When Brian and Belinda Lear finished their residencies, they went looking for a place they could use all of their knowledge and training, rather than specializing in just one aspect of patient care. “We interviewed a lot of different medical organizations, but there are very few that allow providers to practice the full scope of medicine like we get to here at Summit Pacific,” says Belinda. “To me, that’s the fun of medicine, being able to work with a variety of patients and find creative solutions for those who may not have a lot of resources available to them.”
The Lears recently joined Summit Pacific Medical Center where they practice family medicine along with another new hire, Dr. Amanda Achterman. The three doctors have several things in common: their love of dogs, a desire to practice the full spectrum of medicine and a taste for small town life.
Both Lears were raised in cities where their families still live, his in Portland and hers in Seattle, but time spent in eastern Washington introduced them to the pleasures of rural life. “We both like water, so by process of elimination we arrived in Grays Harbor,” says Brian.
Achterman was drawn to the region for a different reason — the opportunity to use her Spanish skills with patients. “I was part of a Spanish immersion program growing up and am fluent in the language. I was able to travel internationally and act as an interpreter for my dad, who was also a doctor,” she says. “When I was 19, I went to Guatemala and became aware of just how critical education is in being able to make large scale societal changes. I worked in public health and community education. That’s still a passion of mine.”
The growing Spanish-speaking population in Grays Harbor County offers a chance to make a difference, she says. “Being able to talk to your doctor directly without needing an interpreter is a huge benefit for patients.” Much of the patient education healthcare providers give to their patients is verbal, so not being able to understand your healthcare provider can be a huge barrier to achieving good health.
Summit Pacific’s integrated care model has proven a good fit for both Lears. They are practicing what Brian calls “cross-coverage”—covering one weekend a month at Summit Pacific’s acute care wing in addition to their work in the primary care clinics. “Family doctors tend to like variety,” he says. “That’s why we got into family medicine in the first place. With the hospital, we are seeing everything from patients recovering from a major surgery to hospice patients. It’s more consistent with what we like to do.”
He believes the practice makes sense from a systems perspective. “You have practitioners who can function in multiple settings. One way to know an organization a lot better is by having your hands in a couple of different areas instead of working in just one department. A lot of healthcare facilities keep things compartmentalized.”
Achterman also appreciates the variety of her new role. “I am able to provide care to many different ages and patients including geriatrics, adults, moms, babies and children.” She notes that having access to a primary care physician is one of the biggest challenges in Grays Harbor County, mirroring a national trend. “There are not enough physicians for the population. We get patients who haven’t seen a doctor for 10 or 15 years except for visiting the emergency department. As a doctor, you can only have so many patients until eventually your panel gets closed.”
Although she has only been at Summit Pacific a short while, Dr. Achterman is enjoying her new home. “I really like the people and how they’re appreciative of having someone who isn’t from the area coming here,” she says. “I love my co-workers, so that’s been great too.”
The Lears are happy to be settled in one spot. “Training to be a doctor involves a lot of uncertainty,” says Brian. “You don’t know where you’re going to go to school or do your residency. We’re looking forward to living somewhere for more than two years and getting to know people and being part of the community. Already there’s some overlap between our neighbors and our patients.”
That’s just fine with his wife. “I actually like running into patients in public,” she says. “Everybody is so friendly. You walk into the bank and there’s someone you know. It’s nice.”
The couple have a 15-month-old son and an eight-month old puppy that needs regular exercise at nearby beaches and open spaces. “We rescued our dog through PAWS,” says Belinda. “We don’t know exactly what he is, but he’s some kind of boxer mix.” Dr. Achterman also owns two pug/Chihuahua/terrier mixes that weigh in at 12 pounds apiece. “That’s my current life,” she says, “along with cycling and swimming.”
The Lears enjoy hiking and exploring trails as well as playing music when they can. “One of our spare rooms is a music room,” says Belinda. “I play piano and keyboard and Brian plays drums and guitar. We’re trying to find other people that play as well.”
They’re looking forward to bringing their families out to the countryside. “We want to take them to the beach,” says Brian. “You can see the stars a lot better out here. The other night we had a fire in our backyard and just laid on our backs and looked at the stars. They were crystal clear. It was great.”
To schedule an appointment with any of the three providers or for more information, call 360-346-2222 or visit the Summit Pacific website.