A Publication of WTVP

Abundant opportunities and Midwestern charm prove essential to recruiting physicians to Peoria’s medical community.

Economic development can take on many different forms—from making a financial investment in a project to the bricks-and-mortar of building an actual structure. When it comes to a healthcare institution, sometimes economic development comes in the form of physicians recruited to the area.

Les Mathers is senior vice president of physician recruitment for OSF Healthcare System. His team is constantly working to bring the best and brightest to central Illinois as OSF Saint Francis Medical Center works to establish itself among the top medical centers in the country.

Emily Shields is manager of the team, tracking physician recruitment for the Peoria area. During fiscal year 2011, 24 subspecialty physicians were recruited to OSF Saint Francis, with eight of those specifically for Children’s Hospital of Illinois. This includes specialists in areas like pulmonary critical care, neurology, endocrinology, cardiology, infectious disease and psychiatry. We brought a pediatric hematology oncologist, neurologist, geneticist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist and surgeon to Children’s Hospital.

In fiscal year 2012, which just ended in September, we brought 21 subspecialty physicians to OSF Saint Francis in areas such as psychiatry, rheumatology, neurology, cardiology and gastroenterology, with 11 recruited for Children’s Hospital. That brings a total of more than 115 subspecialists for Children’s Hospital—among the highest in the country.

Our value proposition has always been focused on market differentiation, i.e. providing healthcare services that no one else in the region provides. Therefore, we have become a referral center receiving patients from 32 counties in Illinois. They come for organ transplantation, for the Level 1 Trauma Center with Life Flight, for the 157 unique intensive care beds, for Children’s Hospital, for the Neurological Institute, etc. As a result, 34 percent of our business comes from outside the Tri-County Area. Those patients and their families have a very beneficial impact on the Peoria economy—an estimated $9 million annual impact through restaurants, hotels and shopping venues.

When you talk to Les and Emily, you get a sense of what draws a physician to central Illinois. First and foremost are the many unique services offered at OSF Saint Francis. The two areas that represent the most specialized services are in the Illinois Neurological Institute—both neurological and neurosurgical services—and within Children’s Hospital. When you talk to physician recruits for these areas, especially those from large urban areas, they are amazed by the scope of services and the number offered for our mid-sized community.

Our longtime relationship with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, which offers multiple postgraduate educational, training and research programs, is also a strong draw to candidates. We have long maintained our relationship with UICOMP through 10 residency programs, which is key to developing—and growing—a strong medical community moving forward.

Getting physicians to fall in love with the Peoria area can sometimes be challenging. The most challenging part is convincing them to consider the opportunity here over the phone! Once they actually get here for an interview, they are often pleasantly surprised by what we have to offer. Our skyline and beautiful river views, of course, are what people comment on the most. They never expect to see that in “just Peoria!”

We have been most successful tapping into our “homegrown” physicians, where either the physician candidate or a family member has grown up in central Illinois. In fact, to keep tabs on this resource, our recruiting team uses a database to track students through medical school and residency, keeping tabs on them to try to recruit them back to this area when it is time to look for jobs.

In the end, the opportunities in clinical and educational medicine combined with the lifestyle and social values of the Midwest appeal to most of those who join us. And there is another aspect that cannot be overlooked—that many are attracted by our dedication to services, the entire population and the Sisters’ Mission.

It is an economic development tool that is second to none. iBi