personally to his or her community, other health professionals, and residents and medical students.?

Paris was chosen for the national honor from the AAFP?s 93,700 members.

?They use this position to get students excited about doing this kind of work,? Paris said. ?There is a constant need to keep priming the well. A lot of medical students are intimidated by the workload. But, it depends on how you structure the job. It can be very fulfilling.?

Paris works every year with students who come to Hailey after their first year of medical school to learn what rural medicine is all about. He tries to help students better picture a career where they will also have time to enjoy free time in the mountains.

Paris also works with medical students who come for six months during their third year of medical school at the University of Washington.

?A lot of them are Idaho students. Since we don?t have a medical school they go to Seattle,? he said. They are here all winter long.?

Paris said after 24 years working in the Wood River Valley, working with students adds to the enjoyment of his own career.

?I can?t tell you how valuable it is. When you?re overworked they?re enthusiasm is so great. When you start getting tired, all of us get very pumped up by the students,? he said. This year Olympic skier Barara Jones, now a medical student is scheduled to come to Hailey.

Paris said he also works with doctors during their residencies at St. Luke?s in Boise, who come to Hailey for a turn in the rural medical clinic.

This year Boise medical resident Clay Roscoe flew with Paris to Challis and welcomed the opportunity to see firsthand what it takes to be a rural family practice physician.

?All those residents they get are really good,? Paris said.

Paris said the conference in Orlando was a big draw because families can take their children to Disney World. Paris said his three sons enjoyed the trip and that there were 5,000 physicians in attendance.

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