Many rural health care systems across the U.S. struggle to recruit doctors to small towns, but Ohio County Healthcare seems to buck that trend.

In the last five years, the health system has added 14 providers to its medical staff — including two this month.

Drs. Nicole Akers and John Jeffries have joined OCH since Oct. 1.

"We're very excited at Ohio County Healthcare to have two topnotch medical providers starting in the same month," said CeCe Robinson, director of community relations.

Akers came to the health system through a recruiting agency. One of OCH's doctors recommended Jeffries.

Jeffries, a general surgeon, grew up in Greensburg, a town of about 2,500 people. Hartford's small-town vibe attracted him.

"That was one of the more appealing things about coming here," he said. "While this isn't home, it very much feels like it."

Also, he has a strong relationship with OCH surgeon Dr. George Gilliam. The two surgeons will share call coverage.

Jeffries, who started his duties Monday, graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor's degree in science. He completed medical school at the University of Louisville.

He completed his general surgery residency and a minimally invasive surgery fellowship at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, Virginia.

Jeffries is beginning his medical career at OCH. His office is in the Ohio County Specialty Care building at 1215 Old Main St. in Hartford.

OCH has not had a full-time general surgeon in five years, Robinson said. During that time, the health system relied on two doctors working on a part-time basis.

"Hiring Dr. Jeffries will greatly increase access to care," she said.

Akers, who practices family and obesity medicine, joined OCH on Oct. 1. She treats patients from cradle to grave.

She received her medical training in her home state of Michigan, where she attended Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed a family medicine residency at Western Michigan University School of Medicine.

Akers practiced two years in Jonesboro, Arkansas, before coming to Ohio County. Affordable land prices drew her to the area. She and her family hope to buy acreage for an orchard, hiking and ATV trail riding.

"My goal with all my patients is to learn their story," Akers said in a press release. "This makes a difference in how I care for them. I want to help people become healthier and have a better quality of life. Part of that process is to help them on their journey to lose weight."

Her office is in the Ohio County Family Care building, 20 McMurtry Ave., Hartford.

Both of these physicians will be assets for Ohio County and its residents, Robinson said.

"We look for good people to bring to our staff," she said. "We want people who can form close personal relationships. Medicine is about people caring for people."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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