BRATTLEBORO -- With less than a month as the full-time medical director at the local veterans' clinic, Dr. Richard Orlan said he is right where he wants to be.
"My wife, Beth, and I wanted to relocate six or seven years ago," said Orlan. What was attractive about Brattleboro, he said, was that they both have family and friends within a 100-mile radius.
"We planted ourselves right in the middle," said Orlan. "But I didn't want to start from scratch, so I joined the biggest primary care group in town."
Orlan spent about a year in primary care practice with the Physician Group at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, when he learned from a friend about a vacancy for the top slot at the Brattleboro Community Based Outpatient Clinic and applied for the job.
Though Orlan is the first physician in his family, he has worked in hospitals, both as a volunteer and in a variety of jobs, since he was young.
He is certified in gerontology, hospice and palliative care and is also a pharmacologist. He has worked as a lab technician, in patient affairs, as a driver, as an associate medical director, for non-profit organizations and insurance companies, and he ran his own business for a while.
Orlan also helped design care coordination management plans, which he described as "The things we need to do to take care of patients."
When he started his career, Orlan, who just turned 54 earlier this month, went to pharmacy school, where he
"I was on a research track, but I wanted to work with people rather than with test tubes," he said.
He grew up in Brooklyn and on Long Island, went to the State University of New York, Buffalo, and studied at Ross University in the West Indies for two years. He received his formal training at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
He has worked in New York, New Jersey, the Midwest and Ohio, which has given him knowledge he might not have received from a more traditional practice.
"Diseases are treated differently depending on location," said Orlan, adding one of the most important things he has learned is that to be truly effective, a doctor should spend more time listening and less time talking.
"The veterans will tell you their stories, but they have to feel comfortable with you," he said.
Because of his experience in coordinated care management and the various aspects of health care, said Sharon Levenson, the clinic's RN, his patients get the benefit of his knowledge and experience.
"It's not typical to work with a doctor who sees the whole picture," she said. "This is what our veterans have needed for a long time. He's a brilliant doctor with a wonderful demeanor and the vets are extremely happy."
Levenson said his training in gerontology, hospice and palliative care fits in nicely with the CBOC's client base.
"We have a rather high population of folks who fall into the 65 to 75 age group," she said.
The clinic also has a home-based primary care team that will visit homebound veterans within a 50-mile radius, said Levenson.
"We have five teams functioning out of this facility," she said.
The needs of the veterans call for an interdisciplinary approach of coordinated care between Orlan and specialists and includes a mental health component.
"Psychological conditions can affect medical conditions," he said. "It's more than just a pill."
The Brattleboro CBOC has a client list of about 700 veterans in the tri-state region and has been in operation for about two years, and that number is expected to climb. When the CBOC opened in 2010, the Veterans Administration said it expected to see 1,000 to 1,500 veterans to seek care there.
The CBOC has in-house mental health specialists and utilizes all the bells and whistles -- such as tele-conferencing, data sharing and the ability to transmit vital conditions in real time -- to provide care for its clients.
The Brattleboro CBOC also has a social worker dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless veterans, said Levenson.
"Not a lot of CBOCs have that," she said, adding it's part of the VA's effort to insure there are no more homeless veterans by 2015.
Along with Orlan and Levenson, the CBOC's staff includes: Loren Ellis, Clinic Manager; Patti Paquette, LPN; Judi Bourque-Olmstead, health technician, coordinator of Telehealth Program; Ruth Kenrick, MSW, psychotherapist; Yael Cohn, MSW, social worker for Home Based Primary Care program; Matt Ronconi, RN, nurse for HBPC program, Tynisa Williams, occupational therapist for HBPC; and Michelle Lague, MSW, social worker for Homeless Veterans program.
Orlan and his wife live in Westminster. Beth Orlan is a gluten-free baker who has created her own line of baked goods and baking mixes, which can be found at osofineglutenfree.com.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @shocked60.