Dr. Dean Bartholomew has been named as the "Real Doc Hollywood" by the Wyoming Department of Health's Public Health Division and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.
Bartholomew, a family medicine physician cares for the residents of Saratoga, population 1,671, and the surrounding area.
"The recognition is a tribute to the hard work of our staff and the vision of the Corbett Medical Foundation," Bartholomew said. "We have put together a special operation here in Saratoga that is noted statewide. The recognition came out the same day we heard of Dr. John Lunt's passing, which was very fitting as he truly was "Doc Hollywood" years before the movie came out. What a privilege it is for us to even attempt to follow in his footsteps."
Nov. 19 was recognized as Rural Health Day in Wyoming. On the day that Bartholomew was recognized by the Wyoming Department of Health and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.
Kim Deti, of Wyoming Department of Health, explained while there is not a formal process, he was nominated by the staff for the Wyoming Department of Health's Office of Rural Health. "They have worked with him and knew of his interest in telehealth and the key role he plays in your community," Deti said.
After graduating from high school, Bartholomew left his hometown for several years to attend college and medical school, where he graduated with honors. He then served in the Air Force for four years, rising to the position of commander of Aerospace Medical Flight. His time in the military only fueled his passion to heal the sick and injured and encourage the healthy to stay on track.
However, he never forgot his hometown roots, and the people of Saratoga never forgot the bright, talented young man who left to become a doctor. "In 2009, the clinic asked me to come back and take over the town's medical clinic," Bartholomew said. Without hesitation, he answered yes. His return was also a homecoming for his wife, Tonya, whom he first dated when they were both high school students.
Today, Bartholomew is the physician-owner of Platte Valley Medical Clinic (PVMC) in Saratoga-supported by a nurse practitioner and physician assistant. He is passionate about promoting rural health issues and has become a strong "voice" of rural medicine in Wyoming, recently presenting on the topic for the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Academy College of Physicians.
Telehealth, a branch of medicine connecting rural health care providers and their patients to experts and specialists at large hospitals through video technology, is of particular interest to the PVMC.
"We actively pursued telehealth in Saratoga," he says. "We now have patients here who are connected to dermatologists, cardiologists and child psychiatrists to larger hospitals across the country and in Wyoming through telehealth. The Wyoming Department of Health has been promoting telehealth in rural Wyoming, and we were part of a grant program to get the internet capabilities for telehealth. We became a pilot rural site for the program."
Bartholomew sometimes receives unusual requests requiring his equipment, as well as his expertise. "One day the timer on the bank vault stopped working at the Saratoga bank, and they called me over," he recalls. "They needed me to listen to the vault with my stethoscope-to hear the timer. You just don't see that in a big city."
Reflecting on his career path, Bartholomew notes that moving back to Saratoga was a family decision. He and Tonya are raising two children, ages 10 and 12. Being one of the few doctors in the area "is a big time commitment," he acknowledges, noting, "no matter where I am, I'm always the doctor." He and Tonya also say they are passionate about helping rural families. "Dean and I have sat many times with families to care for them as their loved ones go through the dying process," Tonya said. "No one leaves the area. The ranchers want to spend their last days at home, on their ranch. We want to be there to help support the family."
In the end, this Doc Hollywood honoree, who also serves as the assistant middle school basketball coach, has a simple plan: "I'm going to treat my patients how I want my family to be treated," he says, adding, "I feel very special and blessed to heal and help my community."