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2017 Best States to Practice: The Top Five: Page 3 of 5

2017 Best States to Practice: The Top Five: Page 3 of 5

In 2004, having already established himself as an internist in the states of Texas and Washington, J. Ross Tanner, DO, FACP, was giving a speech in Alaska on a chilly February day. Between the breathtaking views of the mountains covered in snow, the fresh sushi and the state’s need for a diabetes specialist, he had a feeling he was destined for “The Last Frontier.”

“I really looked at what would enrich my family and my profession … and Alaska was it,” says Tanner.

The following year, Tanner relocated to the state and soon after became the first physician in the state to become a lipidologist (cholesterol specialist).  He’s since held leadership positions with the Alaska State Medical Association and continues to be an advocate for practicing in the state.

For the first time since Physicians Practice began ranking “Best States to Practice,” Alaska finished in the top five states, thanks to its favorable Medicare Geographic Practice Cost Index, its low tax collection and the third highest residency retention rate in the U.S.

Tanner says the WWAMI project, where pre-medical students from the University of Washington train in that state, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (comprising the program’s acronym), helps bring docs to Alaska who have trained in roles in primary care. Many students, said Tanner, remain in the region to practice medicine once they are exposed to the culture in the state.

“It’s a great program where they get so much support and help the communities, that they then come back [to practice], so we are more likely to keep those who go to medical school in Alaska here because of that experience,” he says.

Tanner appreciates the availability of the great outdoors, from skiing less than an hour away from home, to the ability to fish for salmon near his office. He also appreciates that Alaska has fewer of the problems of the lower 48 states, with an abundance of private practice opportunities and smaller rates of burnout.

“It’s all about finding the joy in medicine,” he says, “and for me, it’s here.”


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