By Christine Haines | The Daily Courier
Healthcare options are continuing to expand in Connellsville as Highlands Hospital partners with WVU Medicine to provide surgical services.
Dr. David Borgstrom, the General Surgery Program Director at West Virginia University School of Medicine, has been offering surgical services at Highlands for the past month. He participated Thursday in Dinner and Dialogue sponsored by the Downtown Connellsville Initiative at the Connellsville Canteen.
“I grew up in New Jersey and haven’t been back since I went away to college,” Borgstrom said. “I’m at West Virginia because I am interested in rural surgery.”
Borgstrom said young surgeons are not often choosing to practice at rural hospitals, but rural hospitals need surgeons since surgical patients are the driving force behind many of the other services at a hospital.
“Hospitals all over are closing and when a hospital closes up, the town closes up,” Borgstrom said.
Borgstrom noted that it takes five years of training after the completion of medical school to become a surgeon.
“We have a great shortage of people who are completing their training who want to come to places like this,” Borgstrom said.
Borgstrom said he once worked in Cooperstown, N.Y, which has a population of about 2,000 people. While that meant he sometimes was doing consultations at the grocery store, it also meant he had the opportunity to coach his son in Little League and to serve on the school board.
“In a town that small you can’t be anonymous and not everyone is comfortable with that,” Borgstrom said.
Borgstrom said that through his new affiliation with Highlands, where he is performing surgeries one day a week, he is hoping to introduce the surgical residents at WVU to rural hospital work early enough that they want to serve in hospitals such as Highlands.
“I’ll be in Highlands every Monday and hope to become busy enough that we have to decide if I need to come two days or bring someone with me,” Borgstrom said. “One of the first patients I met said how much they appreciated being able to stay local.”
Highlands Hospital CEO John Andursky said the hospital is continuing to forge additional relationships with WVU, including cardiology services through Dr. Brian Kazienko and is in the process of developing a telestroke program with WVU Medicine.
“Highlands Hospital embraces the responsibility of continuing to fuel our local economy and positively impact the overall health and well-being of the residents in our region,” Andursky said.
Highlands Hospital consultant Nick Jacobs said it means a lot to Highlands to be able to offer high quality local surgical services.
“Having him come here, the head of surgery at an academic facility, is huge for the program” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said Highlands has seen significant improvements and growth in the past year, including nearly doubling the size of its autism school, opening the Center for Health and Community Impact which offers full women’s health services and recently opening the acute extended care behavioral health unit.