Medical Team Helps Women, Children

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Some people call them the dynamic duo. Dr. Judith Hunt and Lynne Vigil, CNP (certified nurse practitioner), have been serving Rim Country residents for several years. The two work together at Banner Health Center.

Vigil moved to Pine in 1988 from New Mexico, but she grew up in New York. She ran the Pine-Strawberry Medical Clinic for nine years, from 1988 to 1997. For much of that time, she was the primary medical provider in the Pine and Strawberry areas.

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Dr. Judith Hunt and certified nurse practitioner Lynne Vigil put the focus on women and children at their Banner Health Center medical practice.

Vigil left the Rim Country to earn a master's degree in nursing, and after a two-year stint teaching at Arizona State University, she returned.

Dr. Hunt said she worked hard to get Vigil to return to Payson to join forces and help her offer quality care, especially for women and children.

"It's very satisfying to be here, helping to make change in the medical profession," said Vigil. "I love watching kids grow up."

"Lynne is a wonderful person," patient Shari Carpenter said. "She's so compassionate.

"I've been in Payson since 1979, and been to a few doctors. My daughter and I have seen Lynne since she ran the Pine clinic. I liked Lynne so much I drove from Payson to Pine just to see her for years."

Carpenter and her daughter continue to see Vigil and Dr. Hunt at their Payson practice.

"They understand the woman aspect of medicine," Carpenter said. "They're so compassionate, and just wonderful people. They make it seem like when you go in they have time for you."

Cheri Lorig has two sons; she's in the process of adopting a severely disabled 3-year-old. "The oldest boy we adopted is now 7-1/2 and Dr. Hunt has been their pediatrician since they were babies," Lorig said. "Dr. Hunt has been awesome. She has great contacts with Shriner's Hospital in Los Angeles, helping us get the consultations and surgeries that the youngest boy needs," Lorig added.

"When my children's medicines run out and we need samples to hold us over a few weeks, Lynne and Dr. Hunt always help us out. They care about our medical needs and our emotional needs," she said.

Vigil said she knew growing up that she wanted to be a nurse. "I was a candy-striper, and a nurse's aide in high school," she said. After college, her first job was in Gallup, N.M., working as a nurse on an Indian reservation.

"Lynne is a great listener," said Hunt.

"I like to be a part of the families in this area. It's nice to be involved and really get to know my patients. Some of the children I took care of a long time ago, now have kids of their own," Vigil said. "It's a great feeling to really help families."

Hunt first thought she wanted to be a pastor, but changed to medicine, where she believed she could reach more people. After high school, she joined the U.S. Coast Guard. There, she earned money for college and medical school.

She earned her medical degree from the University of Arizona.

She is a widow, and has a daughter, Jordan, who is nearly 13.

Hunt spends about three days a week at the Banner clinic, but also home schools Jordan. The pair often travel on missions to other countries to help in clinics, and she teaches at universities overseas. She goes to Mexico once a year, where she treats women in a prison.

Hunt moved to Payson in 1993. She says that back then there were no pediatricians in the area. She is a board-certified pediatrician and internist and was immediately overwhelmed with patients.

"Our family has seen Lynne since my son was 2 weeks old, he's 17-1/2 now. She's been a godsend for us," said Payson special education teacher Terri Legassie. "It's so nice to have the personal touch we get from her and Dr. Hunt."

An area in which Vigil and Hunt are particularly concerned is taking care of women and children, especially those with special needs.

"I have a great deal of training with children and adults with special needs. There was no one up here (Payson) who was treating them.

"We have to be extremely creative with some of our patients. Often there is no equipment, lack of medication for some, and less access to specialists. I've had to rely on churches, retirees and volunteers to help," said Hunt.

"Sometimes Lynne and I get tired of fighting insurance companies for the things our patients need, but some of the families, especially the kids, can't ask for things themselves," she added.

"I couldn't have dreamed of a better practice situation. Each time I think it's not going to work, God provides a way," she said.

"Despite the lack of services in Payson, this is an incredible community to raise kids in. I have met so many creative people who have helped me take care of kids," Hunt said.

One of those people is Payson Physical Therapy's Scott Nossek.

"Judy Hunt is such a blessing to this community in so many ways," Nossek said. "What's impressed me the most is the way she looks at the entire individual -- their spiritual and emotional side -- that's so essential for healing. Dr. Hunt has been led here by God," said Nossek.

"I'm also so impressed with Lynne Vigil, with her integrity and interest in learning how to treat the whole person. She is just incredible," he said.

"Lynne and I just wanted to create a place where women and children are comfortable and safe," said Hunt. And according to their patients and colleagues, they're doing just that.

Banner Health Center is located at 708 Coeur D'Alene Lane, telephone (928) 474-1714.

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