Memories of My Uncle, the Physician

May 23, 2016

Mentoring is an important aspect of your career development as a physician. Dr. Hoffman shares how his uncle shaped the way he saw medicine from an early age.

When I was six, my mother passed away with cancer. My father was at a loss caring for a young child and began to date looking for another wife. He would have my uncle babysit when he went out on a date. My uncle was a general practice physician who had is medical office in the basement of his home with a waiting room, two exam rooms, a fluoroscope area, and a small drug dispensing area. His wife did the checking in and checking out, while he took care of the patients.

I spent the time with him in the office as I sat there, while he examined and treated patients. If he had to make a house call or go to the local hospital, he took me with him. This introduced to the practice of medicine at an early age. He was gruff but really cared for the patients, not charging them if they did not have the money to pay when they were treated. I remember patients giving him vegetables, baked goods, and fish when they did not have cash.

Back then, hospitals did not really have 24 hour a day emergency rooms, so patients would ring the doorbell outside the office after hours if they really needed to see a physician. I remember one night being up in the little TV room of the house with him when the doorbell rang. He was reclining on the couch wearing just a t-shirt, boxer shorts, and argyle socks held up by elastic bands. He got up and we when down the back stairs so that he could open the office. When he opened the outer office door, there was a woman standing there with a child about my age.

I will never forget the expression on her face when she saw he had no shirt or pants. He never batted an eye, just asked her what was wrong. She told him her son was very sick with a high fever. My uncle took the boy into an exam room and after looking at the child got out a large dose of penicillin. When he gave the kid the shot, the kid let out a scream and started crying. After the shot was given, he told her that her son had a very bad throat infection and gave her some antibiotic pills to go with the shot. She told him that she had no money to pay for the shot. My uncle told her not to worry about it. I always felt there was a special place in heaven for physicians like him.