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STAFF PHOTO/C.J. MARSHALL Dr. Edward Zurad and his staff stand ready to meet their patients’ needs. From left is Dr. Zurad, receptionist Bonnie Burke, Kate Crawford, LPN, and Dr. Zurad’s wife, Patti Zurad, RN.

Dr. Edward Zurad is what is becoming a rarity among practicing medical physicians.

An independent.

This independence was very likely a major factor in Zurad being named the No. 1 physician in a readers’ poll conducted recently by the Wyoming County Press Examiner.

“I’m very happy about it,” Zurad said. “I’m very grateful that our patients think that much of us and our office.”

Zurad has been practicing medicine for 35 years - 30 years in Wyoming County, and in Tunkhannock since 1999. Although originally from Philadelphia - having obtained his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College - Zurad said he’s always been attracted to practicing medicine in a rural area.

Zurad was hired by Tyler Memorial Hospital in 1987 to establish primary care offices through out the area. He decided to become an independent physician back in Laceyville back 1993, before moving his practice to Tunkhannock in 1999.

The reason he set up a private practice, Zurad explained, is because of the amount of work that health care systems require from their physicians.

“One of the problems is the excessive amount of data insurance companies require physicians to collect,” he explained. “That means they have to spend a lot of time at the computer that gets in the way of the patient.”

Zurad said he prefers to work one-on-one with his patients, to determine and meet each of their individuals needs.

The doctor practices medicine in three areas - family medicine, geriatrics, and is a master occupational medicine physician. In the last category, Zurad is the medical director for Procter and Gamble as well as six other local companies.

As an independent physician, Zurad has an impressive number of 4,700 clients.

“My staff is totally dedicated to our patients,” he explained. “I am accessible - on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I never go off call. So my patients can always reach us if they have a problem.”

Concerning why he decided to become an independent, Zurad said there are only about 5,500 now practicing in Pennsylvania. The reason they do so is to maintain a personal relationship with their patients, to determine what is best for them - rather than letting that determination be made by insurance companies.

“It’s difficult to stay independent. You take a huge hit financially. But you do it because you want to serve your patients in the best possible way to meet their needs.”

His specialty in geriatrics means special medical challenges for Zurad.

“When you take care of the elderly, you’re taking care of multiple medical problems that can be extremely complex to manage,” he said. “Especially with the huge amount of treatments that are now available.”

Assisting Zurad are three staff members - his wife Patti Zurad, who is an RN, Kate Crawford, an LPN, and Bonnie Burke, the receptionist.

“We practice very lean medicine,” Zurad explained. “But that helps us be very efficient. We know our patients and they know us. It works extremely well.”

Zurad’s office also provides a personal touch to its clients. Staff members will call patients directly with lab results and other information. The office also does not use an automatic answering service - calls are directly handled by staff personnel.

“I find it assuring that our patients like our personalized style of practice, Zurad explained. “Because they feel like they are being heard and their concerns are being addressed.”