Town Center clinic closes
Dr. Jeff Daniels will remain at the mountain clinic part-time
After 24 years providing walk-in medical service to the Big Sky community, Dr. Jeff Daniels has sold his practice—the Medical Clinic of Big Sky—to Bozeman Health.
Effective Jan. 1, the Town Center Medical Clinic’s doors closed to the public. Daniels’ former Mountain Village office, shared with Big Sky Resort Ski Patrol, will remain open for walk-ins and emergencies, but is now known as Bozeman Health Mountain Clinic.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and given up a lot of my time,” Daniels said as he sat in the break room of his mountain office on one of the last days he owned it. “Plus, my wife said I work too hard.”
Daniels said he offered to strike a deal with Bozeman Health when the Big Sky Medical Center came to town, but nothing came of it at the time. He noted that when Bozeman Health originally made the case for the hospital in Big Sky it claimed to need the client base of everyone in Big Sky to make it viable.
When the hospital officially opened in December 2015, Daniels said it hit his business harder than the 2008 recession. “But I figured, hey, we can still make it,” he said. “And things have picked up. But, I’m 66 years old, and I’m kind of tired.”
So, he said, when the opportunity to sell his practice came up again, he decided it was time to make the deal.
“It’s wonderful that we have a hospital and I’d hate to see them fail,” Daniels said. “This way, all medical care in Big Sky will go through them.”
Daniels said he will continue to practice part-time at the mountain clinic, and his team will be there as well.
“I want people to know I’ll still be working here, seeing my patients. If you want to see me, I’ll be up here in the winter and summer,” he said. It’s unclear what will happen to the highway signs and the big red cross on the side of the building housing Daniels’ now-shuttered Town Center clinic.
In a Jan. 2 press release, Bozeman Health noted that people needing medical care in Town Center are welcome to call the Big Sky Medical Center Family Medicine Clinic, located in the Big Sky Medical Center.
“Dr. Daniels’ commitment to the Big Sky community is evident, and I’m pleased to have him join our team in living out our mission of improving community health and quality of life. This partnership will not only strengthen the care delivery system for the Big Sky community, but also ensure its sustainability,” said Bozeman Health president and CEO John Hill in the release.
With a less hectic schedule and the first off season he’s had in years on the horizon, Daniels is ready for the change of pace. In an email to the Lookout he wrote, “When the ski season ends, I can start crossing off things (like travel to places I haven’t been, learning how to play the piano, etc.) off the bucket list.”
What about the med students?
New ownership comes with changes. The medical student elective program Dr. Daniels ran through his clinic will wrap up at the end of this ski season.
“If I’m going to miss anything, I’ll miss that. It’s become a legendary elective in medical schools around the world. Nobody else does what we do,” Daniels said of the program that he started in 1998. Since then nearly 900 students have passed through the mountain clinic’s doors, learning hands-on the types
of injuries that come right off the slopes.
One of the final students in the elective course is Sasha Selby, a third-year medical student from Calgary who’s currently studying in Ireland at the University of Limerick.
“I came here to get experience in mountain medicine and orthopedics—bone breaks, fractures, sprains and the management of mountain injuries like lacerations, learning to do sutures,” Selby said, taking a quick break from patients to chat about her experience in Big Sky. “Learning about high-altitude medicine is also something that’s always interested me because I am a climber. I’m also an avid skier, so I’m very excited to have the opportunity to do both.”
As a perk, students work seven days a week while they’re here, but can also ski every day.
Since Selby arrived in Big Sky on Dec. 17, she said she’s experienced a lot.
“I’ve seen lots of cool breaks—fractured clavicles, shoulders, legs. I’ve also seen lots of cool lacerations, and gotten to do stitches,” said Selby, noting she might have to run back to an exam room soon to check out a patient who needed their lip sutured up.
Selby left Big Sky Jan. 1, but said her short time here was well worth it.
“I think this is the best place on Earth, it is so fun,” she said with a smile. “The skiing is amazing. I’ve never had skiing conditions like this repeatedly. The people are amazing. It’s just a fun atmosphere and a fun vibe, and all the students and residents here are the best people in the world.”
On his website, Daniels recently wrote to the many students hoping to sign up for future opportunities with the clinic, as they have to apply far in advance: “…after 19 years of offering this elective to over 800 students, residents and sports fellows, I’ve come to a point where I may not be able to carry it any further… I’ve decided to sell my private practice to our local hospital. I apologize to those students in the class of 2019 that have had their hopes of coming to Big Sky, as well as the residents that have contacted me about an elective, but this decision was a hard one for me and was just finalized.”