Dr. Steven Youngs entered medical training after a career in environmental science and hydrogeology. Before his death early Sunday morning in a house fire, he served as medical director at HealthFirst Family Care Center Inc. (Courtesy photo)
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Colleagues are mourning the loss of award-winning local family health physician Steven Youngs, who died in a house fire at his home in Webster Sunday morning.
Dr. Youngs, 61, of Webster, died of smoke inhalation in the early morning fire, according to the state medical examiner. His death was ruled accidental.
"He was beloved by staff and patients alike," said Rick Silverberg, executive director of the HealthFirst Family Care Center Inc., a federally qualified health center based in Franklin and Laconia where Youngs served as medical director for nine years. "This is a tremendous tragedy for us, his family and the community."
Youngs was a "second career" physician who entered medical training after pursuing a career in environmental science and hydrogeology.
"He was 41 when he went back to medical school," recalled Silverberg. "He had talked to me about that several times. He found that when he was an engineer that he liked working with people more than things."
In 2005, when Youngs graduated the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, he won the Jack Parfitt Award as a student of osteopathic medicine. The award honors a graduating physician "who best exemplified some of the characteristics that Jack Parfitt had," such as involvement in the community and a spirit of discovery, according to Barry Gendron, president of the board of the New Hampshire Osteopathic Association. The award — given in memory of John W. Parfitt, an osteopathic physician who practiced in Manchester in the early years of osteopathic medicine — recognizes not only excellence in academics but also work outside the classroom.
Osteopathic medicine, which focuses on health promotion and disease prevention by looking at the whole patient, became a passion for Youngs, Gendron said.
As a board member for the New Hampshire Osteopathic Association, Youngs contributed to furthering education and improving the quality of health care, he said.
"On a personal level, he was really a gentle man. When he spoke, people listened. So it's a huge loss for his family especially, but for his colleagues as well in Laconia and Franklin and for all of us involved in osteopathic medicine in New Hampshire," Gendron said.
Youngs believed in working with the whole person through traditional approaches such as medication but also through diet, exercise, lifestyle and support from family and medical providers, Silverberg said.
"He had a really caring and compassionate way of dealing with all of his patients," Silverberg said.
Dr. Youngs was licensed for the use of Suboxone, a common drug used in management of opioid addiction, and he helped start the first Suboxone treatment program at HealthFirst, Silverberg said.
"Steven wanted to be able to help our existing patients so he went and received that special training," he said.
"Steven was also our champion and primary person in the medical group for learning new programs and working with different illnesses," Silverberg said.
As the medical director, Youngs had about 1,000 patients of his own and supervised the rest of the staff, with responsibility for the more than 8,000 patients who use the health center, Silverberg said.
A member of the clinical faculty at the University of New England, Youngs trained both pre-medical and medical students in the clinic.
Gendron said Youngs also was key in establishing the family practice student program at Lakes Region General Hospital, a program for students from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. "He spent time there weekly working with the students. So he was not only a great physician but he was a great teacher as well," Gendron said.
"He really was the consummate physician in terms of being extremely holistic in caring for his patients," he said.
Based on his decision to pursue his field later in life, Youngs may have approached osteopathic medicine with more maturity, Gendron said.
Silverberg said, "He always had an attitude of the patients come first and we're here to serve our patents."
Youngs is mourned by his family, including his wife, Susan, and three daughters.
"The fire was called in at a house on Little Hill Road just before 3 a.m.," WMUR-TV reported. "Officials said there were nine people in the home, as the homeowners had company over for the night." All others escaped the burning home, some by climbing out windows, the station reported.
HealthFirst Family Care Center Inc., which maintains its Laconia office at 22 Strafford St., is notifying patients of the loss of their medical director. Those with appointments scheduled have been contacted and rescheduled with another medical provider, Silverberg said. The center is working to bring in other providers in the short term and will start searching for a long-term replacement, he said.
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