I’m continuing to excerpt for you chapters from the first of two books about my early years in family medicine in Kissimmee, Florida – The Best Medicine: Tales of Humor and Hope from a Small-Town Doctor. I hope you, your family, and your friends will follow along and enjoy this trip back into the past with me and my family.
CHAPTER 3 – GONNA LIKE HIM
After finishing my tour with Dr. Gonzales, I caught up with John on the medical wing, and we made rounds together. He introduced me to his patients, now our patients, the staff, and the nurses, including Judy Simpson, who was the charge nurse for the shift. A perky, outgoing blonde, she observed, “Dr. Larimore, you look too young to be a doctor. Are you still in college?”
People often kidded me about my boyish looks, but not usually at a first meeting. I replied, “My grandchildren say the same thing.”
Judy looked confused. “You have grandchildren?”
I shook my head. “Just kidding,” I said as we all laughed.
John commented, “Judy, when are you coming to work with me at my office?” He looked at me. “I’ve been trying to hire her as my nurse since I got here. She’s considering it.”
“Only if she turns me down,” said a gruff voice behind us.
We turned to see a tall, stocky Hispanic man in surgical scrubs with a five o’clock shadow, and it was still midmorning. “You must be the new guy.” He stuck out his large hand. “I’m Frank Crespo, the best urologist you’ll ever meet.”
“He’s the best one here in Kissimmee,” John said.
Crespo let out a booming laugh. “Because I’m the only one in town. Gotta go,” he said as he turned. “The OR beckons.”
“Humble, eh?” I noted.
“Not in the slightest,” John replied.
Judy added, “If you bought him for what he was worth and sold him for what he thought he was worth, you’d make a fortune. He’s said to be the richest doctor in the community. Heck, his automobile costs more than most people’s houses, his monthly mortgage is more than our annual ones combined, and he seems to take great pride in showing off his many expensive possessions.”
John laughed. “Well, he’s brash, arrogant, cocky, flashy, flamboyant, and worldly. And he’s self-assured, that’s for sure, but he’s a fabulous urologist, a great technician in the OR, and a good friend.”
Judy leaned toward us. “Dr. Hartman, maybe I will consider coming over to the office and chatting with you. Shift work at the hospital is getting old—like me!”
“You don’t look like you’ve had a birthday in . . . ten years!” John exclaimed.
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” she said, laughing, as she turned back to her work. “And you’ve got patients to see.”
John oriented me to the charting system and some clinical processes. At one nurses’ station, Mr. Shanks walked in and greeted each of the nurses and ward clerks by name, inquiring about work and their families. As he was walking out, he stopped by the doctor’s charting area.
“I was hoping to find you guys as I practiced my ambulatory management,” he said, smiling.
“What’s that?” I asked. “I’ve never heard the term.”
He nodded. “I manage by walking around. Most hospital administrators never leave their executive suite. They are too aloof or arrogant to do so. I love my staff; I love visiting with them at least once each shift.”
“Sometimes when I’m here at night, Jim will be here visiting with his staff,” John said.
“It allows me to sense the pulse of my hospital and people, and it allows me to address their issues and concerns long before they become my problems.”
I remembered a night on call during my first month as a family medicine resident at Duke. We had an abnormally high number of admissions. My stress and anxiety levels were sky-high as it was hard enough learning how to be a doctor, how to navigate in a new hospital and use a new medical record system, where things were located, and many new names and faces—and to keep so many spinning plates from crashing to the floor. On top of all this, I was on my fourth admission, with several waiting to be seen. A hand rested on my shoulder, and a reassuring voice said, “I’ve heard you guys were getting creamed. How can I help?” It was my residency director, Terry Kane, MD. He had left the nurses a message to call him if any of his interns got too busy or overwhelmed so that he could come in and help. My admiration for his care and caring was enormous.
When Barb and I had interviewed at Duke, John and Cleta had shown us around. When they introduced us to Terry, John had said, “You’re gonna really like Terry.”
I could understand how Jim’s staff must have felt when he did the same for them.
“Hey, John,” Jim said. “I’d like to make a recording that we could use in our radio advertising to let people know more about family docs. Would that be okay?”
“I’d be happy to,” John replied.
Jim reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small voice recorder. “Is now okay?”
John nodded, so Jim turned on the recorder and spoke into it. “I’m here with John R. Hartman, MD, one of Kissimmee’s residency-trained and board-certified family physicians. Dr. Hartman, in a sentence or two, why are you a family physician?”
John didn’t even hesitate. “For me, this was the only pathway. I wanted to be a physician who cares for the family. I love family medicine because of its breadth. Every day is different. It is nice to care for patients of all ages and to be able to tell them that I have a 90–95 percent chance of being able to help them. And if I can’t, I’ll help them find the care they need. I get great joy being the doctor who can care for the whole person and their entire family.”
Jim smiled. “One more question, if I may. Here at the hospital, the feds foist more and more regulations on us, making my life more difficult every year. Does the government make it harder for physicians also?”
“It certainly does!” John exclaimed. “But one thing they can’t steal is the joy of practicing family medicine. It’s a unique opportunity to help people, their families, and the community. The gleam in a patient’s eye or their smile at the end of the encounter is a more valuable payment to me than the check they write when they leave. My reward is seeing the thanks in their eyes.”
Jim smiled and clicked off the recorder. “That was perfect.” Now I just need to write some copy to go along with this in the newspaper.
“Oh,” I said. “I might have something.” I pulled out my wallet. “My wife found this somewhere while we were in Bryson City. Maybe it would work.” I unfolded a small piece of paper and handed it to him.
Jim read, “If it creaks, cramps, cries, eats, stings, smarts, swells, twists, twinges, burps, burns, aches, sticks, twitches, crumbles, or hurts, we’ve got just the doctor for you.”[i] He smiled. “This is perfect. Do you know the source?”
I shook my head.
“I’m gonna use it. I’ll just add, ‘Choose one of our board-certified, residency-trained family physicians. They provide primary care and primary caring for you and your entire family.”
“It’s perfect,” John said. “I like it.”
“Me too,” I added.
“Sounds good. I think it’s great. Well, I need to shove off. Welcome, Dr. Larimore.”
As Jim strode down the hall, John commented, “He loves his people and most of his doctors.”
Judy walked by and added, “That’s just one of the many reasons we love that man so much. You’re gonna really like him too.”[ii]
[ii] For this chapter, I refreshed my memory with the following: John R. Stannard, “A Spiritual Approach to Patients: John R. Hartman, MD, Kissimmee, Florida,” Caring for America: The Story of Family Practice (Virginia Beach: Donning Company, 1997): 58–59.
TO BE CONTINUED
This excerpt of The Best Medicine: Tales of Humor and Hope from a Small-Town Doctor is provided with the permission of the publisher Baker/Revell. You can learn more about the book or purchase a copy here.
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