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2011 Family Physician of the Year Finds Unique Niche Among Rural Underserved
FP Battles Substance Abuse Epidemic, Embraces Innovation
By Barbara Bein
"Having grown up in the suburbs, I knew I didn't want to live there. I wanted to serve the underserved, but I didn't want to live in a city, so I chose Southwest Virginia," he told AAFP News Now in a recent interview.
In recognition of his work, Melton was honored Sept. 29 as the AAFP's 2011 Family Physician of the Year during the opening ceremony of the Academy's annual Scientific Assembly in Denver. It's an award given to an outstanding American family physician who provides compassionate and comprehensive patient care and serves as a community role model -- professionally and personally -- to other physicians, residents, medical students and health professionals.
Modest Beginnings: Two FPs and a Trailer
Today, C-Health has grown to serve more than 18,000 area residents. The clinic, which moved from the trailer into an 8,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art health care facility in 2006, offers a full range of family medicine services -- from pediatrics to geriatrics and everything in between -- as well as nursing home care and inpatient care at the Russell County Medical Center. Two satellite clinics in nearby Honaker and St. Paul, Va., allow the physicians to be closer to their patients in outlying areas of the county. The physicians also make house calls.
Dedication to Service, Innovation and Community
Another innovative approach to delivering care that C-Health has adopted -- shared medical appointments, also known as group visits -- has proved especially helpful in caring for a particular subset of patients, according to Melton. When he first arrived in Russell County 10 years ago, the region was in the midst of a substance abuse epidemic. Prescription narcotics, such as oxycontin, were local abusers' drugs of choice. To address this epidemic, Melton became an expert in chronic pain and substance abuse treatment.
Today, Melton and his team of nurses and substance abuse counselors treat more than 80 patients through shared medical appointments and drug-replacement therapy with buprenorphine, which is marketed as Suboxone.
"You replace a drug of abuse -- oxycontin, for example -- with a drug of therapy so the patient can take part in counseling and recovery groups," Melton said.
Melton also takes an active role in bringing along future FPs and other health care professionals: Each year, he and other C-Health staff precept 40 medical, nursing and pharmacy students who rotate through the clinic.
2011 FPOY Finalists
Michael Madden, M.D., of Alexandria, La.
Adrian Ramos, M.D., of Modesto, Calif.
Charles Rhodes, M.D., of Concord, N.C.
'Think and Act Globally and Locally'
2010 Family Physician of the Year Brings Care to Medically Underserved at Home, Abroad
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Awards: Family Physician of the Year