Dr. Kim Johnson and family

Doctor living the dream in rural health care

rocky cliffs in a rural health care setting

For six years, Kim Johnson, DO, and her husband, Scott, lived in a suburb of Detroit. They would vacation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – known as the U.P. – and they dreamed of someday retiring there.

Then their son was born.

“We wanted to raise our child where he could be outside and enjoy life, rather than just go to the mall on the weekend,” Dr. Johnson said. “I looked at my husband and asked, ‘If the U.P. is where we want to be, why wait till retirement?’”

So for the past 11 years, the family has been proud “Yoopers,” as residents of the U.P. are called. Dr. Johnson is an OB/GYN and director of physician practices for OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group in Escanaba, a town of about 12,000 people located on the northwest shore of Lake Michigan.

Culture and quality clinched decision

The decision to move the family just a few months before the birth of their daughter was made easier because of what OSF HealthCare offered in terms of quality and culture.

OSF St. Francis Hospital serving rural health care needs

OSF St. Francis is part of a faith-based, 13-hospital health system that touts its Mission – “to serve with the greatest care and love” – as a way of life. Dr. Johnson got a taste of that culture when she traveled to Escanaba for her first interview.

“The hospital president made time for me as a person, and it became obvious I would not be just another cog in the wheel,” she said. “You’re very much a part of a team here. OSF calls you. There’s no other way to put it. You can’t get away from the Mission, knowing you’re here for a reason and for the people. As a physician, that speaks right to you.”

Dr. Johnson understands the appeal of working at a large hospital in a big city. She has been there and done that. But the appeal of living and practicing in smaller, more remote areas can be just as strong. Moreover, working for a large health care system and living a more laid-back lifestyle need not be mutually exclusive aspirations.

In fact, Dr. Johnson looks at her situation with OSF St. Francis, a critical access hospital, as “the best of both worlds.”

“We are very much connected to the big system,” Dr. Johnson said. “We have a broad-based medical practice. We have the beauty of enhanced, state-of-the-art technology. Epic is our record system. Most providers and patients in rural areas don’t have those benefits.”

Great professional opportunity and lifestyle

Dr. Johnson likes the professional opportunities that a rural practice presents.

“We get to do everything we were trained to do,” she said. “We don’t have sub-specialists. But we trained to do all of these things, and here we actually utilize all those skills. It pushes us to be more creative and flexible. You do have to think outside the box a little. For me, it’s a very nice environment. As an OB, I get to take care of the whole person.”

The small-town dynamic also personalizes Dr. Johnson’s practice in ways that are rare in a metropolitan area. For example, it’s likely that while going about daily life in the community, she will encounter patients and the children she has delivered.

“There’s a little bit more ownership when you know the people you are caring for are your neighbors and friends and their families,” Dr. Johnson said. “You really are working together as a team.”

And as far as Dr. Johnson is concerned, you can’t beat the lifestyle of a smaller town. The commutes to and from the office are shorter, the traffic non-existent. Quality time with the family increases, and recreational opportunities abound.

“The quality of life is great,” she said. “We live on a large parcel of property. The kids are outside. We can drive two hours north and be in one of the top mountain-biking areas of the country. There’s plenty of good food, lots of art and culture.

“The biggest thing, though, is getting to care for people in a community you are truly a part of. We are here to serve everybody.”

Learn more about physician opportunities with OSF HealthCare here.

About Author: Kirk Wessler

Kirk Wessler started work as a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare in January 2019. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, he previously worked for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and most recently at the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, MaryFrances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren. He’s on a quest to master playing guitar and golf. He also loves to travel, especially driving back roads.

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Categories: Working at OSF