Personal History


As I mentioned in a previous blog, mid-way through my first year of residency, I/we decided to move back to Indiana to practice. There were many reasons for that decision.

  1. The winters in Denver were very harsh—too much snow, a very long winter season (October to early May).
  2. I had only two weeks vacation and felt obligated to visit family, and not travel elsewhere, at that time.
  3. I was the only resident of 12 who didn’t have a pony tail.
  4. Opportunities to practice in Colorado were less appealing.
  5. We had two small children who needed to get to know their grandparents.
  6. My mother was widowed and broke her wrist 6 months after we moved to Denver.
  7. The smog in Denver was atrocious.
  8. Both of our families were in Indiana.
  9. On a visit home I met Dr. Don Kerner.

In April, 1973, we went to Indiana for vacation and to look at practice opportunities. Ahead of our visit, I had written to the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) placement office to express my interest in finding a place to practice. They lined up visits with two possibilities.

I knew I preferred a suburban practice with a partner whose educational experience was similar to mine. I was referred to a practice in Tipton, Indiana, a community 15 miles north of Indianapolis. I met the doctor on his morning rounds. He was seeing patients he had operated on the day before. He had done a tonsillectomy on one and an appendectomy on the other. His partner was retiring, and he was looking for a replacement. A lot about that practice opportunity appealed to me, but living in Tipton did not.

The second opportunity was with a solo practitioner in Carmel. His office was on Range Line road which became the Rodeo Drive of the city. But the Carmel of 1973 was not the Carmel of today. One of this doctor’s first questions to me was “Why are you doing a residency?” When I offered an explanation, his reply was that I was “foolish” for doing a residency, and if I joined him, I would be busy right away. So what if I didn’t feel prepared enough to take good care of patients! That didn’t matter to him. It was obvious to me, this doctor and I had philosophical differences that would not foster a collegial relationship.

The ISMA suggested some other practices, but they were all in small towns not close to Indy. For some reason, I called Dr. Ron Blankenbaker, the Director of Medical Education at Methodist Hospital. Ron was a year ahead of me in med school, and we had become friends while externing at Community. He knew everyone. I told him my situation, and he suggested I call Dr. Don Kerner in Beech Grove because he knew Don was looking for a partner.

“Who’s Don Kerner? And BEECH GROVE?” was my response. Beech Grove is a blue collar community completely surrounded by Indianapolis, southeast of Monument Circle. The railroad industry was a major employer and rail yards were everywhere. Driving through Beech Grove was like going back 20 years! St. Francis Hospital was located in Beech Grove. It was established in the early 1900’s, but had just opened a newly-built 6-story tower building. It was a family physician-oriented hospital, but the administration was trying to expand services and attract a younger medical staff and specialists.

Dr. Don Kerner was born at St. Francis, grew up in Beech Grove, and externed at St. Francis during med school. So it was natural that he practice in his home community. The unique thing about Don was he graduated first in his class from IU Med School in 1966, and was the first physician to complete a family medicine residency at Methodist Hospital. In 1972, he joined Dr. Frank Fortuna, a family physician with 30 years experience. Educationally they were miles apart, but they practiced together for 18 months. It was Dr. Kerner’s ambition to start his own group practice, but he had yet to start the process.

Don’s plan was to find one or two partners with training similar to his, and open an office practice of his own. He had already found an office location in south Indianapolis, and my entry on the scene set things in motion. I met with Dr. Kerner in his office, and after a four-hour conversation, decided joining him was the right thing for me. I still had 14 months to go in my residency, but my entire focus changed toward a new goal. Don even took time to fly to Denver to meet with us at our home to discuss plans for setting up and equipping the office. He was planning to open the office in January, 1974, six months before I finished my residency. He would practice alone and be on call all the time until I could join him. It was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

July 15, 1974, I began practicing with Dr. Kerner. Don made all the equipment purchases and set up my practice as he had his. We did share the interviewing and hiring of some employees, a job neither of us had done before. The people we hired turned out to be good choices. I owe Don Kerner a debt of gratitude. He gave me a place to practice for ten years and a person with whom I shared call for twenty years.

Moving back to Indiana was definitely the right decision. Hoosiers and the Coloradans I was associated with in residency, had different values. The neighbors who lived near us in Littleton were like us, and we became good friends. We socialized with them often, and in the summer we had the only front yard suitable for volleyball games. Leaving those folks behind was a big step, but moving to Indiana and practicing where I did were decisions I never regretted.

I practiced for almost forty years. I took night call for 46 years, and did obstetrics for twelve and a half years. For OB, I was always on call. I shared night call with Dr. Don Kerner, Dr. Bob Dicks, and Dr. Gary Creed the majority of those years. In 1984, I decided to practice on my own as a solo physician. Establishing a one-doctor office was a major task, but it allowed me latitude I had not previously experienced. Our call group remained intact, however. I practiced solo until 2007 (23 years). That year, I became a part time employee of Indiana Primary Care Associates, a division of Indiana Internal Medicine Consultants, a multi-specialty group.

My wife, Sandy, was manager of our office for the 23 years I was solo. Her presence in the office was invaluable for numerous reasons, but most importantly she reminded me that professional behavior, compassion for the sick, and personal character were important for a successful practice. The practice of medicine is a profession, but it is also a business. No one ran the business better than she. For 23 years she put her life on hold to help me, and I am grateful beyond measure!

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