Frederick County Medical Society Honors Two Physicians

May 24, 2014 / / News

The Frederick News-Post, Thursday, May 22nd by Ike Wilson, News-Post staff.

The Frederick County Medical Society recognized two local physicians Wednesday for their service to the community and announced two proposals to help close health care gaps.

At the annual Laughlin Foundation Dinner at the Red Horse Restaurant in Frederick, Dr. John Vitarello, president of the medical society, lauded Dr. James E. Bowes and Dr. Julio Menocal as special colleagues who have provided medical care to the poor as well as the general public.

Menocal received a certificate for being an innovative medical practitioner in providing care to people who receive medical assistance, or Medicaid.

Menocal not only created an office that is open and available to all local Latinos, but his efforts are also moving into the area of education as he works to make Wi-Fi available to Latino children who need laptops or Internet access to do their homework, Vitarello said.

Bowes, 94, a former Frederick County health director, was described as someone who has been an outstanding leader in providing public health programs for the poor during his 13-year tenure, including expanding access to obstetrics and gynecology medical services across the county.

“Dr. Bowes is retired, but his interest in the medical community has continued even in his later years, and he remains active with our local society,” Vitarello said.

When he began working in Frederick, Bowes said the school system had only one health care officer.

“When I left, there were nurses in all schools,” Bowes said, adding that he helped make it happen.

Receiving the accolade was exciting, said Menocal, a Cuban native who has a 29-year family practice in Frederick.

“And it’s humbling that my colleagues would think so much of me that they would recognize me,” Menocal said. “My core business is vaccinating children, and we do that well.”

Seventy-five percent of his business involves Medicaid clients, Dr. Menocal said.

The honorees received $1,000 checks each to be donated to a charity of their choice.

The health care system is working, but there are gaps, Menocal said.

Proposals to close health care gap

The medical society will initiate an outreach to Frederick County physicians to provide a poor patient without insurance one medical service per month, Vitarello said.

In the past, patients without insurance have had poor outcomes since they did not have the economic resources to undergo lifesaving medical procedures or receive therapy for their underlying disorders, Vitarello said.

“These patients fall between the cracks in our current Medicare/Medicaid and Affordable Care programs; these are individuals that earn a little too much money to qualify for either of these programs,” Vitarello said.

The medical society president also proposed a Poor Tax Incentive Program that would provide a tax write-off for health care specialists.

“If an individual is seen by a specialist who performs a particular procedure, that practitioner can submit a waiver to the state and receive a tax credit for the payment that is standard by Medicare payment schedule in our region,” Vitarello said.

An example would be a cardiac catheterization, which costs $250, to be written off by the medical provider, he said.

Maryland hospitals received just over $1 billion for uncompensated care, and doctors who treat the uninsured receive no such compensation, Vitarello said.

“It is very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country,” Vitarello said.

The proposal is endorsed by Gene Ranson, CEO of MedChi, Vitarello said, and several others at the society’s annual dinner, including Bud Otis, candidate for Frederick County Council.

The medical society’s proposal is not about giving out money, Otis said, rather, the tax write-off is subtracting money from what the physicians earn.

“I think the County Council should take a good look at it, and this is not just a one-time deal, it’s continuous care,” Otis said.

Continued …

Work to begin in 2015 on West Park Village at VFW Country Club

May 7, 2014 / / Uncategorized

By Ed Waters Jr. News-Post Staff

Duffers have been frustrated by it for 90 years and generations of children have sledded its rolling hill, but the VFW Country Club will soon be replaced by a housing development.

Buchanan Pinkard Residential LLC, of Gaithersburg, has Frederick city master plan and adequate public facilities approval for a housing development, park and two commercial pad sites on the 57-acre property on U.S. 40 Alternate, just past the split with West Patrick Street.

West Park Village will have no more than 285 housing units. The two commercial pad sites will be conveyed to the VFW, according to Colin Dove, project manager for Buchanan Partners.

Development work is expected to start in mid- to late 2015. The plan is in the preliminary subdivision plan approval process with the city of Frederick. Site plan review should be completed this summer, Dove said.

The Gaithersburg company also developed the Spring Ridge community.

The golf course dates to 1924, said Juan Stull, quartermaster for VFW Post 3285. It was originally Catoctin Country Club but changed when the VFW post was formed and bought the property.

“It was built the year I was born,” said Bill Staley, 90, who had just finished practicing his putting Tuesday. “It is a shame to see it go.”

Staley said he plays on the VFW course once a week or so.

“The club was once so busy you had to wait to get on the membership list,” Stull said. “I waited two years.”

Gil Slocum, who was also practicing his putting Tuesday, said he had been playing at the VFW for five years and is glad the club ended membership two years ago because he enjoys playing at different golf courses in the area.

“It has been a golfing staple for years,” Slocum said of the VFW course, echoing Staley’s sentiment.

“We expect to have people playing through the end of this year and maybe into next year,” said Stull, who was working in the golf pro shop Tuesday. “It depends on when they put the shovel in the ground.”

The VFW post will continue to operate, and the restaurant is leased to Capital Crave. The property was sold, but the post building and parking lot will be conveyed back to the veterans’ group. The post has 667 members and will continue meetings and social events at the site.

In recent years, the VFW faced competition from other golf courses, Stull said.

“It is a nine-hole course, and it is a challenge to get people to play. … Until 1970 or so, we were the only game in town.”

The swimming pool has not been used for two years, Stull said. The pool site will be filled in and become one of the two commercial pad sites, he said.

The portion of the property fronting U.S. 40A is wetlands and will become a park as part of the development plan, Stull said. Houses will be built beyond the hill favored by many as a sledding spot.

Richard Griffin, director of the city’s economic development office, sees development of the golf course as a positive step for the area.

“New investment like the proposed West Park development at the old VFW Golf Course makes the economic case for the future of terrific mixed-use retail corridors like the Golden Mile,” he wrote in an email. “We are delighted to see strong new investment at both ends of the Golden Mile.”

According to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, the property was sold to West Park Village LLC in 2012 for $2.7 million. The was assessed as of July 2013 at $1.4 million for the golf course and building.


Continued …

Hillcrest’s Doolittle wins county Teacher of the Year award

May 7, 2014 / / News

By Rachel S. Karas News-Post Staff

Hillcrest Elementary School pre-kindergarten teacher Erin Doolittle says she falls asleep each night with one question on her mind: What have I done to be a champion for a child or a family today?

That devotion has earned Doolittle the title of Frederick County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, announced Monday at Hillcrest amid a flurry of smiles, applause and hugs from students.

It is a “phenomenal” privilege to be named the top educator in Frederick County, Doolittle said. But while Teacher of the Year is a great accolade for herself, she said, it’s even bigger for Hillcrest.

“I’m Teacher of the Year because of all of you,” she said. “Everybody here is a champion for children.”

The 33-year-old Ijamsville resident traces her love of the classroom back to age 5, playing “school” at home with her siblings. They were always the students; she was always the teacher.

Hired at Hillcrest 11 years ago, Doolittle sees early childhood education as the first chance to get students hooked on learning. Acting as the “welcome wagon” to the school is also a chance to win over new parents, she said.

“Kids are so excited to be here … to be part of a class,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show them how fabulous school is.”

The future of our nation lies in early education, Doolittle wrote in her application essay, adding that young students deserve an adult who never gives up on them and demands their best.

Sixty teachers were nominated for the award; four finalists were chosen in April. Outgoing Teacher of the Year Karl Kidd, who served on this year’s selection committee, said Doolittle stood out from the other finalists for her enthusiasm and personality that screams, “I work with kids, and I love every minute of it.”

He added that her work with the school and community in numerous capacities shows commitment to Hillcrest and Frederick as a whole. Doolittle’s extracurricular activities include the Parent Teacher Association, Judy Center literacy nights, Leadership Frederick County and Hillcrest’s leadership team.

Former Hillcrest Principal Kathy Swire said meeting with families outside the classroom is common for Doolittle, as is giving a little extra TLC to students with difficult home lives. And as she nurtures, she pushes, seeking ways to move even the neediest children forward.

“She has fun when she teaches, and that’s what the 4-year-olds are attracted to,” Swire said. ”I’ve never heard her say, ‘My 4-year-olds can’t do this.’”

Co-workers said that since Doolittle began her career at Hillcrest, she has increased her rapport with parents and learned to juggle the daily tasks required of an educator.

“She’s such a great match for early childhood because she’s always willing … to make them feel special,” current Hillcrest Principal Kim Seiss added.

Sheyla Romero, a fifth-grade student whom Doolittle taught in kindergarten, credited her for making learning fun and fostering a love of knowledge.

“Two weeks ago, I told you if you didn’t win the award, you were our winner,” Hillcrest parent Raquel Rubio Tavera told Doolittle on Monday through a Spanish translator.

Setting high standards doesn’t stop at the classroom doorway.

“Whenever there’s a frustrating day for me as an administrator … I’m picked up and inspired by how she interacts with the children and how much she loves, loves her job,” Seiss said.

The big blue ”Home of the FCPS Teacher of the Year” banner now hanging at Hillcrest is a welcome recognition that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

“I just have such pride for my staff overall, and I do feel like sometimes they aren’t appreciated as much as they should be,” Seiss said. “To have Erin accept this award … certainly heightens the awareness of the magic that happens at Hillcrest every day.”

Continued …

West Patrick Street crossing project wrapping up

May 1, 2014 / / News

By Kelsi Loos News-Post Staff

Pedestrians along the Golden Mile should have an easier time getting around by this summer.

After being delayed by the harsh winter, a project to create six crosswalk improvements on West Patrick Street is scheduled to wrap up in the next few months, according to the State Highway Administration.

The larger medians at Hoke Place, Hillcrest Drive, Willowdale Drive, McCain Drive, Old Camp Road and Grove Hill Road will give people on foot a place to wait safely if they are unable to cross West Patrick Street before the light changes.

The crossing upgrades were added on to a traffic light upgrade project, which was expected to be finished in February. Changing the design to include the space to wait in the median, coupled with bad weather, pushed the project back several months, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said.

“It’s getting there,” he said. “Thanks for bearing with us on the Golden Mile.”

The total improvements, including the traffic lights, will cost $1.25 million, according to the SHA.

The crossing improvements were the brainchild of the Golden Mile Alliance, a group that promotes the area and its businesses.

Alliance President Justin Kiska said the project will help improve safety and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. In turn, he added, it will be good for local businesses.

“Anytime that people have the opportunity to walk, it will give people more of a chance to visit shops and things,” Kiska said.

One of the goals of Frederick’s Golden Mile Small Area Development Plan was to make the area more accessible to pedestrians and connect the different plazas. Kiska said the improved islands are a small step toward reaching that goal.

Tee Pecora, chairman of the alliance’s design committee, seemed pleased that the SHA was receptive to the group’s suggestion. He said he was looking forward to the project’s completion.

“It will certainly improve … safety,” he said, “and provide pedestrians a convenient and safe way to cross the Golden Mile.”