Doctors drawn to booming area

By Robyn Monaghan Special to the Herald News

When Dr. Jeffrey J. Williams started practicing obstetrics and gynecology at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center’s New Lenox office in August, there was no full-time ob-gyn in the town swelling with growing families.

“There’s a ton of young families out here,” said Williams, 34, a recent medical school graduate from Midwestern University in Downers Grove. “It’s easy to see there was a tremendous opportunity for an obstetrician.”

Williams is one of three doctors who this fall launched local ob-gyn practices when St. Joe’s opened its Lincoln Way Obstetrics and Women’s Health Center in New Lenox.

It’s a simple equation, said James Tannheimer, a physician recruiter for St. Joe’s of Joliet. As Will County continues its record population spike, more people need more doctors.

“The expansion we’re experiencing makes an attractive environment for physicians,” Tannheimer said.

The Herald News caught up with Tannheimer at a physician recruitment event in downtown Chicago last month. At that recruitment fair, Tannheimer wasn’t making firm offers or getting commitments. He was just outlining the opportunities, he said. But he finds that drawing doctors to Will County is not a hard sell.

“The proximity of Chicago also makes our hospitals a good fit for the large numbers of doctors from the Chicago area who want to stay near their families,” he said.

That was the case with Williams, who moved to Joliet several years ago with his wife, Tashika, who has family ties in Joliet.

Tannheimer has signed on more than 25 new doctors to practice in the area in the past year. They include physicians practicing immunology, cardiology, family, internal medicine, maternal fetal medicine, sleep neurology, orthopedic surgery, orthopedic-spine, pediatrics, plastic surgery and urology. Many practice in nearby communities like New Lenox, Manhattan, Plainfield, Naperville and Orland Park, according to St. Joe’s marketing staff.

In the last year, 49 physicians joined the Silver Cross Hospital medical staff, adding up to an overall increase of 12 percent. Silver Cross now has more than 400 doctors on staff. The doctors chose to practice at Silver Cross because of the growing community, because of its patient care reputation or because their patients wanted to come to Silver Cross, according to information from the hospital’s public relations department.

Silver Cross is finishing up a five-year medical staff plan and will begin to work on a new plan that will carry the hospital into 2015, said Roxane Sanderson, director of physician recruitment at Silver Cross and president of the Illinois Society of Physician Recruiters.

“This long-term plan is created by members of the medical staff, board of directors and administration and takes into account future population forecasts, environmental forces — such as the recent medical malpractice crisis — and looking at the makeup of the current staff,” she said. “For example, if half of the surgeons are nearing retirement age in the next three years, we will look at succession planning.”

Each year, Tannheimer said, St. Joe’s funds a statistical needs analysis study, using ZIP codes to “do a bean count on gender, age and population count.”

Primary care doctors, specialists and surgeons are medical staff in particularly short supply, he said. Silver Cross targets primary care physician areas like family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics-gynecology and pediatrics as medical areas of need.

“With all the growth we’re experiencing, the needs will continue changing about every three to five years,” Tannheimer said.
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