Cardiologist closes Juneau practice

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2002

Dr. Brian Cole has closed his Juneau medical practice less than nine months after opening.

Cole, a cardiologist, moved to Juneau from Colorado last year, relocating his medical practice to Vintage Park in the Mendenhall Valley.

"It's closed. It's a done deal. There's not enough business for a cardiologist here," Cole said.

Cole said initially there seemed to be enough clientele here to support a practice, but it has not materialized. He said the past two months have been especially slow.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "It's just not been there."

Cole said he is planning to move to California.

"It's going to cost me everything I've got to get out of here," he said.

Cole, 54, a cardiologist since 1977, practiced in Colorado for 15 years before moving to Juneau.

He first came to Juneau to explore the possibility of buying Dr. Henry Akiyama's medical practice. Akiyama, an internist, has practiced in Juneau for more than 40 years. He publicly discussed plans to retire in recent years and was seeking a buyer for his practice.

Negotiations over the sale broke down last year for reasons neither side would discuss. Cole opened his own practice last spring. Six members of Akiyama's seven-member staff quit in March to work for Cole.

The defection prompted Akiyama to close his office temporarily. The clinic, which treats an estimated 6,000 patients a year, reopened when new staff was hired. Akiyama's son and business manager, Alan Akiyama, said his father brought on Joseph Riederer, a longtime Juneau physician, part time in April of 2001. Dr. Akiyama has continued to practice full time, and in October of 2001 he brought in Nate Haddock, a doctor specializing in internal medicine.

Alan Akiyama said his father is still planning to retire.

"He is hoping to retire from his practice when he knows that his patients will be taken care of by other physicians in the medical community here in Juneau, or when other physicians take over his practice," he said.

Cole said his departure will leave Juneau without a cardiologist. Alan Akiyama said as long as his father is practicing, Juneau will have a cardiologist.

"We have the whole range, from general practice to internal medicine to cardiology," he said. "The physicians here in our clinic wish Dr. Brian Cole and his staff well," Alan Akiyama said.

In late 2000, administrators and physicians at Bartlett Regional Hospital expressed concern about Akiyama's retirement announcement, and the hospital agreed to help in a nationwide search for someone to take over his practice. Hospital administrator Robert Valliant was concerned Akiyama's departure would place a burden on Juneau's physicians, since his practice was so large.

Hospital administrators were not available to comment on Cole's departure by the Juneau Empire's midday deadline.

Dr. Brian Cole is not to be confused with Dr. William Cole, another physician who practices in Juneau.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com. Juneau Empire reporter Kathy Dye contributed to this article.



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