Two docs coming to Powell; more expected

Posted 5/17/11

Pickens, an anesthesiologist now practicing in Billings, said he’s excited about coming to Powell Valley Healthcare.

“Right now in the Powell community, surgeons and primary health care providers are kind of forced by default to manage some …

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Two docs coming to Powell; more expected


Two new doctors will begin practicing in Powell in coming weeks and months, and other recruiting efforts are moving forward as well.

Dr. Cory Pickens will begin providing anesthesiology and pain management services at Powell Valley Healthcare around the end of this month, and Dr. Sarah Durney will begin her family practice here in September.

Pickens, an anesthesiologist now practicing in Billings, said he’s excited about coming to Powell Valley Healthcare.

“Right now in the Powell community, surgeons and primary health care providers are kind of forced by default to manage some of the individuals’ long-term pain issues,” he said. “That can be structured better with any provider if it’s centralized, and if there’s a well-thought-out, documented approach.

“I can centralize the management, and I can help bring more to the table than just medicine.”

Medication is only one way to treat long-term pain, Pickens said. Others include physical and occupational therapy, counseling, pain blocks and surgery.

“I’m conservative with respect to using a surgical approach; that’s something a patient has to live with for the rest of their life,” he said.

Pickens said he is a longtime friend of Dr. Jeff Hansen, who practices orthopedics in Powell.

“I saw Jeff make the transition from Billings to Powell, and it went very smooth, and he’s very happy,” Pickens said. “They had a need for an anesthesiologist, and I like the community ... I see more of a community and a team approach there.”

Pickens said he’s impressed with the school system in Powell and with the wrestling community, and he’s looking forward to bringing his wife, Susan, and their three children — ages 17, 13 and 7 — with him.

“My family comes first,” he said, and my job comes second. I think Powell is a good community to be in. The small-town pace of life, and at the same time providing care for the hospital, I think is the balance that I need.”

Another draw, Pickens said, was PVHC Chief Executive Officer Paul Cardwell.

“The new CEO is quite a guy,” he said. “I’m quite impressed. He’s just very straightforward.”

Durney, who grew up in Basin, said she and her husband, Kit, are looking forward to being closer to home.

“We like that Powell has such a community-minded population,” she said. “People seem genuine and hold a lot of the same values that my husband and I have. It will be nice to know our neighbors again.”

Durney graduated from Riverside High School in 1999, from Northwest College in 2001 and the University of Wyoming in 2003 prior to attending medical school at the University of Washington. She will complete her medical residency in Rapid City, S.D., in July, and she said she is anxious to begin practicing family medicine with obstetrics at Powell Valley Healthcare.

Durney agreed last year to come to Powell when she completed her residency.

“I like the doctors and the hospital there in Powell, and we’re looking forward to integrating into the community and providing a service,” she said.

Other physician recruitment activities continue as well, Cardwell said. Among them are efforts to hire two obstetrician/gynecology specialists.

It is difficult to hire one OB/GYN, he said, because that person then is on call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. By hiring two at the same time, each can relieve the other.

One OB/GYN already has agreed to come, and another recently visited Powell Valley Healthcare.

“The docs really liked her, and now we’re offering her a contract,” he said. “And there are two OB/GYNs waiting in the wings should this not work out. It will happen.”

Cardwell said the hospital needs to have about 400 deliveries annually to justify hiring two OB/GYN specialists.

“I hope (the numbers) will approach that when they come,” he said.

Recruiting also continues for another orthopedic surgeon, a part-time cardiologist, another family practice physician and a radiation oncologist.

In addition, “We’re seriously considering starting a chemotherapy program here at Powell Valley Healthcare,” Cardwell said.

Cardwell said the challenge in the immediate future will be finding enough office space for the new doctors to see patients at Powell Valley Healthcare.

“You really have to judge whether you’ve got the cart before the horse,” he said. “You had to build it and hope (doctors) come; I’d rather have them come, and then build it.”

The Powell Valley Hospital District Board in March hired A&E Architects of Billings to update the hospital campus’ master building plan at a cost of $15,000 plus cost of travel and other reimbursable expenses — the lowest proposal submitted.

Other companies that submitted proposals were TSP of Sheridan, $21,000, including travel and expenses; CTA Architects of Billings, $33,000, including travel and expenses, and Davis Partnership Architects/GSG Team, $75,000 plus travel and expenses.

Cardwell said the immediate goal is to finish the basement and second floor of the new Powell Valley Clinic building this summer. That will provide the needed office space, he said. The plan also will detail future building needs at the hospital and possible solutions.

Cardwell said he expects to have a report from A&E for the hospital district board at its Monday, May 23 meeting.