Drs. Ratcliffe, Vnenchak and Zervanos
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program Directors past and present: Dr. Steve Ratcliffe (from left), Dr. Pam Vnenchak and Dr. Nikitas Zervanos

Stephen Ratcliffe, M.D., uses two very different phrases to describe his role as Program Director for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program.

“It’s lovely, but it’s all-encompassing,” he said. “You think about it all the time. It’s challenging to get off the grid.”

After 17 years as Program Director, Dr. Ratcliffe determined that the time was right to step down. Pamela Vnenchak, M.D., now serves as Program Director, after 10 years as a Deputy Director. Donna Cohen, M.D., will continue as a Deputy Director.

“I have appreciated learning from Dr. Ratcliffe and collaborating in the leadership of the residency,” said Dr. Vnenchak, who like Dr. Cohen, is a graduate of the program. “I admire his skill in recruiting new residents to our program, as well as his vast maternity care experience.”

Dr. Vnenchak is just the third director of the residency program, which began under Nikitas Zervanos, M.D., in 1969. The program will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September with a weekend of events, including a CME and gala.

Dr. Ratcliffe said the residency program owes its success to its dedicated faculty, as well as strong support from LG Health administration and clinical staff. Program faculty prepared for the leadership transition for more than a year.

“I have no doubt that Pam will excel and thrive as Program Director,” he said. “It takes a really big village to train a great family doctor. I’m proud of our program’s proven track record of training physicians to practice full-spectrum family medicine and also to serve as clinical leaders.”

Serving as Program Director offers a uniquely gratifying opportunity to support physicians during a very important time in their life, he said. But the pace also can be relentless, notably during the annual recruitment season, when program leaders interview 150 physicians for 13 residency spots.

At age 67, Dr. Ratcliffe isn’t ready to retire completely from family medicine. He previously practiced for 20 years at a federally qualified health center in Salt Lake City. In August, he will begin a similar position in Lancaster, seeing patients three days a week and continuing to deliver babies.

“Family medicine is in my DNA,” he said. “I live and breathe it. I’m excited to go back to practicing on the front lines. There’s also a lot of life I’m looking forward to outside of family medicine.”

Dr. Ratcliffe will take several weeks in July to travel with his wife to visit family and friends. He plans to spend at least some of that time off the grid.

“I’m proud of what the residency program accomplished during my time as Program Director,” he said. “I feel good about saying I’ve done my part.”

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