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The doctors are in

February 17, 2017 - 1:00am

WAIMEA — The shortage of doctors in North Hawaii is an on-going challenge.

But in early 2017, two new physicians set up shop in Waimea, and West Hawaii Community Health Center (WHCHC) expanded in Waikoloa. The new Waimea doctors specialize in geriatrics, internal medicine and podiatry, and Waikoloa has a new nurse practitioner.

Dr. William Stewart Lawrence, MD, FACP

“The timing was right,” said Dr. William Stewart Lawrence, who relocated his medical practice from Waikoloa to Uilani Plaza in Waimea effective Jan. 1.

The other tenant in the Waikoloa medical office center, West Hawaii Community Health Center (WHCHC), was looking to expand.

“It was an opportunity for both of us,” Dr. Lawrence said.

For patients still in Waikoloa, he makes house calls for those 80 and older when there is a hardship.

On his new schedule, Dr. Lawrence works Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. He specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics, and will take new patients as his load allows. His practice accepts most insurances including Medicare.

Dr. Lawrence took a circuitous route to medical school. After completing his undergraduate studies in philosophy at Tulane University in New Orleans, he went to nursing school in Australia on a fast track program for college graduates.

It was then that he decided to become an MD.

“I saw I was going to be underutilized as a nurse and that being in medicine made more sense for me,” Dr. Lawrence said.

He went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson, and completed his residency at the Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. Dr. Lawrence moved to Hawaii and began practicing in Waikoloa in 1991.

As a University of Hawaii School of Medicine faculty member, he serves as a preceptor for medical students and residents. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and serves on North Hawaii Hospice’s board of directors.

When at home, Dr. Lawrence focuses on oasis horticulture.

“It has always been my passion, even before moving to Hawaii,” he said.

Over the past three decades, he and his wife, Lisa, have planted hundreds of trees, terraces and windbreaks at their 2-acre home.

About five years ago, Dr. Lawrence and a co-conservator started the Waikoloa Dryland Forest Initiative to preserve and protect rare and endangered trees in the Waikoloa Dryland Forest Preserve. The initiative seeks to protect the rare wiliwili tree and the federally listed uhi uhi tree in the Waikoloa Dryland Forest.

Dr. J. Cliff Gilley, DPM

Podiatrist Dr. J. Cliff Gilley joined Mango Medical this month in Waimea.

He has visited Hawaii more than a dozen times, and the first time he and his wife stepped on Hawaii Island they fell in love with it and its people.

“Even six or seven years ago, I felt like the Big Island would be our home at some point,” he recalled.

Once their children went off to college, they felt called to the island.

“It’s a dream come true for me to come here, engage with the community and assist with foot care,” Dr. Gilley said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity to come and help serve and improve the health of the people who live here.”

He is board certified in podiatry, foot and ankle surgery, and will begin meeting with patients beginning on Monday.

In 1992, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and pre-med from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. After working as a production manager in orthopedic device manufacturing for five years, he went on to earn a master’s degree in biomedical sciences in 1999, and a doctorate of podiatric medicine in 2001 from the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine in Miami.

Dr. Gilley completed his residency in foot and ankle surgery at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio in 2004, and most recently practiced in Knoxville. He is a member of the American Podiatry Medical Association, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery and Hawaii Podiatric Medical Association.

West Hawaii Community Health Center

When community volunteers formed WHCHC in 2003, they had a distinct goal in mind: to provide quality health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

There obviously was a need. WHCHC became a federally qualified health center in 2006 and serves the greater West Hawaii area with medical, dental and behavioral health services at facilities in Kailua-Kona, Kealakehe, Kealakekua and Waikoloa.

“We’re growing in every direction,” said Natasha Ala, the Center’s director of marketing, development and grants. “We’ve been slowly growing for the past 11 years, trying to keep up with growing health care needs. We’re the safety net system for the community.”

Most recently, WHCHC expanded its footprint in Waikoloa. The existing medical clinic has been remodeled and Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth “Betsy” Fryer joined the team at the beginning of January, working alongside Nurse Practitioner Anjalie Graham-Bicoy.

The Center is also in the process of opening a new dental clinic in Waikoloa, in the space next to the medical clinic.

“We’re hoping to have that open this spring,” Ala said.

Two new dentists will rotate to Waikoloa to provide keiki and adult dental health care on alternating days. The administrative staff and dental hygienists at Waikoloa will remain constant.

WHCHC will hold a community meeting in the Waikoloa School Cafeteria at 6:30 p.m. on March 7 to announce and explain its expanded and new health care services.

They accept new patients and most private insurances, along with Medicaid and Medicare. Ala said WHCHC also has special programs available for the uninsured, and staff eligibility specialists help patients sign up for insurance and see if they are qualified for Medicaid, Medicare or benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

“We want to make a difference in the community,” WHCHC CEO Richard Taaffe said. “We care, and want to make sure that people get the care they need.”

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