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New doctor feels at home

Monday, December 9, 2013

by Sanders County Ledger

He's a country doctor, with a flair for the country.

The newest care provider on the staff at Clark Fork Valley Hospital began work recently in Thompson Falls, bringing the staff to a full complement, for the first time in several years.

Dr. Andrew Roberts said he likes the new job. A native of the Midwest, he comes to Montana from Wyoming where he resided while working a locum tenans arrangement in West Virginia.

"It was time to move somewhere where I could be there for the kids in their activities," he said last week.

Couple that with a love for the western life, and Thompson Falls was a natural fit.

Roberts said he and his wife love horses. And with tongue in cheek, he said he loves to ride, "when I can stay on the back of my horse."

After his rearing in Utah and Oklahoma, Roberts ended up in the U.S. Army in Texas. He received an undergraduate degree from West Texas A & M and then earned a medical degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He was doing his internship in Texas when the facility was suddenly closed. In no time he said, he was on the phone and found a program for residency at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Then after completing that requirement he stayed on in the Cowboy State and went to work in Lander where he had a position as a hospitalist, the physician who answers all of the needs of all the patients at the facility, including new admissions.

It was a demanding schedule, at times he was the only doctor serving a 40 bed hospital. It caused him to seek a position where he could have a little more time off. He chose the West Virginia arrangement but found that despite a week on and week off, and two days of travel meant he had little time at home and when he was home it mainly allowed him only to only catch up on sleep. "That wasn't good for me or my family," he said.

He was recruited to Clark Fork Valley Hospital and after a favorable experience learning the community and the hospital environment, he took the position. He will now be the resident physician for the clinic and joins Physician Assistant Jennifer Strine and Dr. Ray Nelson on the regular staff.

Roberts said during the visit to Thompson Falls with the family, they were hooked up with Jerry Pauli, the retired superintendent of Thompson Falls schools and a trustee with the Clark Fork Valley Hospital Board. "Jerry made the visit special for us," said Roberts. "Our kids really enjoyed the area and the atmosphere at the school."

The kids were able to go to school for a day and met prospective classmates. For the holidays Dr. Roberts will be returning to Wyoming where the family has remained while they await the sale of their home. They hope to fully relocate to the Thompson Falls area as soon as possible.

Roberts and his wife Maricela, have six children, a married daughter, Angel, living in Wyoming, a son, Chris, in the Air Force in Japan, son Eli is a sophomore, daughter Rayshia is a freshman, Noah is in third grade and Isabella is in kindergarten.

In his medical education, Roberts specialized in family medicine, which makes it a perfect fit for the Thompson Falls Family Medicine clinic.

"I enjoy the small clinic setting," he told the Ledger, "it gives me time to get to know my patients better, on a personal basis."

If he hadn't become a doctor, Roberts said he may likely have been a cowboy. "I loved horses as a kid," he recalled with a smile. "I got on every one I could and as a boy I rode a lot of stallions. I guess I was truly a 'wannabe' cowboy.

Growing up he worked on a lot of ranches and while going to college, he never missed a chance to work on ranches when he could. He loved the roundups, the branding and working stock. "It wasn't work to me, it was a vacation."

Although he wears western attire, he shuns the hat, saying he couldn't quite embrace that embellishment. But don't be surprised to see him in his cowboy boots at the clinic.

That part of being a cowboy, and a doctor at he same time, doesn't have to change.

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