Tombstone Family Health clinic celebrated its grand opening Dec. 3. Tombstone Epitaph’s Julie Stupp caught up with the clinic’s physician and a nurse practitioner to discuss why they enjoy working in Tombstone and what challenges they foresee.
Dr. Parag Patel — American Board Certified Physician in Family Health Care and Geriatrics.
Dr. Parag Patel traveled the world before he decided to settle down in Arizona and work for Tombstone’s first-ever health clinic.
Patel, 36, is a native of Gujarat, India, and studied for his doctorate degree at the University of London in England. Patel then moved to New York where he worked for a year and then to California working for three years before he ended up in Sierra Vista with his wife Bindi and his 4 year-old daughter Keya.
Patel said his journey to Tombstone began 18 years ago after he graduated from the University of London.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the community of Tombstone in order to provide primary care,” Patel said. He added that the access to health care for Tombstone residents is essential, “There is a need to improve health care here.”
Patel will soon be busy serving a large number of patients throughout Southern Arizona. The Sierra Vista Regional Health Center hired Patel to work at Sonoita’s new health clinic in conjunction with Tombstone Family Health. He also started his own office called the New Era Family Practice located in Sierra Vista in 2007.
The residents of Tombstone will no longer have to drive to Sierra Vista to see a doctor. “We can take care of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes,” said Patel. The clinic can provide general health care as well as monitor the citizens and their health Patel said.
Tombstone Family Health had a slow opening while getting the proper licenses in order but as Patel said that some of that was beyond the clinic’s control.
“This was a new thing for the hospital, a new territory, and a new concept,” he said. “It takes time and there was a lot of learning throughout the process.”
Specializing in geriatrics and primary family care Patel will serve Tombstone residents on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as every other Friday of the month.
Katie Gonzales — Tombstone Family Health Nurse Practitioner
The new Tombstone Family Health Nurse Practitioner, Katie Gonzales is not unfamiliar with rural health care.
Gonzales, 49, is a native of New York moved to Bisbee, Ariz., 23 years ago. She got her associates degree from Cochise College and received her registered nurse license from the University of Phoenix. Gonzales has been a registered nurse for 20 years and became a registered nurse practitioner six years ago.
She has worked in rural Arizona for the entirety of her career.
Gonzales resides in Bisbee with her husband Lenny, 46, and their three children Philip, 27, Sarah, 19, and Daniel, 16. She will also be busy taking care of patients at the Tombstone Family Health clinic as well as in Sonoita.
“We are currently looking for another full time nurse practitioner,” said Gonzales.
The shortage of primary care and specialists in rural health care has been one of Gonzales’s main concerns.
“With the new clinic patients won’t have to drive (out of town to receive health care), that travel is a struggle,” Gonzales said. “Now patients can easily set up an appointment here.”