A Day in the Life ScenariosHuman Interest

DOING HIS PART TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF CARE

In the blog explaining why individuals go to medical school and why they choose a particular specialty, I mentioned the doctor who helped start his own Family Medicine residency program at two hospitals. That’s a very unusual situation, and not just anybody could pull it off. However, this doctor possessed the foresight to realize Family Medicine needed to improve its status among medical professionals, and convinced both an IU Med School administrator and the Director of Medical Education at Methodist Hospital of the need. Initiating and designing your own training program was something medical students didn’t do. But Dr. DK was ahead of his time, and had the drive to do whatever was necessary to achieve his goal. Very few, if any Family Medicine residencies existed it 1966, but he knew it was something Indiana, and the country, desperately needed. 

He went into medicine “to help people,” and he really did. After receiving his MD degree, he  completed the one year internship at I.U. Medical School followed by the two-year residency he helped start at Methodist Hospital. His overall purpose was to stir interest among young doctors to pursue a career in family practice, and to educate them to be knowledgeable and capable of delivering quality care. To accomplish that, he personally recruited next year’s residents from outside of Indiana, accepting only those who were first or second in their class. He wanted residents who would elevate the program’s status, improve the respectability of family physicians, and keep the program alive.

At the beginning and the end of his residency, he did something I had never heard of nor have I known of any other doctors who did the same. He participated in a group called Volunteer Physicians for Viet Nam. In 1967, the Viet Nam war was hot and heavy. 11 days after completing his internship, he landed on a dirt airstrip in the Viet Nam delta in a single engine plane flown by Air America, a front for the CIA. He waited alone on the airstrip for two hours until a truck picked him up. He spent the next two months caring for Vietnamese civilians in the nearby villages. He describes it as one of the most rewarding highlights of his career. At the end of residency, he returned to Viet Nam for a second two-month tour as a volunteer. 

Additionally, through the Berry plan he served in the U.S. Navy for two years. His entire tour was spent at a naval base he previously didn’t know existed—Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Medical care at GITMO, as it is called, was limited. He was primarily responsible for the care of military dependents, and active duty emergencies. And retirees? I don’t think so.

In the middle of his two years in Cuba, the American Medical Association certified Family Practice as the 20th medical specialty. “The only time I left Cuba for the States was to take the first board exam and thus became a Charter Member of the American Board of Family Practice.” He took recertification examinations five more times (to maintain certification, re-examination was “required” every 6-7 years). 

His other endeavors were participating in the development of a Family Medicine residency at St. Francis Hospital, helping to train residents by staffing the outpatient clinic, and beginning his own three-physician Family Practice group in Indianapolis. He served as President of the Family Practice Department and President of the Medical Staff at St. Francis Hospital. He was heavily involved in the Indianapolis Medical Society and was President for one year. He served on so many boards and committees I couldn’t remember half of them. Needless to say, he was the doctor everyone went to for advice and opinion, and was highly respected by his colleagues and patients. When you’re blessed with knowledge and wisdom, you’re asked to do a lot. His only failing (too strong a word) was he couldn’t say “no.”

When St. Francis Hospital established the position of Chief Medical Officer, Dr. K was high on their list of choices. He succeeded Dr. Robert Kopecky, the hospital’s first Chief Officer. After twenty years, he gave up practicing family medicine and spent the next several years deflecting the complaints of staff doctors, disciplining those who stepped out of line, and solving the problems of disgruntled patients. 

“Why did I give up practicing Family Medicine and become Chief Medical Officer? Easy answer—I thought the hospital would give me a larger platform to effect change and improve the quality of care given at St. Francis Hospital and in our community. That move proved to be true!” 

After “retirement,” he served on the St. Francis corporate advisory board for ten years. As a board member, his opinions and advice were heard by influential business executives and community leaders, and not just “hospital people.” Participation gave him an even larger platform to stress the importance of primary care and advocate for St. Francis Hospital. The Sisters of St. Francis honored him with their highest award in recognition of his service to their health ministry; an honor he well deserved.

One of his favorite endeavors was the “Docs vs. Jocks vs. Drugs” fund raiser basketball games. For 25 years, physicians (Docs) on staff at St. Francis challenged the coaches, teachers, and former athletes (Jocks) of 14 different school districts to a basketball game to raise money to “promote drug and alcohol free lifestyle (Drugs)” programs. A total of $125,000 was raised through this effort. I was fortunate to play in that game several times, but my participation contributed little to the few victories it seems we earned. After all, we were playing real athletes. Our team occasionally had a “celebrity” ringer, but so did theirs. Our “coach,” Dr. Marvin Christie, had to be in his 50’s during those early games, but you would never know it from the energy he showed! Fun times for a good cause!

Dr. K also started a golf outing honoring Noah Ellis, his high school football coach and most respected role model who died suddenly at an early age. For 23 years, the proceeds from the outing went to fund student athlete scholarships at Manual and Perry Meridian High Schools where Mr. Ellis taught and coached. And as if he weren’t busy enough, he volunteered as team physician at Perry Meridian for 34 years!

His physical life began at St. Francis, and his parents both died at St.Francis. For 18 months he practiced medicine two blocks from its front door. His medical life, however, started at IU and Methodist, but matured and prospered at St. Francis. The good he accomplished has been recognized again and again. When he said he went into medicine “to help people,” he meant it. Anyone associated with St. Francis Hospital would agree. He did more to promote St. Francis and improve the quality of care given there than just about anyone. No argument. 

Dr. G’s Opinion: I was privileged to practice with Dr. DK for 10 years. He set me up in practice and made getting started easy. All I had to say was I was his partner and credibility was immediately established. He was respected by everyone, and I know I got a lot of patients because of our association. When you’re the partner of the man who everyone respects and admires, you’re held to higher standard. I didn’t always meet that standard, but I tried very hard to do my best.

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