Picture of Dr. Caitlin Sullivan checking on an eldlery patient that is lying down in a swing bed.
Family physician strives to create lasting relationships with her patients
Dr. Caitlin Sullivan discovered early on the value of community connection.
The daughter of a family physician in a rural Connecticut farming community, Dr. Sullivan watched her mother, Dr. Marianne Bette, become engrained in a community where everyone knows one another. Dr. Bette became a source of encouragement, understanding, knowledge and light for her patients, and, in doing so, helped allow her daughter to discover what it truly means to be a doctor.
"She was my inspiration," Dr. Sullivan says. "By watching her, I gained an understanding of how special the relationship can be in a small community between a patient and a trustworthy doctor."
From that point on, there was never any question that Dr. Sullivan's path would ultimately lead her toward a career in family medicine - even when she opted to major in music while attending Colorado College after initially thinking she would become an orchestra conductor.
After earning her bachelor's degree, Dr. Sullivan attended the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where she earned her doctor of medicine in 2016, graduating at the top of her class. She then went on to complete a rural family medicine residency program at Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Hendersonville, N.C., focusing on holistic medicine and preventive care.
"I didn't want to limit myself, but I wanted a residency program that felt like home," Dr. Sullivan says.
It was during her residency training that Dr. Sullivan met Dr. Landon Allen, who had an interest in alternative practice models for affordable access to high-quality care for those patients who didn't have insurance.
Recognizing their passion for rural healthcare and their mutual interest in developing an innovative model for primary care, Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Allen teamed up midway through their residency program and decided to build a practice together.
The two physicians explored different areas before ultimately settling on West Jefferson where they opened New River Family Wellness in August 2019.
In addition to seeing patients at New River Family Wellness, Dr. Sullivan also joined the emergency room and hospitalist program physician teams at Ashe Memorial Hospital in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
"I do love working in the hospital, and my work is more enriched by seeing both sides," Dr. Sullivan says. "I don't love when my patients are in the hospital, but I love being the doctor that they know and trust. Transition of care is really important to me, so I want to continue to get to know the community and build that trust because this is a small town and a close-knit community."
Throughout her medical career, Dr. Sullivan has relied on the experiences of watching her mother interact with her patients at her practice and seeing hospice therapists care for her father during his final months battling cancer.
"They helped me understand how important your medical team can be," Dr. Sullivan says. "My Mom is really good at meeting people where they are and treating them as a whole. Love is important in all relationships, and she loved all of her patients and really cared for them with her whole heart. That's who I want to be for other people."
When she's not busy caring for the residents of Ashe County and the surrounding areas, Dr. Sullivan enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Ashtin, gardening, cooking, hiking, camping and doing arts and crafts.