Bill Selvidge wanted to work in a rural area after completing his medical education, so he was glad to accept a position as a family doctor at the Prospect Hill Community Health Center. But when he began work on Sept. 11, 1989, he didn’t expect to stay for more than a couple of years.
Today, the health center has changed a lot in some ways, not much in others. It has moved twice to larger buildings, though its location on Main Street near Route 49 is not far from its original location. It has added programs, though its basic services haven’t changed. The demographic make-up of the community is a little different, though the area retains its solidly rural character.
Dr. Selvidge is among the ways in which the more things change, the more they stay the same at Prospect Hill Community Health Center. Twenty-five years after starting work as a young doctor fresh out of his residency, he is still there, still caring for patients – and loving it as much as ever.
What has kept him there? “The patients, the community and the staff,” Dr. Selvidge answered without hesitation. “It’s a wonderful group of patients to work with, from a variety of backgrounds, and the Prospect Hill staff has always been like a family. The whole community has been very supportive, and we’re proud that we have tried to never turn anyone away because of their income or socioeconomic status. …We still draw from a broad swath of the community. Some have been coming to Prospect Hill all of their lives.”
The center’s staff showed Dr. Selvidge that they love him as much as he loves the center last week when they threw a surprise party for him on Thursday, Sept. 11 – his 25th anniversary at the center.
Abigail De Vries, Piedmont Health’s medical director, called Dr. Selvidge a “quintessential family physician,” noting that he has “spent his career in the Prospect Hill community, providing full-spectrum primary care to generations of residents.” DeVries added: “He is a staunch advocate for patients, treating each of them as if they were members of his own family. We are fortunate to have Dr. Selvidge at Piedmont Health Services.”
Some of Dr. Selvidge’s patients had been receiving care at the center all of their lives. He has had some patients since they were babies – and they now have children who are also his patients. “We have families with grandparents, parents and children – and they’re all patients,” he said.
Jimmy King of Mebane, NC, is one of Dr. Selvidge’s loyal patients.
“He has been my doctor for over 10 years and he is a great doctor,” King said. “He can treat
everything from a headache to an aching toenail.”
Patient loyalty is clearly a point of pride with Dr. Selvidge, but in turn, he says, the health center has offered constancy in what it offers to the community. It has advanced over the years – for instance, the center moved into a modern, well equipped two-story building in 2011; it has expanded from three full-time doctors to 12 and added different types of staff, such as registered nurses; and patient records have gone from paper to digital. But the center still has the basic medical and dental care as well supportive services such as Women Infants and Children and social work support.
“We’re still mostly family doctors and family nurse practitioners, and anybody can see most any patient, from infants to older patients,” he said. He is not alone in getting motivation from the family-oriented nature of the health center, Dr. Selvidge said: “Most providers here like to see a wide variety of patients.”
Prospect Hill sought to build upon the strengths of the center in 2012 when it added a unique Family Medicine Residency Program, a partnership with University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The program brings UNC MD Residents to the center to train as part of the school’s rural track; the goal is to provide rural areas with more doctors.
At Prospect Hill, the program is working as well as intended, Dr. Selvidge said. “We’re very proud that the first two graduates of the program will be staying with us,” he said. Those graduates – Dr. Mimi Miles and Dr. Christina Drostin – started at the health center this summer.
Dr. Selvidge acknowledges that he’s surprised he has stayed at Prospect Hill for so long, but he says the center has done good things for him, too. Shortly after a social worker – then known as a maternity care coordinator – began working there in 1992, he began dating her. In 1994, they got married. Today, Dr. Selvidge and his wife Jennifer have two sons, Lucas, 18, and Shafe, 16.
“That has been my biggest benefits from working at the center,” he joked.
DeVries said Dr. Selvidge is helping to prepare the center for the future through the Family Medicine Residency Program. “Bill is teaching the next generation of family physicians the art of medicine,” she said.
Not that he has any immediate plans to retire. “I never have really had a bored moment,” he said. “There’s always something new and interesting to look forward to.”