NORWOOD – David Homer, M.D., has been a doctor in Telluride for 25 years, giving him the distinction of being the longest practicing physician in San Miguel County history. That’s why he’s called the “Town Doc” – but now, his new moniker could be “County Doc.”
Last week Homer took the helm at the Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood, where he’ll serve as the clinic’s new medical director, taking the place of Hillard Zallen, M.D.
Homer has been in private practice at Telluride Family Practice for 20 years, and says the opportunity to take on a new endeavor is welcome.
“It’s a great opportunity for this time in my career,” he says. “It’s going to allow me to move more into the realm of public health, enabling me to act local but think global, as they say.”
Telluride Family Practice will remain open, with more providers and expanded hours, with Homer splitting his time between the two medical facilities.
Norwood’s Uncompahgre Medical Center is one of only three federally qualified Community Health Centers on the Western Slope, meaning it is a full-service medical center that is committed to providing quality care at affordable prices – even for those who do not have or cannot afford health insurance.
Federally qualified community clinics such as UMC provide a health care model that could, if the paradigm continues to gain momentum, offer a crucial component to finding solutions for the current health care crisis. As Homer describes, UMC’s focus is to provide quality care for underserved, underinsured, and indigent patients, as well as those who have medical insurance coverage.
“With the health care crisis and now the recession, there is a huge, unheard portion of the population that’s going to fall through these widening cracks in the health care system. There are a lot of people out there who do not have insurance, and don’t have the finances to take care of their basic medical needs. But there are also a lot of programs out there that can be utilized… that can go a long way in changing people’s lives,” he says.
UMC, which receives federal funding enabling it to provide more innovative, cost-saving benefits than a normal medical center, is a place Homer sees as a burgeoning leader in the crusade to fix what’s broken in the current health care system. For UMC’s part, bringing in Homer will help the organization continue to foster its goals of making healthcare accessible to all members of the community.
Of Homer, UMC’s Executive Director Steven Siegel says: “His extensive experience in family medicine and public health, as well as 25 years of building regional relationships, make him highly suited to further advance our mission as a Community Health Center.”
Homer has played a leading role in the region-wide health care picture since he arrived 25 years ago to take a job as the medical director of what was then called the Uncompahgre Combined Clinics (serving Telluride, Norwood and Naturita.) At that time, he was the only full-time practicing physician in the county. Homer opened Telluride Family Practice five years later, and while running his own office also jumped into larger-picture health initiatives. He has been the County Health Officer, the Physician Public Health Advisor, the San Miguel County Jail physician, and chairman of the Emergency Preparedness and Pandemic Flu task forces. Becoming the medical director for UMC has allowed Dr. Homer to check one final box off the list of significant health care roles in the region.
“It’s very exciting to be able to implement a lot of ideas and programs” via his role as UMC Medical Director, he says.
According to Siegel, it’s also an exciting time for UMC, which “is on the threshold of significant transformation, with practice re-design required for the implementation of Electronic Medical Records and the need to adapt to the ever-evolving requirements of health reform. Dr Homer will give us the clinical and administrative skill-set and flexibility to success through this process,” he says.
In addition, Siegel says the organization is fortunate to Homer on board since he will be able to provide leadership to advance the Tri-County Health Network, a recently formed non-profit dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the region through the collaboration and shared resources of health providers.
Homer’s Telluride Family Practice is also on the verge of evolution. The clinic will commemorate its 20th anniversary with a celebration this summer, and in so doing will welcome two new providers, physician’s assistants Christine Tealdi and Janet Gelman, as well as more services and expanded hours.
“I’m finally at a place where I can bring on more providers and more services, which is exciting,” Homer says.
Homer started at UMC last Wednesday, and will be in Norwood weekly, Wednesday through Friday. For more information on UMC’s services, visit www.umclinic.org.