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Illinois Communities Search For Doctors

September 10, 1988

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but communities hoping to lure physicians to their small towns passed out the tempting fruit at the 10th annual Doctors Fair at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

″I guess we’re feeling like an apple a day keeps the doctor at home or something,″ said John Record, an assistant dean at the medical school who organized the fair.

The medical students and residents who trekked through the tent adjacent to the school last week could get information about jobs and incentive packages offered by towns like Sandwich, Ill.; hospitals in larger communities like Peoria; and even the U.S. Army.

Dr. Ron Johnson, a former SIU med school student who was lured to the west- central Illinois community of Pittsfield partly because of the doctors fair, said he returned to the fair this year to get assistance.

″I’m dying for help,″ said Johnson, a family practitioner. He said he is the only doctor who delivers babies in Pike County, population 19,000, and works as many as 110 hours a week.

″On the third day that you go to the hospital before your kids get up and get home after they’re in bed, it gets real hard to go to work,″ he said.

They weren’t just handing out apples at the fair. Medical students, residents or physicians hoping to change jobs could pick up an armful of brochures as well as such trinkets at coffee mugs, visors, candy, cookies, note pads, key chains or even roses to pin on a lapel.

″We give one to all the students and hope that they think we’re a class- act hospital,″ said Ray Marmorstone, administrator at St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, population 7,200.

Representatives from Sandwich Community Hospital offered fake $100 bills beneath a sign that said ″Come to where the money is. Sandwich, Illinois.″

The hospital was offering doctors an incentive package that includes a guaranteed $100,000 salary for the first year as well as free office space, paid malpractice insurance and loans for office equipment.

″I talked to one individual who just said how he would pay off my student loans. ... They’d give me two years free rent in some office building,″ said fourth-year SIU medical student Mark Zenker, 25.

″When you’re about $40,000 in debt, you kind of think of a few things like that,″ he said.

Dr. Leslie Page, a resident at SIU, said there was a lot of interest in her specialty - obstetrics and gynecology, apparently because so many physicians are leaving that field because of spiraling malpractice insurance costs.

″I just had a man who said I was golden anytime, anywhere,″ she said.

Tom Wallhaus, a third-year medical student, said he had no qualms about starting his career in a small town.

″It’s kind of tempting to think that you’re going to be the guy in charge of the medicine in some town,″ he said. ″That’s tempting.″

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