Virginia Doctor Named 2011 Family Physician of the Year

Lebanon physician earns prestigious national award for providing exceptional health care and innovative substance abuse treatment to rural southwest Virginians

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Janelle Davis
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6253

DENVER — The American Academy of Family Physicians today named S. Hughes Melton, M.D., FAAFP, the 2011 Family Physician of the Year at the opening ceremony of its Annual Scientific Assembly. The award honors one outstanding American family physician who provides patients with compassionate and comprehensive care, and serves as a role model professionally and personally in his or her community, to other health professionals, and to residents and medical students.

In July 2000, Melton co-founded C-Health in Russell County, Va., with practice partner Brian Easton, M.D., FAAFP. The two physicians opened their first clinic in a small trailer and made a long-term commitment to improve the health and lives of people in rural southwest Virginia. The Appalachian region in which they practice is marked by severe poverty, poor educational attainment and limited health care. The age-adjusted death rate is nearly 20 percent greater in the Appalachian region of Southwest Virginia compared to the rest of the Commonwealth. They began by providing full-spectrum family medicine services including obstetrical, pediatric, geriatric, inpatient and outpatient care.

Soon after the clinic opened, they recognized that the area was in the midst of a substance abuse epidemic. Melton, with the help of his colleagues at the University of Virginia, became an expert in primary care treatment of addiction and chronic pain. Melton treats most of his patients with chronic pain or addiction in an innovative shared medical appointment setting. He opened the first buprenorphine treatment program in the region for outpatient treatment of opiate dependence and serves as a consultant to other providers in the region, helping them assess and manage treatment for patients battling these conditions.

Melton’s physician-led, interdisciplinary team ensures patients have access to the care they need, when they need it, regardless of their ability to pay. C-Health offers same-day appointments and a sliding scale payment system for patients who otherwise might not seek care. C-Health physicians participate in on-call duty at the local hospital for patients who do not have a primary care provider. He and his colleagues are committed to helping patients cultivate relationships with doctors who can help them manage their ongoing health needs in the context of a patient-centered medical home.

Melton is a strong advocate and promoter of the patient-centered medical home model of care. This is demonstrated by C-Health’s early adoption of health information technology, such as electronic health records. The clinics are currently implementing a patient portal that allows patients to access their health records 24 hours, seven days a week and communicate by secure e-mail.

One of the most unique aspects of Melton’s call to service can be seen in C-Health’s “practice tithe fund.” The clinic puts aside a portion of its profits to help needy community members pay their electric and fuel bills and cover the cost of food, shelter or medication. The tithe also supports mission partners in El Salvador. C-Health has chartered a foundation to manage the fund as well as fundraise for college scholarships and other community needs.

Today, C-Health is widely known for its compassionate, highly competent staff and innovative use of technology in delivering broad spectrum family medicine. C-Health has remained steadfast in its commitment to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of more than 18,000 patients for more than 10 years. As a result of their successful efforts to recruit physicians, mid-level providers, clinical pharmacists and counselors to the practice, Russell County is no longer considered to be medically underserved.

Melton has demonstrated his commitment to community wellness by assuming the role of board chair of Friends of Russell County Wellness and Fitness, Inc. whose mission is to develop wellness programs and build a modern wellness facility for residents of the county. Most recently, the board started working with the YMCA to assess the wellness needs of the county.

Melton holds numerous professional appointments. He serves as medical director of the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, AllCare for Seniors in Cedar Bluff, Va, and as co-director of Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition’s Project REMOTE to raise awareness and promote treatment for substance abuse. He was most recently named to the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation’s board of directors. Melton also serves as a medical examiner for Russell County, assistant medical director for the emergency medical technician training program and team physician for the local high school football team in Lebanon, Va., where he practices and resides. Melton is a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, and the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Blacksburg. He also serves as a preceptor for medical, nursing and pharmacy students, with more than 40 students rotating with the C-Health team annually.

Melton has received many awards, including Virginia Family Physician of the Year (2009), the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation’s Claude Moore Physician Leadership Institute (2009), the Tri-Cities Business Journal Healthcare Hero’s Cup of Kindness Award for Innovative Implementation of Technology (2003), the Meritorious Service Medal (2000) for distinguished non-combat achievement in the United States Army and the Mead Johnson Award for Graduate Education in Family Practice (1992).

Melton earned his medical degree and completed his family medicine residency at the University of Virginia School Of Medicine. He is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners, and has the AAFP Degree of Fellow, an earned degree awarded to family physicians for distinguished service and continuing medical education.

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Melton, please contact Janelle Davis at (800) 274-2237, ext. 5222 or (816) 835-2743.

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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