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New doctors at Essentia Health in DL

Open wide and say ah: Dr. Soma Ghosh looks at the tonsils of Wambli Warren, 6,Thursday at Essentia St. Mary's. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 2
Dr. Soma Ghosh is one of a half-dozen new doctors at Essentia hospital and clinic in DL. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 2

A flock of physicians is landing in Detroit Lakes, as Essentia Health gets a dollop of new doctors delivered to its doorstep.

"From the first of July this year through the end of September, we will be adding eight new providers, which is a big, significant number for us," said Peter Jacobson, president of Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes.

Turnover hadn't been the main issue, according to Jacobson, who says Essentia only lost a couple of physicians last year.

Instead, he says the hiring is in response to a growing community, a growing hospital organization and a growing number of patient visits. Last year, the number of clinic visits went up 12 percent at Essentia, and this year they are planning for additional 13 percent.

Jacobson says as they hire to meet that demand, they will also concentrate on restructuring a bit.

"Over the past couple of years, what we've seen is that people don't always have a primary care physician anymore because they just use the urgent care," said Jacobson, adding that while urgent care certainly has its place in the system, hospital leaders have a goal to get each patient their own primary care team.

"That's the wave of the future -- to have a medical home," said Jacobson, adding that a team consists of a physician, a nurse practitioner, LPN's and support staff.

Essentia needed more physicians to fill these roles, and have found the group to do it.

Dr. Dinesh Chaudhary, internal medicine and pediatrics started in July; Dr. Tuhin Banerjee, hospitalist, started in August; Dr. Soma Ghosh, pediatrician, started in August; Dr. Monika Pokharel, internal medicine is now starting; hospitalist Dr. Rajit Kaushal, Dr. Nana Tackie with emergency medicine and Dr. Pankaj Timsina of family medicine, will all start this month.

During the recruiting process Essentia leaders were intent on getting at least a few females.

"There's more of a demand from female patients who want their physician to be female," said Jacobson, "where that once wasn't as much of an option, more women now have grown up in an age where their family doctor might have been female and that's what they are comfortable with."

Dr. Soma Ghosh is everything the organization was looking for -- a female pediatrician. Before Ghosh, Essentia didn't have an on-staff pediatrician.

"That was a factor in me coming to Detroit Lakes, was because I truly felt needed here," said Ghosh, whose husband, Dr. Tuhin Banerjee, also took a position at Essentia as an internal medicine hospitalist -- a physician whose prime responsibility is hospitalized patients.

The husband-wife combo recently moved to Detroit Lakes after Ghosh finished her three-year residency right in the heart of Manhattan.

"Socially it's a little bit different here," laughed Ghosh, "but practice-wise it's better, because I think the population of patients here is much more compliant and have more reliable parents," said Ghosh, who was offered other positions in other areas of the United States (along with her husband), but chose Detroit Lakes for a few reasons.

The winters aren't one of them.

"Well, we did buy a Subaru, though," she laughed.

"It's a tourist town with lakes and a growing summer population, and it's close to a city, with Fargo being only 40 miles away," Ghosh said, "and that has a significant Indian population."

India is Ghosh's native country. And while she had the opportunity to practice there as well, a trip to the United States during medical school made her realize the States is where she wanted to be.

And looking at the list of new physicians coming in, it's obvious Ghosh and her husband aren't alone in being of foreign descent.

That's no accident.

Because the Detroit Lakes area is technically considered "underserved," according to its population and income level, it opens up the pool of recruits internationally.

"How it works is, foreign medical doctors have to go to an underserved area in the United States for three years to get their J-1 visas to be able to practice medicine in the U.S. forever," said Brianna Adams, director of clinic operations for Sanford in Detroit Lakes.

Adams says because of this classification, the area becomes a draw for foreign doctors, many times from Nepal and India.

"But we still work very hard at making sure they are a right fit for the area," said Adams, who says Sanford has hired three new physicians in the last year to accommodate its growth.

Physicians are typically recruited and signed a couple of years in advance, many times out of residency programs.

Adams says they are very "up-front" about life in upper Minnesota during recruitment, "because we don't want to have them leave right after their three years is up. Once we get them established here, obviously our goal is to keep them here."

And Adams says that's usually not a hard thing to do.

New medical facilities, lakes and a friendly community all work together to provide an ideal working environment for many of these incoming doctors.

"We're lucky," said Adams, "because although we do have some competition from other facilities in the region, people want to come to Detroit Lakes. They may have to get used to the weather, but usually they love it here."