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    America's best places to practice

    Take our tour of the friendliest states for physicians

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    Take your pick, Doctor...

    With primary care physicians in demand almost everywhere, there's not a region in the nation that wouldn't love to claim you as its own. The question is: Which state is best for your bank account, your career, and your peace of mind?

    To determine the best states in which to practice, we evaluated a number of factors: overall compensation, malpractice liability insurance rates, cost of doing business, health insurance competition, and the mix of public and commercial payers. We also considered quality-of-life factors such as residential real estate prices, natural amenities, and weather.

    We talked with physicians, state medical societies, and physician placement experts who recruit doctors to hospitals and group practices around the country. We tapped into survey information from the Medical Group Management Association and the Medical Liability Monitor, which publishes an annual state-by-state review of malpractice liability insurance rates. We also pored over data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Association of Realtors, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, among other sources.

    If you don't find your state here and feel it's among the best too, let us know at
    . Here's hoping the greenest pastures are just outside your window.

    10 ALASKA

    Why doctors love it here: If the mere thought of Alaska makes you shiver, you may be in for a surprise: Even northern climes break 70 degrees during the summer, and two of Alaska's largest cities—Anchorage and Juneau—have predictable seasonal changes. Also, hospitals and groups are offering bonuses up to $50,000 to primary care doctors who relocate.

    Why you might not: Alaska's vast wilderness can be a shock to some. Statewide, food and housing costs are higher than the national average for cities its size, and if you're looking for a more relaxing schedule here, forget it: There were 267 outpatient visits to for-profit healthcare facilities per 1,000 Alaskan residents in 2007, compared to a national average of 146, according to Kaiser Family Foundation's State Health Facts website.

    Average annual primary care compensation: $310,000 (internal medicine, based on Delta Physician Placement data over several years)—plus, Medicaid fees are more than twice the national average, according to Kaiser.

    Malpractice liability insurance annual rate (for internal medicine, from the Medical Liability Monitor 2008

    Annual Rate Survey): $8,856 to $10,891

    Major health systems: Banner Health (Fairbanks), Providence Health & Services Alaska (Anchorage)

    Best town you've never heard of: Sitka (population: 8,800). The state's fourth-most-populous city boasts a rainy but mild year-round climate compared to most of the state. This gulf-coast town is a whale-watching destination with plenty of water and wildlife recreation, and numerous seafood restaurants. It's home to the Sitka Medical Center and Community Hospital.

    What the recruiters say: "Anchorage is a more affordable city than Atlanta or Cincinnati," says David Cornett, formerly of the St. Louis-based recruiting firm Cejka Search. "Alaska needs physicians, and for somebody who really wants to be out west and enjoy the wild, that's the place to be—and you can fly nonstop to Hawaii if you want to get away in the winter."

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