She thought she had her dream job after medical school, working in a hospital, allowing her warm bed style to comfort patients like a heating pad.
That’s what Dr. Jennifer MacKenzie had always wanted, ever since she played on medical equipment as a child at Manchester’s Elliot Hospital – climbing up and down on the X-ray machine – while her mother worked as a radiation oncologist.
Certified in family medicine, MacKenzie wanted to be part of a team. She wanted to be close to home, in Pembroke. She had already spent three years of her stay at the nearby Concord Hospital, finishing in 2021. She said she felt comfortable there. She said she loved it.
Concord Hospital, she thought, was the perfect match. Or so it seemed.
“It sounded great,” MacKenzie said in the coffee room of her soon-to-open private practice. “It made sense to do it. I thought a few years would pass and then I will re-evaluate. Maybe there would be something else, or this will be my permanent home because I love it.
Today, the good doctor still works at Concord Hospital. But soon she will open her own practice, part of a changing of the guard in the Suncook Valley.
MacKenzie, 30, will open her practice on December 1. dr. Steven Kaitz, 64, will retire in late November after working 25 years in the old quaint brick building on Glass Street. Soon MacKenzie’s office.
Kaitz took care of generations of people, got to know them, saw them grow and change. That, MacKenzie realized, was what she wanted. Create close relationships and have the time to nurture them.
“I took over a panel of nearly 1,600 patients from the doctor in front of me appointed as their primary care physician,” MacKenzie said. “And that’s a low number. That’s why I’m leaving. This is everywhere.”
The coronavirus pandemic and its widespread effects have overwhelmed medical professionals across the country for the past two years. The chaos in the hospital waiting rooms, full of concerned people desperate for attention, remained in high gear, leading to long hours and high stress levels.
Enter Dr. Kaitz. He served as a tutor at Concord Hospital for 25 years and worked with MacKenzie during her three-year hospital stay. “They learn what they did right and what they did wrong,” Kaitz said.
He knew that doctors and nurses across the country were suffering from burnout. He’d heard that MacKenzie was interested in going out alone. He himself retired. The timing was perfect.
Said MacKenzie, referring to being her own boss, “It’s always kind of been in the back of my mind.”
Part of her support system, in addition to family, are her fellow medical school graduates, who she says are now lifelong friends.
“We still talk almost daily in our group chat,” MacKenzie said. “We’ve put out messages, mostly clinical questions like, ‘What would you do with this patient.’ You’re in your second year without a residency and you don’t know everything, sometimes you want to ask other people questions.”
Born from the time she turned medical equipment into Jungle Gyms, MacKenzie’s dream of becoming a doctor will soon change dramatically. MacKenzie will be in charge, in a much calmer climate.
She has led before. She led the Pembroke Academy cheer team to the state championship. Her tunnel vision to become a doctor has been passionate since her school days. She says she is structured, organized and efficient.
Her new office is Kaitz’s old office. They discussed the strategy for the future, assuming that a turnkey operation was the way to go, not starting from scratch somewhere else.
“We already have the patients, the staff, the building, the electronic health records, the salespeople,” Kaitz said.
Meanwhile, the building on Glass Street, built in the 19th century, around the time of the Civil War, has a historic look that enhances the visit.
Inside, however, was a different matter. The carpeting, paintwork, floors, pretty much everything needed some TLC after 25 years. There are new worksheets and new exam tables are also on the list.
And a new doctor, from December 1.
“When I took over, I knew I had to update,” MacKenzie said, “to get a more modern and homey feel and make it my own.
“It was just time for an update.”