In the past half-century, 523 physicians have graduated from the Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program. About a third of these graduates went on to practice in Lancaster County, many serving in leadership roles at LG Health.
In honor of the residency program’s 50th anniversary, we asked graduates to reflect on its success and share some of their favorite memories.
J. Kenneth Brubaker, M.D., co-founder, LGHP Family Medicine Norlanco; retiree, LGHP Geriatrics
I have many fond memories as a member of the first family medicine residency class at Lancaster General Hospital. While my initial interest was psychiatry, I enjoyed all of my required rotations in medical school. Thus, the creation of a Family Medicine Residency Program became increasingly attractive to me as I entered my fourth year of medical school. An interview with Dr. Zervanos convinced me to select Lancaster as my first choice. I especially appreciated Nik’s emphasis in caring for the whole person, namely the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to train with colleagues who were enthusiastic and passionate about family medicine and had a clear calling to medicine that was driven by their faith. They included Clair Weaver, Rogers McLain, Jack Wolgemuth, John Breneman and Harold Kraybill. One of the many memories that I still have today was the opportunity during my third year of training to spend several weeks volunteering in Puerto Rico. That experience made a significant impact in my future career, including volunteering in Hospital Menonita, Aibonito, Puerto Rico, for one year in the mid-‘70s. That positive experience influenced my daughter to volunteer in Puerto Rico during high school.
Christian Hermansen, M.D., Regional Medical Director, LGHP Academic Region; Managing Physician, LGHP Family Medicine Downtown; Associate Director, Family Medicine Residency Program
I tell applicants during their interview that there are two groups of people in our program. One is the really smart people. We have national leaders in clinical areas, those who work for AAFP American Family Physician Journal, those who have created new practices to serve the frequently hospitalized or the HIV population. These people have authored multiple publications, presented at countless conferences and led quality improvement initiatives in a multitude of areas. The other group is the really fun people. Those who plan to get together for our Liver Rounds, host dinners at their homes, and play dodgeball, tennis and go on runs together. We watch each other’s kids, watch the Super Bowl together and grow in friendships. We put the “family” in Family Medicine.
The best thing about these groups is that they are all the same people. Everyone belongs to both groups. We have a nationally recognized Family Medicine Residency with academic rigor and a wide variety of patient care opportunities in a health system that supports us in a county of America that recognizes the specialty of Family Medicine. With the level of intelligence, compassion, tenacity and humility that exists in our culture, our residency program is well-poised to continue for many years to come.
Stephen Olin, M.D., Preceptor, Family Medicine Residency Program, and retiree, LGHP Family Medicine Downtown
I would not have ever considered living or practicing in Lancaster if it were not for the LGH residency program. It was my first choice of all the East Coast programs, and after 46 years, I remain in Lancaster with my wife of 48 years. I also never imagined designing and opening a 6,800-square-foot independent family medicine practice with Bob Baird, M.D., in New Danville in 1978, where we did full-service FM at two hospitals.
Movie night at Herb Tindall's (Associate Director stationed at WLAFHC) farm in Christiana was a special treat. I especially will never forget the many fishing expeditions to the Delaware Bay with Herb and Julie. Orientation for the six of us new interns consisted of meeting briefly with our attendings on June 30th. Richard Mann, M.D., the Medicine Attending for the ICU, basically said, "Bring your tennis shoes."
The intern call room was on the first floor at the end of the hall leading to the old library, overlooking the Lime Street building (former L&D and torn down to provide surface parking). With the move of the residency from the hospital to the outpatient pavilion, all of our offices moved. I was shocked to find that my hospital administrative office was moved back to the exact room, now overlooking the Lime Street garage. They removed the shower and toilet but left the sink!
Michael R. Ripchinski, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer
LGH was my top-ranked residency coming out of medical school. As a medical student, I had the chance to complete rotations in Lancaster. A combination of the reputation, my experiences, faculty, caliber of the residents, and hospital all led me here. I appreciated the diverse learning opportunities in both rural and urban clinics, as well as the various clinical experiences in my intern year. I developed a calmness under pressure for anything I do now in my current role as a result of experiences leading hospital codes, performing procedures in our rural office and delivering over 100 babies during residency!
Most notably, I developed an interest in leadership during my years as a resident coordinator and chief resident. I learned how to manage schedules, have crucial conversations, handle critical issues and lead a group around common goals. Specifically, I remember working with the faculty leaders on a SWOT analysis. The aim was to refresh and attract talent to our program. I remember the challenges in front of us, and how we worked as a team to implement changes in the subsequent years. Whether working on daily operational issues, redesigning our program or completing our REEP manual for residency evaluation, these experiences created a strong desire to pursue the administrative aspects of medicine. I absolutely believe that my formative years in residency directly contributed to my abilities to engage and lead others to improve our patients’ outcomes.
Christine M. Stabler, M.D., Vice President, Academic Affairs
I grew up in Center City Philadelphia, addicted to pigeons and concrete. I never thought I would leave. One day, as a third-year medical student at Jefferson, I got an invitation to hear a family physician leader speak—Nik Zervanos. I went—possibly for the free food. He was mesmerizing! His speech resonated with me. He put my feelings about continuous, comprehensive care into words and more importantly, actions. I knew then that Lancaster would help me become the physician I envisioned. Nik has continued to be my mentor, motivator and friend. Practicing family medicine in Lancaster has continuously provided opportunities for me to expand my skills and knowledge, as well as my own influence.
Some of my memories: Mark Nunlist doing his own treadmill EKG on call when he experienced chest pain; someone (nameless) excising his own hemorrhoids in the call room; Steve Olin coming to work to find his office literally upside down—gummy bears and all!; the e-book (the first EMR) with Herb Tindall; scavenger hunts in Lancaster City; belly dancing with Ali at Tasso’s in Kansas City; sitting up all night at the bedside of a child with epiglottitis (God bless HIB vaccine); long hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror in L&D; and meeting, getting to know and working with the smartest, most dedicated, loving physicians I can imagine. Thank you, LGH.
Pamela A. Vnenchak, M.D., Program Director
Some of my favorite memories from when I was a resident were being on call by myself in Quarryville. People would call on the phone or just knock on the door and come in. I saw a lot of broken bones, lacerations and chest pain cases. It was always rather terrifying to never know what was going to walk through the door. But having to solve the problem by yourself also led to a lot of confidence.
John C. Wood, M.D., Medical Director, LG Health Physicians
The residency program’s success comes from attracting high-quality people, expecting a lot out of them, supporting them and giving them the clinical experiences they need to pursue any one of a diverse set of professional directions. We have really high expectations of our residents, but they are well-supported, so those expectations are not unreasonable. The expectation is that our residents will have an extremely high-intensity training, which will then allow them to choose their own path in practice and be very, very confident in whatever direction they choose. We also do a great job of training people in the key competencies of leadership, whether or not they ultimately choose a leadership pathway. You can see the results of that training when you look around at the physician leaders in our health system today.
Nikitas J. Zervanos, Program Director Emeritus
Many of my favorite memories came from interviewing applicants to the program. So many times after an interview day, I felt so inspired by the young people applying. Some didn’t end up coming to our program, but thankfully, a lot of them did. I’ll never forget my interview with Sima Daniel (Class of 1999). It was the only time I had tears coming down after an interview. Sima was so incredibly passionate and honest, and just a beautiful person. She was from India and came to the United States as a child. Her goal was to go back to India and serve the poorest of the poor. She did.