After 23 years of providing quality medical care to patients at Hiawatha Community Hospital, Dr. Julie Rosá is ready for the next season of her life.
Dr. Julie — as everyone refers to her since she works alongside another Dr. Rosá, her husband Pete, emphasized she is not retiring. However, Dr. Julie has announced she is closing her practice at the HCH Family Practice Clinic as of May 28.
Dr. Julie said she will miss her hospital family and patients she has served for more than two decades, but she has been strongly feeling a need to follow another calling. Following the closure of her practice at HCH, Dr. Julie will continue working to obtain a Masters degree in International Medicine at InMed in Kansas City. She plans to finish this program in nine months and will work in Kanad Hospital in the United Arab Emeritus in a small town called Al Ain.
She is even learning Arabic for her overseas medical adventure. Dr. Julie said she will leave in January and work to fulfill what has always been a dream by sharing her medical experience through international medicine. She will return at the end of March and in April, another challenge awaits — the Appalachian Mountains.
Dr. Pete has also announced the closure of his clinic in February 2022 — which will allow the couple the time they need to hike the trail.
“We have a five-year window — no grandkids yet, our youngest is graduating and we are ready to launch into that next window,” she said.
Once Dr. Julie returns from the United Arab Emeritus, she and Dr. Pete will start hiking — the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in six months, April through October.
“This is like a bucket list for us,” Dr. Julie said with a laugh. “We have been doing some training at Klinefelter Farm and Indian Caves.”
Conquering the Appalachian Trail is apparently on the bucket list of many people — Dr. Julie said 10,000 start the hike but only about 1,000 finish it. One of the reasons many hikers don’t finish — besides injury — is the time it takes to complete, which is why the doctor couple wanted to make sure and allow a six-month window to finish it.
“While the Appalachian Trail is the most friendly of the three through hikes, the total elevation change over the entire trail is equal to scaling Mt. Everest 19 times,” Dr. Julie said.
She said they plan to start with 8 miles a day and then when they get their “trail legs” work up to 20 miles a day to stay on schedule.
“By the time we hit Virginia, we will be at 20 miles a day,” she said.
The trail runs through small towns that will allow the couple to stop every three days or so to stock up on supplies. Every seven days, they plan to stay in a hostel in some of those towns to bathe and do laundry.
“The kids will all come out at different times and hike with us,” she said of their four children — Kate, Jada, Mary and Jack. “After this past year, it will be good for our mental health and give us time to decompress.”
It’s no secret the year 2020 has been a challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but those working in the medical field faced obstacles they never thought they would see in their lifetime.
“I don’t think anyone was prepared for COVID,” she said. “The only thing we can really compare it to in recent years is the Spanish Flu in 1916. We have never seen anything with such far-reaching impact that affected our society.”
Other challenges include the fight to get a sales tax passed — not once, but twice — to provide financial security for the future of the hospital. Both times the sales tax failed and Dr. Julie said going through that ordeal was a very trying and emotional time for her. While many members of the community voted for the sales tax to support the hospital, just as many did not — in fact the vote failed by a mere handful of votes each time.
Moving forward, the hospital has entered into an affiliation with Amberwell Health, which Dr. Julie said will provide stability for the future.
Working at HCH has been a wonderful experience, said Dr. Julie, noting that the welcome they felt for the community is what drew them to Hiawatha fresh out of residency and made them stay and raise a family. She said they raised their four wonderful children with a stellar education in Hiawatha — three of whom have gone to college and have succeeded with one to graduate Hiawatha High next month. They plan to keep their house here as a “home base” for themselves and their children.
“The town did so well in welcoming us and embracing us — I encourage them to do the same for the new members of the Family Practice Clinic,” she said. “I want them (the community) to remember how important it is to support their hospital and medical workers. They have to make them feel like they did us — wanted, respected, valued and integrated into the community.”
Dr. Julie, who was a family practice physician but also specialized in OB, gynecology and pediatrics, has been nominated for the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians (KAFP) Kansas Physician of the Year. Her memories from Hiawatha Community Hospital cover all emotions from sad to happy.
“We have been involved in so many people’s lives and that’s such an honor — this has been an amazing time of my life,” she said. “We have been involved in every season from birth to death.”
She said she has many wonderful memories from her 23 years at HCH, but one sticks out.
She said her oldest daughter, Katie, came to do a project for school and Dr. Julie pulled out all of the photos of every baby she had delivered in her nearly two dozen years at Hiawatha. They spread out every photo across the floor.
“There were like 1,500 pictures there,” she said. “It was so cool to see that collage of all those families I got to be a part of. I thought ‘I have the greatest job ever.’”
“Being present at the start of life is an honor.”