LAKE MONTEZUMA - Finding doctors these days is a challenge. It is even tougher if you live in a small rural community.
The Beaver Creek area is one of those communities. If the national average of 10.4 doctors per 10,000 population were applied, there should be at least five doctors practicing in McGuireville, Rimrock and Lake Montezuma combined.
In fact there are zero.
Fortunately, the gap between patient and doctor in many rural areas is being filled by family nurse practitioners. In Arizona, FNPs are vested with many of the privileges granted to medical doctors, including the right to open their own practice.
In August 2008, Elizabeth Dudney, an FNP with a practice in Cottonwood, signed a lease agreement with Montezuma Rimrock McGuireville Health Services, operators of the community's only healthcare building, located in the Rollins Park Plaza.
Ever since, Dudney has been looking for someone to help staff her Cherry Family Practice office more than the Wednesday-only schedule she has maintained.
This week, that search ended.
As of Monday, Monty Herron, a family nurse practitioner and former emergency room nurse at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix, will be seeing patients three days a week, Monday through Wednesday. By mid-February he intends to expand to Thursdays also.
Herron calls his new job a great match.
"I've only been here a week, but I can already tell I am going to like it," Herron says. "Everyone I have met has been really nice."
Herron says he decided to come to Lake Montezuma after performing his internship with Cherry Family Practice.
"I really enjoyed the valley while I was doing my internship and the staff I worked with was great. I also like hiking and fishing, so I think this is going to work out great," he says
Originally from Abilene, Texas, Herron received his masters from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. He has spent his last 12 years as an emergency room nurse.
Dudney will still be seeing her regular patients at Lake Montezuma office every other Wednesday.
"With the practice in Cottonwood being open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays, we will now be able to provide healthcare services to our patients five days a week," Dudney says.
Cherry Family Practice is located at 4283 Pima Way, on the backside of Rollins Park Plaza. The office phone number is (928) 592-9191. The practice is accepting new patients, including those on Medicare.