Dr. Gray Erlacher, a Western Carolina University alumnus, has expanded his practice to the primary care clinic located in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building at 4121 Little Savannah Road, Cullowhee.

Erlacher, who is board certified in family medicine, has practiced at Harris Medical Associates in Sylva since February and is now seeing patients at both locations. At the WCU primary care clinic, he replaces Patti Sparling, a family nurse practitioner who began seeing patients upon its opening in September 2014.

“Dr. Erlacher began his education at Western Carolina University, and now he is not only caring for the community but also serving as a clinical leader for students following in his footsteps,” said Steve Heatherly, CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital. “We are excited for Dr. Erlacher to be our physician at Harris Family Care – Cullowhee while maintaining his practice at Harris Medical Associates.”

The Cullowhee clinic is a partnership between WCU and Harris Regional Hospital, a Duke LifePoint hospital. It allows WCU nurse practitioner students and students in related fields to receive education and training in an on-site clinical environment.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s been almost 30 years since I graduated from WCU,” Erlacher said. “It’s great to come back to campus after all that time in a new role, as a clinician and an instructor. Graduating from WCU gave me opportunities and opened doors that completely changed my whole life. I hope that I can help that continue for WCU students today.”

The state-of-the-art Health and Human Sciences Building was designed to facilitate classes in multiple health-related areas to take place in the midst of functioning clinical environments.

Erlacher completed a residency in family practice at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee after an internship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Originally from Winston-Salem and a 1987 graduate of WCU, he received his medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine at after post-graduate classes and research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He also did training in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Beijing in 1995, and practiced in remote areas of Alaska with the Indian Health Service from 2006 through 2010. He has an interest in bio-identical hormones and integrative medicine within the context of the modern U.S. health care system.

“There is a projected shortage of about 50,000 primary care physicians in the United States within 10 years,” Erlacher said. “Meanwhile, medical schools are producing fewer and fewer primary care physicians. I realized long ago that the only way to provide high-quality primary medical care to our growing and aging population is to focus on training nurse practitioners.

“I am very excited to work with students from all the health care programs at WCU to help them fulfill their dreams, just as the faculty and staff of WCU did for me when I was a student.”

To make an appointment, call 828-631-8800.