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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Suzanne Landis, M.D.

Picture of Suzanne Landis
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Suzanne Landis, M.D.

“My father was a GP and I always wanted to be like him, to interact with the patients and their families, helping them as much as possible...even their emotional needs.”


Charles H. Taylor



Perhaps it was her lifelong passion to improve the health of all citizens, developed while accompanying her general practitioner-father on his rounds. Or maybe it was her two years as a solo U.S. Public Health Service physician in rural Tennessee, providing primary health care and preventive medicine in Appalachia that did it. Or it could have been the frustrations physicians typically share about the "band aid" approach to health care for the uninsured.

Whatever the spark, Suzanne Landis was inspired to create one of the most innovative, successful community health programs in the country-the Buncombe County Medical Society Project Access, a partnership of the county's government, physicians, service agents and residents to provide all residents with proper medical care. Project Access is coordinated and staffed by the Buncombe County Medical Society, the county Department of Social Services, area hospitals, community-based indigent care clinics and pharmacies.

Nearly 500 physicians (85 percent of those in Buncombe County) volunteer to see BCMS Project Access patients for free, either through a community clinic or upon referral to their private practices. Of an estimated 15,000 uninsured low-income residents of Buncombe County, approximately 13,000 have accessed primary care; and every patient who sought primary and/or specialty care has received it. BCMS Project Access has leveraged and documented more than $3.5 million in free care.

Since 1987, Landis has been a member of the Mountain Area Health Education Center Family Practice Residency Program, in Asheville, helping to train the next generation of family practice physicians. She is also a tenured professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a Research Fellow at the UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. And she is Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health.

Nominating Landis to be a Local Legend, Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-NC-11) noted, "Dr. Landis' inspiration does not stop at the borders of her mountaintop community. Nationally, she has inspired physicians in over two dozen communities to take leadership roles, learning from her example to champion innovative approaches to provide access to care for our most vulnerable. New community-based indigent care systems in Raleigh, Wichita (Kansas) and dozens of similar efforts throughout the country all follow the trail blazed by her."

As a precursor to Project Access, in the mid-1980s Landis spearheaded a major initiative during the first challenging days of HIV/AIDS treatment to assure access to care for AIDS victims. During the late 1990s, she stimulated the creation of an innovative approach to improve identification and treatment of depression which fostered formation of a community-wide initiative to integrate comprehensive mental health services into primary care settings.

Author of numerous publications and international, national and local presentations, Landis was presented with the 2002 E. Harvey Estes, MD, Physician Community Service Award for exemplary services to the community by the North Carolina Medical Society. In 2001 Project Access received the National Acts of Caring Award from the national Association of County Organizations.



Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to implement Buncombe County Medical Society Project Access to provide health care to the indigent


Signs Cooperative Agreement with U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care to help establish Project Access-type systems in other communities




University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine


Internal and Family Medicine

Sub Specialty

Preventive Medicine/Public Health


North Carolina