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Release: Aug. 23, 2000

UI Family Practice Opportunities Fair set for Aug. 26 in Des Moines

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Albert Kollasch, M.D., has practiced family medicine in the north central Iowa town of Belmond since 1978. His decision to start a medical career in a small, rural community was based partly on the encouragement of a medical school classmate who was a Belmond native. Equally important, however, was his participation in the Family Practice Opportunities Fair, an annual event that brings together physicians and physician assistants (PAs) with Iowa communities looking for additional health care practitioners.

The University of Iowa College of Medicine and the Iowa Family Practice Residents Council will host this year's fair from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines. Hospitals and medical clinics from more than 40 Iowa communities will present information and exhibits to approximately 75 medical residents and 20 physician assistants training in Iowa. This is the 24th year that the UI has organized the event.

Kollasch, a 1975 graduate of the UI College of Medicine, made his professional "connection" to Belmond while at the opportunities fair. He joined the Steele Memorial Clinic -- now known as the Belmond Medical Center -- in 1978, following his family practice residency at the UI.

"I attended the very first opportunities fair in 1977," Kollasch said. "It was, and still is, an effective way to bring family practice residents and communities face to face. It worked for me."

Glen Gabrielson, M.D., was Kollasch's UI medical school classmate who encouraged him to consider Belmond. In fact, it was Gabrielson who provided the impetus for establishing the opportunities fair back in the 1970s, according to Roger Tracy, UI College of Medicine assistant dean and director of the college's Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs.

"He had stopped into our office after a long weekend driving around southeast Iowa with his wife looking for a community where he might want to practice," Tracy remembered. "Basically, Glen said, 'there must be an easier way to find a place to practice and talk to medical professionals from communities that had a need for a physician. From that simple conversation came the idea for an event like this to bring physicians and communities together."

The statewide family practice training program and long-term efforts to attract more family physicians and PAs into Iowa communities are working better than expected, Tracy noted. Again this year, more than 70 percent of the family practice residency graduates stayed in Iowa to practice, and "they are going to the right places," he said.

"Out of 336 family doctors entering Iowa practices during the past three years, one third went to towns with populations under 5,000," Tracy said. "Raise the population threshold to 15,000 and you capture nearly 60 percent of Iowa's new family physicians for that period."

Serendipity played a part in the professional future of Ted Bonebreak, M.D., now a family physician at Creston Medical Clinic in southwest Iowa. He and his wife first attended the fair in 1997 when he was a first-year family practice resident. After attending information seminars in the morning along with other residents and PAs, the Bonebreaks were a bit late in getting to the event's luncheon.

"The only table at the luncheon that still had a couple of seats available just happened to be the one where three representatives from the Creston clinic were sitting," Bonebreak said. "I had only just begun my three-year family practice residency, so I wasn't seriously considering places to practice. But my wife and I had a nice conversation with these people over lunch, and that's how it got started."

The Bonebreaks were so impressed with the Creston Medical Clinic, and vice-versa, that he made sure to visit the clinic's informational booth at the fair in 1998.

"That's the point where we really started talking seriously," Bonebreak said. He signed his contract in 1999 and, after completing his residency last June, began seeing patients at the Creston Medical Clinic this month.

When Ann Reid graduated from the UI Physician Assistant (PA) Program three years ago, she knew she'd want to work in a small, rural community, yet still be a reasonable distance from her and her husband's farm in rural Onslow.

Reid attended the fair in 1996. There she met with recruiters from Medical Associates of Dubuque. It was during this discussion that the practice's representatives learned that Reid lived close to Cascade, which was being considered as a site for a Dubuque satellite clinic.

"Actually, the folks in Dubuque weren't looking to hire a PA, but we kept talking and I happened to mention that I lived just south of Cascade. That's when the bells started going off," Reid said.

As a result, plans went ahead for what would become the Cascade Health Center. After finishing the PA program at the UI in 1997, Reid practiced in Dubuque for a year while a medical facility in Cascade was being built. She was the sole practitioner treating patients in the Cascade area until three weeks ago, when a physician also joined the clinic.

"I really like practicing here," Reid said. "You get to know everybody. I've always been a 'small town' person and I enjoy living this way. The opportunities fair helped make this happen."

For family physician David Tinker, D.O., the bottom line is, "if it wasn't for the fair I wouldn't be in West Union." Tinker completed his family practice residency at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines last June and joined the Gunderson Clinic in West Union in northeast Iowa. "My wife and I were totally unaware of this job possibility until we arrived at the fair."

Tinker and his wife, a PA herself, were both interested in employment opportunities. While at the fair, they learned that a colleague from her PA program, as well as a physician that Tinker knew from his residency program at Broadlawns, both practiced at the Gunderson Clinic. Such personal connections helped make their decision.

"It's worked out great," Tinker said. "Both professionally and personally, it's been a great situation coming to West Union."

While the Family Practice Opportunities Fair benefits physicians and PAs by efficiently featuring practice opportunities, it also gives Iowa communities a chance to meet a large number of future practitioners.

"We've had a very good experience at the Opportunities Fair. We've been there most of the past 10 years," said David Carlson, M.D., a physician and medical director of the Burlington Area Family Practice Center. "We've recruited several physicians directly from the fair. Actually, we have one physician who just started this week who we first met at the fair at the beginning of his second year of his family practice residency and again in his third year of residency. So the fair has indeed paid off for us."

Carlson noted that the fair also provides an opportunity for medical professionals to learn more about what's happening in the marketplace for family practice and to network with colleagues. "It's a very well organized event with a lot of helpful information, but it is also about promoting opportunities in Iowa, which ultimately benefits patients in Iowa," he said.


University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.