In the world of modern medicine, interaction among healthcare providers is largely non-personal, confined to electronic communications only. 

This means physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who practice in one community might never meet their counterparts in neighboring communities, despite frequently communicating with each other about patients.

A newly formed group, the Smoky Mountain Medical Society (operating as a chapter of the N.C. Medical Society) wants to bring back face-to-face, personal relationships among medical providers working in the state’s seven westernmost counties.

“Through the Smoky Mountain Medical Society, we hope to create a better sense of community and camaraderie among peers,” said Dr. Scott Skibo, a pulmonologist in Clyde who serves as the group’s president. “Personal interactions among medical providers will help with interactions for patients, as well. Then you aren’t sending a referral to an unknown face.”

Smoky Mountain Medical Society is an outgrowth of Haywood County Medical Society. In North Carolina west of Buncombe, the Haywood group – formed in the late 1950s – represents the only continuing county medical society still in operation.

“The executive leadership felt we needed to expand the Haywood County Medical Society,” Skibo said. “There are other physicians and healthcare providers in the western counties who need to meet each other.”

The ultimate goal is this, according to Skibo: for Smoky Mountain Medical Society to serve as a collective independent voice through which members can help to improve healthcare in their local communities.

Smoky Mountain Medical Society’s inaugural meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville. Physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are welcome to attend; RSVP at 828-277-9706 or email

This gathering will open with social time, followed by dinner and a presentation about provider burnout, provided by Dr. Clark Gaither, medical director of the N.C. Physicians Health Program. 

He is a family physician and fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Gaither is an expert in the identification, mitigation and prevention of physician job-related burnout.

Gaither was named Family Physician of the Year in 2002 by the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians and, more recently, was presented with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine for meritorious service to the state and citizens of Wayne County.

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