Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 2)

This is from the fifth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.

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Cathy brought in a manila folder that Earl carefully opened. He began to shuffle through the papers. “Ah, here we go.” He pulled out a single sheet.

“Walt, we’re not an affluent county or a rich hospital. Our physicians here are not paid even the national average. If you and Barb are looking to make a lot of money, we’re not going to be the place for you all. But if you’re looking for the type of envi- ronment and lifestyle that Swain County has to offer, then you’ll be pleased here—and your income will be more than satisfac- tory.” He paused.

“Go on,” I encouraged.

He nodded. “First of all, we would pay for all of your relo- cation expenses. And we’d want the mover to do all your pack- ing for you.”

“That sounds very generous, Earl.”

“To keep your expenses down, we’ll cover all of your pro- fessional costs for the first year of practice. I’ve talked to Dr. Mitchell, and he will allow you to practice in his office, with himself and Dr. Cunningham. He will keep any monies collected for your work. We’ll pay him your overhead and any money short on your salary. Any money collected above the cost of your salary and overhead will be split. One-half to Dr. Mitchell, one- quarter to the hospital, and one-quarter to you and Barb.”

“OK,” I stammered, trying to figure out the implications of such a complex arrangement.

“We’re offering a first-year salary of $30,000.”

I was shocked. This was less than the university paid their medical residents in training.

“Quite frankly, Mr. Douthit, I had expected a more generous offer. Most of the other counties are offering . . .” My voice trailed off. Was I being selfish? NO! After thirteen years of pri- mary and secondary school, four years of college, four years of medical school—all with no income other than Barb’s teaching income, nine months per year—a teaching fellowship in England and three years of residency—not to mention school loans— NO, I was not being selfish. This offer just would not do!

I glanced at my wife and saw that she was trying to hide her disappointment. “Now, I can tell by the looks on your faces that the salary appears inadequate. However, we feel the entire offer may be of interest to you.” He paused and then continued. “On top of what I’ve mentioned, we will offer you, at no charge, the home that Mrs. Gunn showed you earlier—for as long as you wish to live there. The hospital will cover the cost of any and all repairs and of all utility bills and phone bills. In addition, you are both welcome to dine at the hospital at any time at no cost.”

I looked at Barb again. She seemed a bit more interested.

“We will also pay for all of the costs incurred by you both when Dr. Larimore has to travel in order to obtain his continuing medical education. We would just ask that you preapprove these expenses with me prior to traveling.

“We will also provide for all your insurance needs—malpractice, car, home, medical, dental, life, and disability—which should save you considerable funds.”

This was starting to sound better.

“In addition, we want to build a brand-new office building. Our current physician office facilities are not what we would like. So the board has had conversations with the North Carolina Office of Rural Health and with the Duke Endowment. We would like you to help us design a family medicine center, to be located within walking distance of the hospital. We’d like to begin recruiting other family doctors who could join you in this building as our older physicians begin to retire. This building will not cost you any money, but just the effort to help us design a wonderful facility for our clients—your patients.”

This was starting to sound much better.

“Last, but not least, we want you to help us design our new in-hospital birthing center. We’d like to take the old delivery rooms and make them into two comfortable and attractive birthing suites that will be the envy of any hospital in the state.”

He sat back and took a deep breath. “Walt and Barb, I don’t expect you to decide overnight. Please take this information, think about it, and let me know your decision when you’re ready.” We agreed.

As we left the hospital, offer in hand, my mind was swirling. There is so much that seems attractive, almost charming, about this town and its medical community. Yet neither Barb nor I have ever lived in such a small hamlet—so far from family and, Barb reminds me, a mall! We’ll need time to talk, to debrief, and to pray.

“Walt,” pleaded Barb, “let’s find a place to walk and talk.” We decided to drive up the Deep Creek Valley. At the northern end of the valley was the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We parked and strolled up the wide walking path beside the creek—it was smooth enough to roll Kate in her stroller. During the summer the creek would be filled with the shrieks of kids tubing over the white-water rapids—but today it was peacefully quiet. Within a short time we were alone—just the rustling of the wide rushing creek, the singing of the birds in the thick overhead canopy, and the joyous sounds of Kate singing and humming.

Thick mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes hugged the path. We passed two waterfalls and sat, overlooking each, sim- ply to discuss our impressions and concerns. Maybe it was the sheer beauty of the place—or the warmth of her people—or the hospital’s overwhelming need for updated medical skills and technology. Maybe it was our need to feel needed—to make a difference. Whatever the reason, our hearts were in agreement. Barb leaned over to me as we sat by Indian Creek Falls and pro- nounced, “Walt, I think this is the place!” I smiled in agreement.

We left the park and drove west from town out to the Nantahala River, where we watched fly fishermen and kayakers at play. We soaked in the quiet, marveled at the lushness of the hills, and breathed in the clean mountain air. We spent the after- noon driving around the small town—and up the valleys and dales surrounding her—and into some of her larger hollows. It was a warm afternoon and the sky was a crystal blue. Our peace and confidence only grew. Eventually, as dusk began to descend, we drove back to town for our scheduled dinner with the part- ners of Swain Surgical Associates.



© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 20196. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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