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 2B – FIRST DAY
In the parking lot, a police officer was talking to a physician in surgical scrubs and a white coat. “I think I’m the offender you’re looking for, gentlemen.”
“I’m Officer Gib Vicars,” the policeman said. “Is this your truck?”
“This lot is for doctors only. If you move it to the visitors’ lot, I won’t have to ticket you.”
“I am a doctor.”
Before I could explain, the physician interrupted. “I’m Dr. Gonzales. I know all the doctors, but I don’t know you!”
“He’s mine!” a voice behind us shouted. We all turned to see Jim Shanks striding toward us. “Pete, Gib, this is our newest doctor. You guys can’t haul him off to jail. We need him.”
The men chuckled.
“He’s here today completing all the forms and procedures.”
“Well, that explains why you don’t have a parking sticker,” Dr. Gonzales said.
“Walt, Officer Vicars is one of Kissimmee’s finest,” Jim explained. “When he was an athlete at Osceola High not too very long ago, he was one of the best in the state.”
Gib blushed and looked down.
“Dr. Pete Gonzales is our chief of staff and one of the best surgeons around. He also is the head physician for our ER, the EMTs, as well as the police and fire departments.”
Pete turned to the officer. “Officer Vicars, sorry for the trouble. We’ll take it from here.”
“No trouble at all, Dr. Gonzales.” Gib turned and shook my hand. “Welcome to Kissimmee, Doctor. I look forward to working with you.”
“Pete, you mind walking Walt in?” Jim asked. “I’ve got to run and meet a family.”
Pete nodded. As we walked back into the hospital, Pete apologized.
“Not a problem.” I asked about his background. He was a first-generation Filipino American, a general surgeon, a US Army Reserve colonel, and a decorated Vietnam MASH surgeon. He mentioned how he admired and enjoyed working with Dr. Hartman and had been looking forward to meeting me.
“John told me you were instrumental in his getting his hospital privileges,” I said.
“That’s true, but not just me. Jim Shanks and Kevin Cole also went to bat for you guys in front of the hospital board of directors and before the medical staff. In the past, we’ve only had specialists and GPs here. John and two other young doctors were the first residency-trained, board-certified family physicians that applied for privileges. Most of our doctors have not worked with FPs. I wasn’t surprised that a few of the Ob-Gyns weren’t sure they wanted FPs delivering babies. None of the pediatricians were open to your ilk being in what they saw as their nursery or pediatric wing. And don’t get me started on the ICU doctors. I thought they would have heart attacks when they learned FPs wanted to take care of patients in their ICU. Thank goodness we have that straightened out.” After looking up and down the hall, he leaned toward me and whispered, “But don’t screw it up. I spent a lot of political capital fighting for those guys, and by extension, you. I can’t afford for you to make some silly mistake. So, I have some advice for you.”
“I’d suggest being liberal getting consults for a while. That way, you get to know the subspecialists, and they’ll get used to you. I’ve reviewed your recommendations from residency and Bryson City. I’ve called and talked to the folks you’ve worked with over the last few years. They speak highly of you.”
He took a half step back and looked up at me over crossed arms. “I want to be able to do the same. Understand?”
“There’s one other item I need to broach with you. It’s sensitive. May I?”
“Of course,” I said, wondering what might be next.
“It’s that truck of yours. As you likely noticed, the doctors here don’t drive trucks. Wranglers and ranchers do. Farmers and cowboys do. Doctors do not. There is a professional image we need to uphold and maintain. Is that understood?”
I was dumbfounded and speechless. I loved my truck!
“My brother owns a car dealership in Orlando. I’ll call him and get a Mercedes delivered to you later today or tomorrow. Knowing you’re just starting a practice, it will be pre-owned. But it will be in perfect condition. Then, once you’re making a decent income, he’ll get a brand-new leased one for you each year. Or he can get you two if your wife needs one. She doesn’t drive a truck, also, does she?”
I chuckled. “No, sir. She most definitely does not.”
“What color do you want?”
I had no idea. “Blue,” was all I could think to say. It was my favorite color.
“Let’s go get a cup of coffee, and then I’ll show you my surgical suites.”
“Are you the only surgeon?”
Pete’s eyebrows furrowed. “Of course not,” he said, leaning toward me, “but I am the best.”
As I was to learn over time, this was not bragging, but a fact.[i]
[i] For this chapter, I refreshed my memory with the following: (1) “About Us,” Osceola Regional Medical Center, tinyurl.com/qrtz8ph; and (2) Walt Larimore, MD, Bryson City Secrets: Even More Tales of a Small-Town Doctor in the Smoky Mountains (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).
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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