History of our Practice
40 Year Anniversary
On Friday, September 28, 2018, The Family Health Centers celebrated forty years as an independent medical practice serving the families of Western North Carolina. The practice enjoyed a lunch buffet, awards, and the hilarious annual medical directors’ skit at the beautiful Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. Many of our founders mixed with new providers and employees while dancing to music from the year of our founding, 1978. We thank our patients, providers and staff for supporting our forty years of success!
Dr. Jim McMillan - Retired
The Family Health Centers of Asheville, Arden & Hominy Valley announced the retirement of James H. McMillan, MD on January 31, 2017.
A founding member of the practice, Dr. “Jim” McMillan cared for patients of The Family Health Centers for more than 35 years. He was one of the first MAHEC Family Medicine residents in the late 1970s.
During the 1980s, Dr. McMillan improved obstetrical care for women seeking alternatives to traditional hospital births in the Asheville area. He was among the first physicians in this era to provide assistance with natural childbirth and home births.
Dr. McMillan is an advocate for Managed Care and its focus on the prevention of illness and disease. He is also a strong believer in the advantages of care delivered by independent medical practices like The Family Health Centers.
Retirement will give Dr. McMillan more time to explore the region as well as the world with his family and friends. “I can leave downtown on my bike and be in the splendor of the Appalachian mountains within 15 minutes. I love that about Asheville.”
The Family Health Centers thanks Dr. McMillan for his roles as mentor and friend.
Ken Minnich, MD - Retired
Dr. Ken Minnich retired from The Family Health Centers in 2015. We thank Dr. Minnich for eighteen years of service to patients and the practice. “My time at the Hominy Valley office was all I had hoped it would be,” says Dr. Minnich. I greatly enjoyed getting to know and trying to help the people I saw there. The staff was exceptional, working together really well, so it was fun to work there.”
A native of Asheville, Dr. Minnich grew up on Sunset Mountain where his family enjoyed views of the area below the “bent tree” of Bent Tree Road, a landmark that remains a fixture of the neighborhood today. Following graduation from Lee H. Edwards High School, now Asheville High School, he studied at Duke University. Before joining The Family Health Centers in 1998, Dr. Minnich worked in St. Joseph’s Urgent Care. Dr. Minnich became a partner in the family practice in 2000.
“One thing I like about family medicine, which contrasts with urgent care, is that I’d see three generations of a single family. I knew which patients lived close to one another and I could ask someone else how a patient was doing. Most of our nurses were from the area, and they knew everyone. That’s one of the nice things about a small community.”
Each day Dr. Minnich was motivated by the opportunity to help his patients be well. “Every patient was different. If a patient came in the door, first I wanted to be sure they were not really sick. Then, I worked to keep them from getting sick. I like seeing older folks because they have long histories which are interesting to me. My favorite conversation is about how a husband and wife met. My patients have great stories.”
Family Physicians go into practice for a variety of reasons, and recent changes in healthcare have made a career in family medicine more complicated. Dr. Minnich offers this simple advice to other family physicians:
“Understand your expectations and know what you want to get out of family practice.”
Dr. Rebecca Clemenzi - Retired
Dr. Rebecca Clemenzi retired from The Family Health Centers in 2014. We applaud and thank Dr. Clemenzi for her years of service with the practice. Dr. Clemenzi will remain in the Asheville area. When not spending time with her husband, her father or her young granddaughter, she will work part--time as an Extended-care Physician (ECP.) She will continue to ride her horse and kayak as well as run and lift weights.
Dr. Clemenzi chose a career in medicine to leave a legacy of helping others. In 1993 Dr. Clemenzi joined her fellow MAHEC resident, Dr. James McMillan, at The Family Health Centers. Among the founding providers, Dr. Clemenzi was the first woman. This distinction helped to define her career in family medicine. Dr. Clemenzi’s patients, many of whom are women, tell us that Dr. Clemenzi is greatly missed.
“Family medicine is a great career and a great job. You’ll always feel good about what you do. You’ll never get rich, but you’ll be comfortable. You’ll have great relationships with patients. I feel like I’ve got the best job in the world. Sometimes I walk a fine line, but I’m happy that most of my friends also ended up as my patients.” – Dr. Rebecca Clemenzi
Dr. Bruce Elliston, Founder - Retired
Bruce Elliston, MD, founded Asheville Family Health Center in 1978. The original practice was situated in Montford. Dr. Elliston is an innovator and visionary in family practice and was one of the initial attending physicians in the new specialty of Family Practice at the MAHEC Residency Program in 1976. He worked alongside doctors Harry Sommerlin, Don Nagle and Dick Walton until he left to open a private practice.
In 1981, Jim McMillan joined Dr. Elliston after completing his residency at MAHEC, and by that time the office was located at 172 Asheland Avenue. The present downtown Asheville location, at 206 Asheland Avenue, was built in 1986. In the early years of The Family Health Centers, obstetric care was offered by Dr. McMillan along with Jeff Tait, MD. Together they were the first in Asheville to work with midwives, providing in-home deliveries and natural childbirth. Alan Baumgarten, who completed his residency in the MAHEC program, joined the practice along with Mark Lenderman in the ensuing years. This core group of physicians took the initiative to expand the practice to three sites. In 1995, The Family Health Centers acquired the practice of Dr. Everett Smith and created Hominy Valley Family Health Center in Candler. Dr. Smith and his brother had served the primary care needs of their patients in west Buncombe County for more than 40 years. Also in 1995, recognizing the growth in south Buncombe County, the group opened the new practice of Arden Family Health Center, under the leadership of Paul Johnson, MD.
Over the past three decades, along with our current team of 20 physicians, Asheville Family Health Centers, PA, have been privileged to work with some of Asheville's finest physicians, including Paul Johnson, Martha Salyers, Gail Hyde Pike, Jorge Carreras, Joselyn Carreras, Rabi Kutob, Carol Kauffman, Gary Curran, Heather Spencer, and David Wells.
In 2005, our practice became one of the first physician groups to improve patient care by converting from paper records to a full electronic medical record. We were the first NCQA certified Patient Centered Medical Home in Western North Carolina. Our corporate culture revolves around quality and innovation. We have been and remain the largest physician-owned family practice in North Carolina.