For just about as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a Family Doc serving an underserved, remote, rural area in my beloved Colorado. Working in Cripple Creek is like a dream come true – partnering with the team at UCHealth means that “small town” need not be “small time” in any way with ready access to all the advantages of the larger state-wide health system of resources, facilities and specialty consultants while still retaining the home-town personalized feel of a rural family practice.
When asked about my Philosophy of Care, it’s always an easy response: treat others the way you’d want yourself or your family to be treated – every doctor becomes a patient or a family member of a patient eventually. The Golden Rule always applies no matter the context.
I always want to be sure to mention my medical mentors along the way from there to here, from then to now:
• Dr. Theodore Woodward, Chief of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who told the junior medical students that “practicing medicine should always be fun”, and if it wasn’t we needed to consider doing something else instead.
• Doctor Kristin Raines, at that time an Internal Medicine resident at Maryland who told us as the on-call admitting team at 3 o’clock in the morning “there’s nothing in Medicine, no matter how serious, that isn’t made a little bit better with a chocolate chip cookie”, and then went on to prove the point by opening a package of Pepperidge Farm cookies to share with us when our spirits and our blood sugars were at their lowest.
• Dr. Robert Mosser who taught us medical students the newborn neurological exam, and then taught an even more important lesson–that every patient should be seen as someone’s loved-one.
• Dr. Neil Chisholm, the Family Medicine Residency Program Director at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver who combined the best of big-city University evidenced-based training with teaching that each patient, no matter how many are needing to be seen, is an individual with no one and nothing more important than that one person.
• Dr. Tull Halley, a general surgeon in Durango, with whom I worked during my rural practice elective as a resident, who reminded me that regardless of specialty, every real doctor is first a family doctor and proved it by seeing primary care patients in his practice as a surgeon (and took better care of them than most of his non-surgical colleagues!)
• Dr. Michael Clemmens, a Pediatric senior resident at the Children’s Hospital Peds ICU in Denver who, at the worst moment of a family’s life, delivered the news to them in the most graceful, kind, compassionate and loving way imaginable, demonstrating empathy in a way I’d never seen before–or since.
• And, last but not least, Dr. Chester Waits, a small town Indiana general practitioner who practiced for decades the kind–and the kindness–of medicine that I hope to one day come close to practicing myself. I stayed with Dr. Waits and his family for several weeks over several summers for several years and learned more from his example than any classroom or clinic could ever hope to teach. I remember to this day one house call to a rural farmhouse to see a terminally ill patient for whom it seemed little else could be done. Dr. Waits reminded me that there’s always something more that can be given, even–and especially–when there’s nothing else that medical science has to offer, we should continue to be present–to offer ourselves. We owe a duty to our patient–and to the family; we must never abandon them. He reminded me of the truth of the old truism: “…the art of medicine is to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always…”
I don’t know if Dr. Waits ever met Dr. Francis Peabody, but I know he knew of which he spoke when Dr. Peabody addressed a group of medical students back in 1926, almost a hundred years ago: “…one of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient…”
Dr. Waits not only knew that but lived that, and so have my other medical mentors along the way. What they’ve taught me I now try to teach the medical students that I work with now. Taking care of patients, while sometimes challenging, is ultimately quite simple: simply care for the patient. That’s The Standard of Care we all should be practicing.
I work with first year medical students at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine where I’ve been on the faculty since 2012, helping teach Principles of Clinical Medicine.
In my spare time, I’ve worked on two writing projects, one about the Doctor-Patient Relationship, entitled “Someone I Know” and another, “The L-Shaped Ambush”, a collection of prose and poetry about the war in Vietnam (where I served 13 months with the Marines back in 1967-68). Two of the poems (“Latham, New York” and “Jolly Olly Orange”) in that collection were featured at the Millworks Art Gallery in Akron, Ohio, in 2012 as part of an art exhibition entitled “These Are Our Wars”.
Qualifications and experience
- Family Medicine, Urgent Care
Colorado College (1969)
University of Maryland School of Medicine (1981)
University of Colorado Health Science Center (1984)
University-Maryland Hospital (1985)
St Joseph's Hospital (1986)
- Board Certification
Certification Agency Member Board Specialty Year American Board of Family Medicine American Board of Medical Specialties Family Medicine 1990
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