Valley Health Regional Collaborative debuts ‘Walk with a Doc’ on Thursday

Published: 8/15/2023 1:15:55 PM

GREENFIELD — In an effort to put a friendly face to the medical community, physicians will be hosting “Walk with a Doc” on a biweekly basis, offering residents a chance to meet with doctors and learn more about contemporary health care issues.

The Valley Health Regional Collaborative, which includes public health officials from Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Sunderland, Shutesbury and Leverett, is partnering to introduce the “Walk with a Doc” program to Franklin County. Dr. John Romano, a resident with Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Greenfield Family Medicine Residency Program, will be the program’s lead physician.

“I wanted there to be a friendly face to the medical community that people could interact with,” said Romano.

Walk with a Doc began in Columbus, Ohio, in April 2005, according to the national chapter’s website. It has since expanded worldwide, including five other programs located throughout Massachusetts. Greenfield’s Walk with a Doc, which kicks off Thursday at 6 p.m. at Highland Park, will mark the western Massachusetts debut for the initiative.

Romano said the program, which aims to “make health and happiness accessible to everyone,” was introduced to him through outreach to the hospital. He contacted the national chapter of Walk with a Doc to figure out what he would need to do to bring the program to Greenfield.

“I felt like this would be a good opportunity to engage with the public and get a basic form of exercise that’s really effective,” he said.

Romano, who is also a member of the Board of Health, approached the city about using part of the $1.5 million Public Health Excellence for Shared Services grant, which funds the Valley Health Regional Collaborative, to buy marketing materials and T-shirts, as well as to cover liability insurance.

Though this won’t be a way for residents to get free medical advice, it is an opportunity to talk about general health topics. The first topic, Romano said, will be the health benefits of walking.

“If people have general health care questions, we’ll be happy to answer them,” Romano said. For example, doctors could offer a person who has diabetes guidance on the types of food to be eating. “Those are questions we’re happy to take on.”

Romano said he plans to be at as many of the walks as possible, but in his absence, another physician will be there.

“We want to get ourselves out there and talk to people and bring the community together,” he said, adding that he wants to remind folks that “doctors aren’t scary.”

“We really care and we want to help our communities thrive,” he said.

Each hour-long walk will take place on the first and third Thursday of the month until the end of October, with the sessions starting at 6 p.m. at Highland Park. Following a break for winter, Walk with a Doc will resume in May 2024.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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