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Community , Why NEPA?

Dr. Alison Brodginski of Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center – Why NEPA?

“We were ready to start a family and there wasn’t even a doubt in our minds that we wanted to come back to Northeastern Pennsylvania to do that.”

Early on, during her time at Hanover Area High School, Dr. Alison Brodginski knew she wanted to practice medicine. Before all that seriousness, though, she claimed a typical NEPA childhood. She built her fair share of tree forts, fished the Susquehanna, raced home before the street lights – her three trusty brothers always by her side.

Alison was, admittedly, an over-involved kid. She volunteered. She jumped at every opportunity to serve her community. And in a chance encounter during a brief stint as a peer liaison in a reproductive health program, she heard a firsthand account of a young man living with HIV. His story moved her. It sparked something – a sense of duty, a call to action, a responsibility to heal when and where she could. In that moment, as an impressionable kid with an entire world of purpose before her, she decided to throw herself into the fight against infectious disease.

In short time, she went from East Stroudsburg University to Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to her residency and fellowships on the big stage in New York City. When it came time to build a family with her high school sweetie, however, the city that seemed to have it all just didn’t have enough. Alison and her husband came home. They started that family and got to work showing those two kids how to make the most of a typical NEPA childhood (and learned a little about re-creating their own along the way).

We recently caught up with Geisinger’s Northeast Director of Infectious Diseases at her office on the hospital’s main campus in Wilkes-Barre. Among so many things, the good doctor gave us the inside scoop on why a little time away makes it quite easy to answer that searing question — Why NEPA?

How long have you lived in NEPA?

I was born and raised here. And there was some time away after medical school, during training and residency and fellowship and a few years after that in New York City. Then, we moved back here in 2013.

What do you love about your town?

I think what I love about Dallas, or even Northeastern Pennsylvania in general, is how it evolved. What originally brought me back to this area was a shift in my life where I wanted to start a family. And I wanted to do that here. And I think a lot of that was based on the wonderful childhood that I had here. We had room to breathe – to be kids. We could run around, ride bikes and explore the outdoors. We had a safe and comfortable environment to do that. And obviously having family close by was a big part of that. I wanted that for my kids. Then, after I became a mom, I started to realize different reasons why I loved it here.

There are wonderful school districts and opportunities for education here that I don’t think I fully appreciated until I became a parent. Also, it’s things like just having the ability to say, “Hey let’s go on a hike.” And we can go to a different location every weekend. And we’re never going more than an hour from home. You have to really appreciate something like that – and the natural beauty of it all. Of course, you can also jump on the interstate and be in New York for lunch in two hours. I love that as well, but even more, I love that I get to come home to a beautiful, quiet, more rural area. I guess, what I really love about NEPA is that it changes as I evolve through life and that I’m always able to find great, new things to do and see. I didn’t really appreciate that when I was younger.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Oh boy. This is a tough one. Yeah (pauses). Ok. This really is tough. I mean pizza, c’mon (laughs). Ok, I love food – like I really love food. Can I think about it? No. You know what, maybe I’m overthinking this. Because, if I ask like, “where’s our go-to?” It’s definitely Kelsey’s in Ashley. I mean that is our definite go-to spot. The owners are friends of ours. I mean, we went to school together and grew up together. Every time you walk in, there’s someone that you know. And it’s all “How are you? and How are the kids and tell your dad I said hello.” So, there’s that close-knit town atmosphere, if you will, but the food, oh man… I highly recommend it. It’s so good.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

It depends on the season, of course. And that’s another great thing about Northeastern PA. So, in the summer, there’s no doubt, we love being out at Harvey’s Lake. You know, doing a little boating. We also do so much hiking at the state parks, especially Ricketts Glen and on the Back Mountain Trail right here in Dallas. That’s one of our favorites. We set a goal to try to make it just a little bit farther every time, you know – with the kids (laughs). More towards the fall, every year now, we have to do the pumpkin patches and the apple picking. During the winter, without a doubt, we’re going to be at Montage Mountain skiing with the kids. Then, come springtime, we’re getting back to hiking and bike riding and just getting outdoors. I would say every season involves an element of being outside, which wasn’t us ten years ago in New York, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything now.

What’s next for you?

That’s another hard one… Well, COVID has definitely changed a lot of people’s ways of thinking and it’s kind of shifted priorities. And, personally, there’s no question that my children and my husband have always been number one for me, but I’m looking forward to hopefully a lull in the pandemic and really getting back to being mom and to being wife.

And professionally, I love what I do. I mean I genuinely love it and I don’t think a lot of people can say that. In particular, I love being able to help this community. This is my community. This is my family, my friends, my old teachers and neighbors. And maybe it sounds cliché, but it’s not. It’s the truth. Being able to continue to serve our community in my capacity here – that’s what’s next for me. I hope to see us come out of this recent COVID swing and soon get back to serving with more of a sense of normalcy. I’ll continue to stand here and help the community any way I possibly can regarding COVID, but I hope to see us get past this and be able to come back together as a community. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad my career brought me back to help NEPA through this, but I just want it to end like everyone else.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I think we have to focus on the youth. We have to focus on the younger generation. I never fully understood just how much beautiful outdoor space we had here. I think with COVID, people really got back to more of the basics, more of the simplicity. That’s probably a good thing. And we need to continue to get our younger generations out there to experience it and to appreciate it. When it comes to our children, we should do the work to ensure that they continue to have these beautiful spaces around them. We have to keep supporting our local education systems. Now, more than ever, they need our support. Really, for me, a better future for Northeastern Pennsylvania means continuing to support and care for our younger generations.

Why NEPA?

It was never even a question. NEPA’s home. I have friends who were born and raised in Manhattan – they still live there. And I love when they come to visit and we’re sitting on the porch in the morning and having coffee, and they’re sitting there telling me, “Man… I’m jealous.” You know (laughs)? NEPA has allowed me to literally sit back and smell the roses. And it’s because of the beauty and tranquility of this area, because I have my family so close to me, because I’ve seen so much progress here over the last few years, because I see so many people opening these new businesses and restaurants and trying to make this a progressive area – I’m seeing it and I’m feeling it — and for all those reasons, it was a no-brainer.

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