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Physicians of the Year (Past & Present)

Lawrence A. Hemmer Jr, MD, FAAFP – Billings MT

Dr. Hemmer attended the University of Washington as a WWAMI student and started practicing in Cut Bank in 1986 under the National Health Service Core where he provided full spectrum family medicine, including surgical services and obstetrics. He ultimately moved to Billings in 1990 and went to work for the Billings Clinic. He became department chair in 1993 and still currently holds that position. He has been a member of their Leadership Council and still serves on the Physician Compensation Committee. He has also served as Board Chair for the Montana Family Medicine Residency and on the MMA Board of Trustees. Dr. Hemmer was a past President of the MAFP twice and has served as a Delegate to the American Academy of Family Physicians. He continues to be a WWAMI faculty for students and residents. Dr. Hemmer truly exemplifies a great Family Doctor.

~2018 (Current)

Laura Bennett, M.D.
Laura Bennett, M.D.2017
Dr. Bennett has been actively involved in teaching and establishing a culture of learning in Lewistown by mentoring students in a traditional family medicine practice, covering all aspects of patient care from newborn to eldercare. Dr. Bennett’s commitment as a physician to her rural community and as a mentor to the next generation of rural family physicians has been a great benefit to the residents of Lewistown and the State of Montana. With her interest in teaching, she has been able to pass on this passion for medicine and the importance of caring for a community to the multitude of students that have been lucky enough to train in Lewistown. She has helped give the residents perspective with a wisdom that comes from her variety of patient experiences, and she is able to offer cultural perspective with descriptions of maternity care practices of native peoples during her time as a family physician In rural Alaska. She emphasizes a team work ethic, encouraging good relationships and communication with specialists, nurses and other staff, all the while promoting the idea that these relationships improve patient safety and quality of care.
Dr. Roxanne Fahrenwald
Dr. Roxanne Fahrenwald2016
Dr. Fahrenwald has been a physician, mentor, educator and friend to Montanans and their family physicians for almost twenty years since she became the Director of the Montana Family Medicine Residency in Billings in 1998. She has deeply affected the way residents care for their patients, and constantly reexamines ways to improve patient care and physician training in our rapidly changing health care environment.

She has helped give the residents perspective with a wisdom that comes from her variety of patient experiences, and she is able to offer cultural perspective with descriptions of maternity care practices of native peoples during her time as a family physician In rural Alaska. She emphasizes a team work ethic, encouraging good relationships and communication with specialists, nurses and other staff, all the while promoting the idea that these relationships improve patient safety and quality of care.

Dr. Fahrenwald has been a mentor to the residents and has fostered creativity in considering how to shape family physician training of the future and reinforced their problem-solving skills to help implement meaningful change to clinic workflow and outcomes. She has implemented a mission-oriented training program to serve the population of Montana, as well as serving as a consultant to other programs who strive to do the same for their patient populations. Dr. Fahrenwald has, through her work in almost 20 years in Montana, created a culture of strong family medicine in our state.
R. D. Marks, M.D. - Ennis
R. D. Marks, M.D. - Ennis2015
Dr. Marks has a long history with Montana, both personal and professional. He was not content to just practice medicine; he wanted to make it better which has been a common theme in his medical career. He has held multiple appointments in and around the state, both for healthcare in general and to promote Montana’s specific needs in a rural community. You can always encounter a family physician in Montana who is aware of R.D. and his fiery passion to make health care better. The staff at Madison Valley Medical Center in Ennis describes him as a tireless advocate of healthcare improvement, from the type of mattresses in the inpatient rooms to policy changes at the business level, there is not anything he will not work to change if he feels that he can make an improvement. He is a self-described proactive problem solver. He has been a tireless advocate for change and for promoting good ideas over the established status quo.
Dr. Marks is currently a RUOP preceptor for WWAMI students in Ennis. This is the program between the first and second year of medical school. He does a fantastic job of mentoring and teaching these first year students for a one month rural experience. He has also developed an association between Madison Valley Medical Center and Tulane University School of Medicine, as well as the University of Washington PA School.

Dr. Marks has become an institution in Ennis and volunteers for local youth camps teaching wilderness medicine and providing medical support. He volunteers his time for local charities and is always willing to speak at local events, both health care related and otherwise. Dr. Marks is the epitome of what it means to be a small town country doctor. He is a pillar of the Ennis community and a leader at their hospital .

Jay Erickson, M.D - Whitefish
Jay Erickson, M.D - Whitefish2014
Dr. Jay Erickson is the Assistant Dean for the Montana WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Clinical Phase at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. In this position he oversees the clinical teaching opportunities for WWAMI students in Montana. This includes first year preceptorships, the Montana R/UOP (Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program) between first and second year of medical school and twenty-three required clerkship opportunities in 8 communities in Montana. He also oversees third year Tracks in Missoula and Billings where students are able to complete all of their third year training in Montana. He co-chairs the WRITE program in the WWAMI region a 5 month third year rural immersion experience in twenty-one rural communities in the 5 state region.
Starting in 2008 he developed and helped initiate Montana TRUST (Targeted Rural Underserved Track), a comprehensive 4 year medical school curriculum for a select group of Montana WWAMI students. Since 1990 he has been a part of a 10 person primary care group in Whitefish Montana (pop. 6,000) where he still maintains an active part time clinical practice as a rural family physician.
Bruce Richardson, M.D - Havre
Bruce Richardson, M.D - Havre2013
Dr. Richardson has been a Family Medicine physician in Havre since 1977. His practice has been actively involved in teaching with WWAMI since 1992 with Dr. Richardson at the helm as the clerkship site director and he is currently a Clinical Associate Professor in Family Medicine for University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Richardson has been a stalwart in medical care for the community of Havre, delivering full spectrum family health care during the past 35 years. He has delivered thousands of babies, been on the sidelines of countless sporting events and attended hours of committee meetings at the local hospital. He has provided compassionate patient centered care to generations of families in North Central Montana. He has also been an outstanding role model to the residents who have passed through Havre. In 2010, he was awarded the WWAMI Distinguished Teacher Award, voted on by the UWSOM graduating class of 2010. .
Dr. Marks is currently a RUOP preceptor for WWAMI students in Ennis. This is the program between the first and second year of medical school. He does a fantastic job of mentoring and teaching these first year students for a one month rural experience. He has also developed an association between Madison Valley Medical Center and Tulane University School of Medicine, as well as the University of Washington PA School.

Dr. Marks has become an institution in Ennis and volunteers for local youth camps teaching wilderness medicine and providing medical support. He volunteers his time for local charities and is always willing to speak at local events, both health care related and otherwise. Dr. Marks is the epitome of what it means to be a small town country doctor. He is a pillar of the Ennis community and a leader at their hospital .

James Upchurch, M.D. – Hardin
James Upchurch, M.D. – Hardin2012
Dr. Upchurch is board certified in Family Medicine with added qualification in Geriatrics. He has a master’s degree in education and human development and is licensed as a paramedic. Dr. Upchurch is a ‘Legacy’ member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Since 1985 his practice has been with the Indian Health Service at Crow Agency where he has offered the full spectrum of family medicine in a rural/frontier environment.
He has also has focused on Emergency Medical Services, starting the first paramedic training program in Montana, and chairing the statewide Medical Directors Committee. Big Horn County Ambulance is one of the finest in the state, in part due to his efforts. He also provides medical direction for the Incident Medical Specialist Program, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region and the Northern Rockies Smokejumper Program.

Dr. Upchurch has served as American Heart Association ACLS Regional and National faculty for Montana and currently represents Montana on the Council of State EMS Medical Directors of the National Association of State EMS Officials. He has also served on the Montana Board of Medical Examiners where he is starting his third term.

Gregory A. Rice, M.D. – Libby
Gregory A. Rice, M.D. – Libby2011
Doctor Rice has been a Family Medicine physician in Libby since 1977 and he has been precepting residents in his office since he arrived. He has helped initiate a culture of teaching in Libby which is crucial as we replace those in practice with the next generation of physicians. Students and residents who have been lucky enough to spend time in Libby have nothing but glowing praise when describing Doctor Rice and his teaching and mentoring abilities.
Doctor Rice has really been the heart and soul of medical care in Libby over the past 33 years. He is the quintessential small town Family Medicine physician, providing not only excellent clinical care but looking out for the public health of the community by working with public health, family planning, St. John’s Hospital and many others.

Doctor Rice has been active in all aspects of healthcare in the South Lincoln County area,. He continues to have an active practice which includes obstetrics with C-sections. He has served as the Chief of Staff of St. John’s Hospital several times over his tenure.

Richard Sargent, M.D. – Helena
Richard Sargent, M.D. – Helena2010
Richard Sargent, MD received his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Idaho and went onto receive is MD from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Sargent completed his Family Practice Residency in Boise, Idaho where he was Chief Resident.
Dr. Sargent is Vice Chairman of the Montana Tobacco Advisory Board and was a leader in the effort to pass Helenas Clean Indoor Air Ordinance in 2002. He was a spokesman for the Montana tobacco control initiative in 2002 and tobacco tax initiative in 2004 . He presented his findings on the reduction in heart attacks associated with Helenas clean indoor air ordinance to the American College of Cardiology Scientific Assembly in April, 2003 and published the final article in the British Medical Journal in April 2004. He has also spoken on Health Effects of Second Hand Smoke, Economic Effects of Clean Indoor Air Ordinances, Cessation Methods, Tobacco use in Pregnancy, Fetal Effects of Tobacco Exposure and Tobacco Use and Mental Illness. In September 2006 the American Cancer Society awarded him their national advocacy award, named for Dr. Ted Marrs, for his work on tobacco control.

Dr. Sargent has been in private practice in Helena, Montana for since 1991 and chairman of Quality Assurance for six of those years. He is married and has three children.

Frank C. Michels, M.D. – Billings
Frank C. Michels, M.D. – Billings2009
Doctor Michels has practiced medicine within the St. Vincent Healthcare organization since 1989. He is a dedicated physician who is valued both professionally and personally by his patients and his colleagues.
Dr. Michels has been a leader both within St. Vincent Healthcare and the greater community throughout his career. His work related to the development of the Montana Family Practice Residency Program in the early 1990’s has influenced the delivery of primary care throughout the state of Montana and helped to stabilize the number of family practice physicians who now serve our area.

Doctor Michels was instrumental in the development of West Grand Family Medicine, a well respected family practice clinic in the St. Vincent Healthcare system. He continues to practice at West Grand and advocate for high quality, high touch family practice and obstetric care for all patients.

Ronald A. Miller, M.D. – Whitefish
Ronald A. Miller, M.D. – Whitefish2008
During 36 years behind a stethoscope in the same small town, a family doctor has a pretty good chance of witnessing the parade of generations. Dr. Ron Miller has been in the front lines for many Whitefish families — and counts that participation as a great joy. “Relationships,” he said without missing a beat, when asked to consider the favorite part of his practice. “I’ve had patients that I delivered their children, and now I’ve delivered that child’s baby.” At one point Dr. Miller did it all, serving as the go-to doctor for all of a family’s planned and unplanned medical needs. But he gave up emergency-room medicine two years ago. Four years back, he quit doing obstetrical work.
Dr. Miller, a native of Washington’s Tri Cities area, did his undergraduate work at Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma then went through medical school at University of Washington in Seattle. His residency and training, and finally the start to his career, came in Whitefish. “I liked the mountains, I liked the Flathead,” he recalled. “And they needed a physician in their group.”
Mark W. Zilkoski, M.D. – Wolf Point
Mark W. Zilkoski, M.D. – Wolf Point2007
Mark has been working in Wolf Point for many years, serving his community, teaching residents and medical students, and doing all of those other things that you expect of someone who has their name come up in discussions regarding an award like this.
Physicians who work with Mark have described him as possessing the most important traits in working with patients. Things like compassion, work ethic, dedication, caring, and dependability. Those attributes are the things that make Mark a great physician.
John S. Patterson, M.D. – Bozeman
John S. Patterson, M.D. – Bozeman2006
John is a caring, knowledgeable and dedicated physician. He continues to practice the full spectrum of Family Medicine, including OB; office, hospital and nursing home practices; surgery assisting; serving medical missions overseas and teaching medical students.
It is not unusual for him to treat three generations of a family, yet he still accepts new patients. John exemplifies the quintessential Family Physician, and it is an honorable reflection on all Montana Family Physicians to present John as one of our finest.