As I first stepped in to private practice on July 1, 1978, I was fairly certain that I knew everything. Now, forty-one and a half years later, I am fairly certain that I don’t know much at all. Each and every patient at The Physician and Midwives Collaborative Practice, or our other iterations, has helped me grow during this incredible journey four decades in the making.
I was born and raised here in Alexandria. My father was a first-generation American, and my mother’s lineage could be traced back to pre-American Revolution. It goes without saying that my roots in Northern Virginia run deep. They have grown deeper through the thousands of people I have had the honor of serving as they put their own roots down in our community with the birth of each new baby.
During my third-year as a medical student in 1973 at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, my father died suddenly. Back then, a call from Richmond to Arlington was considered long distance and I could not afford to pay those prices, but luckily, one WATS line on campus connected direct to Northern Virginia. I called my mother every day for one year after that, something I could not have done if long distance fees were involved. I returned to the Washington DC area as quickly as I could arrange my educational path.
This experience, as terrible as it was, taught me the importance of just picking up the phone and being there for someone during the most difficult times of their lives. In this practice, I am lucky to be there at some of the happiest times in a family’s life, but the principle of compassion remains the same.
After finishing my residency, with the help of my sister, Ruthanne and my mother Mary Lucy, I opened the Duke Street office in the fall of 1979. Some of you might still remember that office. The rugs were orange and yellow plaid.
It took about eighteen months, and the acquisition of a retiring doctor’s practice to begin filling out a week with patients. Some of my earliest private practice deliveries and life long friends are in this group. Their children are in their late thirties today, older now than I was when I helped deliver them. I still remember many of their names.
Over the next several years, I began to make a reputation for myself among retiring physicians. They liked me, and their patients like my care, and it was at this time the foundation of our modern practice began to take shape.
At about seven years in I was still doing all the prenatal care, deliveries, GYN visits and surgery by myself. I was working eleven days and nights and taking three days off by sharing call with another solo OBGYN. Things at home were busy as well. Roberta and I had three children under the age of five! Despite how overwhelming it all was, looking back, the practice continued to grow and thrive as did our family.
I do think that it was in these earliest years that we began to affirm, and reaffirm, that our patients responded to what later we would call Convenient Compassionate Care. We intuitively treated our patients like family. They loved us and we loved them.
After one particularly long week I confronted the obvious–I needed help. I brought on a capable and enthusiastic doctor to the practice, so naturally we became even busier. After another few years, he suggested a nurse midwife to help with the prenatal care.
This was the pivotal moment for our practice. One that would shape every decision we made going forward. We hired our first, RN CNM.
My physician partner left shortly after bringing our first midwife on board so there we were, two people, with way too much work to do, again. I immediately recruited and hired a second midwife instead of another physician. Four more midwives followed.
As you may have ascertained from this walk down memory lane, I am officially announcing my retirement from clinical medicine effective December 2019. It has been a privilege to serve and become part of thousands of families over the years. I hope the gratitude, trust and respect that patients have given to me personally, and to our practice, was well earned. It is truly treasured.
Next month you can look forward to the continuation of the story of my four-decade long career. No matter where you may have fallen on that journey, know that each and every one of you contributed to my life long learning and growth that I have tried to pass along to the next generations of physicians and midwives.
All My Gratitude and Thanks,