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Marcy Holmes NP
Vineyard Haven, MA


University at Buffalo, NY: Undergraduate School of Nursing  
University of Rochester, NY: Graduate School of Nursing
UMass Chan Medical School: Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing

What does it mean to be practicing in a rural setting?

Practicing the art of nursing and medicine in a rural setting means you have to be there for your patients. You have to be ready to think on your feet, use your resources and be willing to learn something new every day. Island type of rural health care just emphasizes those concepts even more, especially in bad weather- blizzards, hurricanes etc. We have a local hospital Emergency room, but many patients prefer to come to our walk-in clinic and avoid the expense and intimidation of a large center when it is not needed.

Why rural health?

During my undergraduate years, I found myself spending summers on Martha’s Vineyard as a nanny, and the small town life by the sea just called to me. I felt more lost in the shuffle of Boston and the other mid-sized cities where I spent time training. I knew that one day this rural island would be where I would reside and contribute. As a home health aide for the island’s VNS, I was charmed by the elderly islanders who lived simply & had great pride in their home island. I volunteered at the local Family Planning office and I was sold on working with women intently interested in their health and eager for any wisdom you had to share.

There are diverse communities of real people who live here year round. Many are worldly, educated and drawn to live in a simple life that rejects big box stores and fast food chains in lieu of a different and artistic mindful style of living. Some have wealth, but many do not. The bulk of islanders work hard every day to sustain a life in this special place. While outsiders know the island as perhaps extravagant and full of wealth, that is seasonal. There is the back bone of the island that lives here year round and makes it run. The hard working people support the infrastructure that includes schools, hospital, clinics, law enforcement, judicial processes, Coastguard and all the seasonal businesses. The back bone of this rural community struggles to get access to needed primary preventive health care, and I am proud to be part of the solution.

My initial passion was to provide holistic care to women of all ages as a Women’s Health Care NP and Menopause Clinician. As my female patients grew more complex and the island clinics struggled to maintain reliable clinicians, I expanded my training to meet the primary care needs of the aging men and women here. I now work at a local clinic, offering primary care and urgent walk-in care to adults 13 and up. This serves as an alternative to the emergency room. I also continue to support the reproductive health needs of women living and traveling to the island at our local Family Planning Title X office. It is a special place, with special people and all of us work hard to meet their needs locally.



Pamela Grimaldi, D.O.
Assistant Professor UMass Chan
Barre Health Center


University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O.
Family Medicine Residency: Wilson Regional Medical Center

Why rural health?

"As a Family Physician, I searched for and enjoy rural practice opportunities because I have more autonomy, can do full spectrum "real family medicine" including peds, ob/gyn and inpatient and many office procedures that I would be unable to do in a more specialty driven environment of a city. Being in a rural area allows me to truly know my patients not only through my office visits but by my interactions in the community in which I also live. A rural community also allows me as a leader of the health care in that community to do teaching, sit on health boards and actually participate in changes in the health care of the area in which I live."



Stacy Potts, MD
Associate Professor, UMass Chan
Family Medicine Residency Director
Barre Health Center


University of Vermont, M.D.
Family Medicine Residency: UMass Chan, Barre Family Health Center

Why rural health?

"As a medical student I had the opportunity to experience rural medicine in a couple of different small towns in Vermont. What struck me most from my experiences was the relationship that my preceptors had with their patients. The discussions were not just about medical issues but about town politics and the kids' soccer games. Home visits were commonplace and the community thought of the preceptors as the town's doctor. I looked forward to knowing my patients and being known this way.

Family medicine was clearly the only specialty for me. The breadth of what I am privileged to do is surpassed only by the depth of the relationships I am blessed to have with my patients. 

I truly believe that family medicine provides an essential medical home for families. Through longitudinal, comprehensive care of families through pregnancy to death and everything in between, a rural family doctor becomes in fact a vital part of the family.

As I find myself sharing town politics and discussing recent soccer games, I know that I have found the career that will always satisfy as well as challenge and excite me." 



Stefan Topolski, MD
Assistant Professor, UMass Chan
Fitchburg, MA
Country Doctor
Shelburne Falls, MA
Founder and Director, Caring in Community, Inc. 501(c)3


Brandeis U., B.S.
University of Maryland, M.D.
West Penn Allegheny Health System Family Practice Residency, Pittsburgh, PA

Why rural health?

There is an appropriate scale to human relationship. As children we live and grow in small communities and intimate families. In the full flower of adulthood we learn how few relationships we can maintain without the threads of our connections thinning and the texture of our life losing its color.

Rural health care is for me the most human scale with the most extended family and the least alienation of strangers for neighbors and friends. Nature is close at hand. One can feel the land. Recreation abounds. Traffic is few. Quiet is bliss. The more distant we stand from organized medicine and government power the more freedom we find to explore all of medicine and practice it as best it may be understood.

Our rich physician history of healing, our human values, our traditions of the house call, barter, and compassionate free care survive in rural niches far from the rushing mainstream of for-profit doctoring and the 5 minute visit with tests and referrals for all. One can be too rural, isolated and alone for healthy living, but I believe it far easier and far too common to be isolated, alone, unhealthy and sad in the midst of the crushing tumult of city and suburb.

So while I have lived in country, suburb and city, on boat and on land, I have found rural life to be the simpler, less regulated, less expensive, more free and more sustainable life. Rural life celebrates a smaller scale of human interaction where the spontaneous and the unexpected are the norm. Among friends and family in a small town where everyone knows everyone, our synchronicities produce a synergy of community that gives me great hope for our future.



Resident Experiences

Profiles of Other Rural Health Physicians

AAFP Rural Family Practice Physician Profiles