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Sentara to recruit physician to replace Sue

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sentara Albemarle Medical Center is already working with a recruiting firm to attract a second gastroenterologist to the area following the recent retirement of Dr. Michael Sue.

In a phone interview last week, Sue explained he decided to retire last year because of his age — he's almost 65 years old — and because he’s practiced medicine for almost 30 years.

Most of Sue’s practice was performed in Elizabeth City. He said former Albemarle Hospital CEO Douglas Fairfax recruited him here from Virginia in 1996. Sue’s wife, Debra, also has family in the area.

Sue practiced as an independent physician, owning and operating the Northside Park Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Center near the hospital.

As one of only two gastroenterologists in Elizabeth City — the other is Dr. Steven Faber — Sue spent many years tending to local residents' digestive health, including through endoscopies and colonoscopies. Sue said he was drawn to the specialty because he's always had an interest in diets, and he enjoyed the work.

Looking back on his career, Sue said he felt he had improved people's lives and believes his patients were very satisfied with his care.

That's not to say they always listened to him.

Sue said he stressed better nutrition to patients, particularly to scale back on their intake of pork and red meat, but they seldom changed their eating habits. A plant-based diet is key to a long and healthy life, he said.

Sue also said he's seen many changes in gastroenterology, citing federal regulations that have changed how, and for what, providers get payments from insurers. Technology has also changed too, including the migration of health systems nationwide to electronic medical record-keeping.

Sue has also seen numerous leadership changes at the hospital, now known as Sentara Albemarle Medical Center.

Sue was effusive in his praise for Sentara Albemarle and its current president, Coleen Santa Ana, whom he repeatedly praised as an excellent leader and described as good to work with and an asset to the region.

“I have only good things to say about Sentara Albemarle Medical Center,” he said.

With only one gastroenterologist left in the area, Sue says it will be difficult for Sentara to replace him. He said there are only about 14,000 gastroenterologists in the nation, which is a “great shortage.”

Medical schools are offering instruction in the specialty to too few students, and it takes many years of residency before gastroenterologists can practice, Sue said. New gastroenterologists also tend to gravitate toward better-paying urban markets, he noted.

Santa Ana said in an interview last week that Sentara Albemarle is “always” recruiting primary care doctors, but does look to recruit another gastroenterologist this year. The hospital is working with a recruiting firm to attract an independent gastroenterologist to the area, she said, adding that gastroenterologists typically prefer to work independently, rather than for hospitals.

Now that he's retired, Sue said he intends to spend more time with family and perhaps do some traveling.

According to the N.C. Medical Board's website, Sue graduated from the University of West Indies-Jamaica medical school, and spent much of 1990s with the University of Virginia, completing an internship and then residency with the University of Virginia Roanoke Salem Program. He also completed his fellowship at the University of Virginia.

The N.C. Medical Board's website also shows Sue faced no adverse, public actions from state medical boards, and that no malpractice claims were filed against him.

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