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Dr. Mark Pallis of Geisinger Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine – Why NEPA?

"You always see someone you know when you’re out and about in Clarks Summit and it just makes you feel at home. "

Success is a team effort. Dr. Mark Pallis, Geisinger’s Northeast Regional Director for the Musculoskeletal Institute, learned that early on. He saw it in action as an undergrad at Duke in the 90s. Yeah, that Duke – the one with Christian Laetner (in fact, they were classmates).

Post Duke, Dr. Pallis made his way back home to Northern New Jersey for med school. Full disclosure – he could have gone anywhere, but there was a certain girl in New Jersey – one who, only years earlier, had stolen his heart at a Beach Boys concert. And if this whole teamwork/success thing was going to pan out, he needed this young lady by his side.

After med school and a few grueling residencies, a young, newly married Dr. Pallis embarked on his first of six overseas deployments with the U.S. Army. Teamwork remained a theme in his life as the Special Forces-trained Combat Surgeon jumped out of planes and into the chaos and danger of a battlefield mobile surgical unit. Yeah, you need good people on your side for that.

Now, with a distinguished, 23-year military career behind him, with that same Jersey girl by his side, with two brilliant daughters in college, and a son just coming into his own as a young scholar and athlete, Dr. Pallis has joined a new team at Geisinger. And the work continues…

We met Dr. Pallis for a chat in his office on East Mountain Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre. He regaled us with stories of traveling the world, jumping from airplanes, battle and, somehow, through all of that, finding a home right here in NEPA. And, of course, we had to ask…

How long have you lived in NEPA?

Ok, I bought my house in July of 2019. So, we’ve lived here for almost two years now.

What do you love about your town?

What I like about Clarks Summit is that it has a small town feel to it. We’re right next to Scranton, which isn’t a major city, but a city nonetheless and Clarks Summit is more of what I’d call a small town. And right before COVID took hold, it was so nice to go downtown, for things like the ice sculptures, or a parade. It was a great way to see all your neighbors, you know? We’d grab a burger at The Nyx and my son, who’s 12, would take a bunch of quarters into the back room and put them on the table and play pool with whoever was back there. We called him the Pool Shark (laughs), but that’s the kind of place it was. You always see someone you know when you’re out and about in Clarks Summit and it just makes you feel at home. And that’s what I really like about Clarks Summit and NEPA in general.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Ok. Um… (contemplative pause) I would say probably there’s a couple. So, I really like Breaker Brewing. They’ve got just a really great combination going on. My wife and I really like beer, and they’ve got great food. I also really like State Street Grill. It’s a great restaurant. They have a friendly staff. And, now I have to pick just one?… (pause). Ok. I’d have to say State Street. I think it’s just a great combination of being a classy restaurant right in the center of town, but it also feels like a Mom n’ Pop place. Also, The Nyx would be on that list too. It closed, unfortunately, during COVID, but I really hope it comes back.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Right now, my favorite thing to do is accompanying my son to his sporting events. He plays Lacrosse for Abington and on a travel team. He also wrestles for both Abington and Mat Assassins in Wilkes-Barre. It has been a lot of fun. It’s good for the parents because we can get together. Traveling together is fun. We get to go to Philly or to Manheim. I’ve never been to Manheim before, but there’s this place called Spooky Nook, and it’s this massive sports complex in the middle of nowhere (laughs). And that’s what we love about it – we get to see all these different parts of the state and meet different people, but, more importantly, we get to spend time together as a family.

The other thing I like to do is spend time outside. We’re fortunate enough to have about 30 acres. And my son and I hunt and fish. We each got our first Buck off the property this year. He got one with a crossbow and I got mine with my rifle. That was neat to be able to share that experience with my son. And then we took it over to our neighbor who processed it for us. So, that was kind of cool.

What’s next for you?

Well, this is my second career, right? I had my first career in the military, and I consider this my second. And I was very deliberate in finding a place where both my family and I could be happy, and where I was surrounded by very good people. I feel like here at Geisinger, I have a great team around me – my Medical Assistant, my Physician Assistant Partner, the O.R. Team, the Clinic Team, the Leadership Team – they all make it a great place to work. And this area is just a great place to live. I don’t see us going anywhere anytime soon. I’m also in the process of earning my M.B.A. And Rob, who’s my Physician Assistant Partner, we’re in those classes together. So, we’re here working together all day and at night we’re working hard to get through that M.B.A.

That’s more on the personal side, but when I look at this question as the Regional Director for the Musculoskeletal Institute in the Northeast, what’s next for me is to help build the relationships that we have with our community and to continue to advance the level of quality care in the community for Orthopaedics. We’re also starting a Residency Program next summer where we’re going to train four residents a year in Orthopaedics. I’m very excited about that. For me, that’s the one thing that I’ve missed – being the teacher. Also, we’ve developed a musculoskeletal curriculum for the Geisinger Commonwealth Medical School. So, starting this summer, we’re going to be one of the first medical schools in the country where every student is going to have a rotation in Orthopaedics. And that’s really cool because it’s going to help us attract a much more diverse applicant pool and expand the knowledge base among our colleagues in other specialties. We’re very excited about that.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I definitely see Northeastern PA growing. I think with COVID in particular, this new trend toward working from home is going to benefit the region. We have a lot to offer by way of infrastructure, by way of comfortable, easy places to live and places to eat and recreation, and it’s all still proximate to New York and Philadelphia. I mean even D.C. and Baltimore aren’t too far away. So, I foresee people moving this way, who can commute maybe two days a week and spend the rest of the time here at home. I can definitely see us benefitting from that trend in the near future.

Why NEPA?

There were several reasons… Of course, we had a whole list of things that we were considering as we were deciding where to live. We looked at a lot of different places. And I was fortunate enough to get a lot of job offers. We came to Northeastern Pennsylvania, though, for several reasons. One — it was close to family and where we grew up and it felt a lot like home for us. Two – I immediately felt like Geisinger was a great place to work, and it was going to be a good place to be for the next 10-15 years, and I felt like it offered me a great opportunity for personal and professional growth. And finally, I wanted to find a place where my family would be happy. They’ve moved all over the place with me during my career. And I was most worried about finding that great job, but then maybe picking the wrong place to live. So, we were very deliberate and very careful about where we wanted to live. And we weren’t wrong.

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