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Real health at Fox Run

Q&A with Vrinda Suneja, M.D.

Created date

February 20th, 2014
headshot of doctor


Do you often see your doctor while you’re out for lunch? Has he met your grandchildren? Do you swap recipes with her? 

If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. In fact, in many busy doctors’ offices, appointments are so short, it feels like there’s hardly enough time to get all of your medical questions answered, let alone to chat about cheesecake.

But for the retirees living at Run, an Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich., being treated by a doctor who takes the time to get to know them as a person is their refreshing reality. Fox Run has an on-site medical center available exclusively to residents, and standard appointment times are 30 minutes for existing patients and one hour for new patients.

The Fox Run medical team is headed by Drs. Vrinda Suneja and Saigeetha Uthamarajan. Fox Run’s dedicated physicians work together with a team of medical professionals that includes certified physician assistants and nurse practitioners, a clinical specialist in gerontological nursing, a podiatrist, several medical assistants, and a practice manager. 

In addition, Fox Run has contracted with other medical professionals including dentists, audiologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists, and optometrists, who provide on-site care to residents.

This month, we caught up with Suneja who told us, in her own words, about Fox Run’s medical center, her own approach to patient care, and the relationships she has developed with residents over the years.

Q: Why did you decide you wanted to work at Fox Run?  

A: I really enjoyed meeting with the residents of the newly opened community [back in 2003]. I found them to have rich life experiences to share. Additionally, I found that the residents were very proactive in maintaining and building their health, and that truly made it a rewarding experience for me. 

As a physician, having access to an on-site, service-rich environment for residents, with a wellness center, home support services, and social workers was novel and exciting. We added other services over the next few years, including subspecialty care, outpatient rehab, certified home health, and a pharmacy. 

Personally, a big attraction to the practice ten years ago was the fact that it was paperless; we had adopted EMRs (electronic medical records) in 2003 before opening. 

Q: How is your work as a physician at Fox Run different than it would be if you had a medical practice somewhere else?  

A: Not only do I see my patients in the office, but I also see them enjoying life throughout the community—in the music room, group fitness room, and billiards room, for example. I see them initiating and maintaining a lot of group activities. I see them participating in the continuous learning series and engaging in active learning. I see them volunteering, having fun, and being good neighbors. In fact, I see how their health affects their lifestyle and vice versa. 

I also enjoy meeting their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I have personally benefitted from advice from my residents. Because of them, I now know how to take care of orchids, make felt lapel pins, and make ricotta cheesecake.

Q: What is your approach to practicing medicine? 

A: I enjoy listening to my patients. I like to formulate health care recommendations for my residents taking into account their life goals. I also like to talk with my patients about preventive health. Quality of life issues, such as mood, memory, or continence problems, can be embarrassing for many people to talk about, so I like to be proactive in my approach to addressing these concerns.

Q: How are your patients able to reach you if they have questions or concerns about their health? Do Fox Run patients have more access to you than they would have to a doctor in a regular practice? 

A: Patients can reach me by phone and through the EMR by secure messaging. Our residents can also reach us after hours.  I think Fox Run residents have better access to me, since I often will run into them in the hallway or the cafeteria. We also hold educational sessions for residents about relevant health care topics. 

Q: If patients need a higher level of care than you can provide or need to be hospitalized, to whom do you refer them? Do you remain involved in their treatment when they are seeing a specialist? 

A: We have excellent partners in the area hospitals that help us take care of our residents in the hospital. We expect our hospital care partner, as well as our specialist partners, to keep us informed of the resident’s health and their own recommendations in a timely fashion, so that we can consolidate care and recovery once the resident is home from an acute care setting. We also have on-site assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation should people need that level of care.

Q: What advice do you give to people about staying healthy as they age?  

A: I recommend daily exercise, minimizing medications when possible, and keeping a healthy and agile mind. I encourage them to socialize, read, participate in discussions, and stay aware of current events. 

Q: How does living at Fox Run contribute to residents’ good health?  

A: Many avenues are available for residents to do the things I just talked about. In addition, a large safety net is available to help with acute health care concerns: on-site physician and subspecialty care, private duty nurses and aides, wellness meal delivery, social worker follow-up, campus security officers, and rehabilitation services through home care and outpatient offices. 

Q: Since you’ve been practicing at Fox Run, what professional accomplishments are you proud of?  

A: We are invested in improving the quality of geriatric care delivered to our residents. We have done very well in avoiding potentially harmful medications in seniors. We also consistently achieve high vaccination rates against influenza and the pneumococcal vaccine.