Don Keelan: The odyssey of a country doctor

Sadye Matula

Michael Welther, M.D., has been a loved ones medical professional in Arlington, Vt., for 35 many years. Now he’s headed for Arizona. Photo by Kate Bryan This commentary is by Don Keelan of Arlington, a retired licensed public accountant. Longtime Arlington resident Norman Rockwell memorialized the exceptional position of the […]

Michael Welther, M.D., has been a loved ones medical professional in Arlington, Vt., for 35 many years. Now he’s headed for Arizona. Photo by Kate Bryan

This commentary is by Don Keelan of Arlington, a retired licensed public accountant.

Longtime Arlington resident Norman Rockwell memorialized the exceptional position of the Arlington-place nation health care provider. The famous illustrator would usually have then-community doctor George A. Russell, M.D., as a design. Around his 57-calendar year observe, Russell established the standard for the American country health practitioner.

In the summer season of 1987, Michael Welther, M.D., unpacked his suitcases and all those of his wife, Harriet, and their two pre-teenage daughters at a rental property in West Arlington, Vermont. The Welthers had traveled from Tucson, Arizona, to Arlington, where by Dr. Welther prepared to open a spouse and children professional medical exercise. His three several years of residency and five many years of training in Tucson had been now powering him.

He would be a part of Dr. Russell’s legacy as only the 3rd physician to have experienced a clinical follow in Arlington in the prior 64 several years. There was no health-related health practitioner in city for the 10 many years prior to Welther’s arrival. 

Earlier that yr, Welther answered a ask for from an Arlington advertisement hoc recruiting committee exploring nationally for a medical professional to relocate and open up a apply in Arlington. It was a excellent healthy: Dr. Welther wished to utilize his capabilities in a rural location, and his spouse, Harriet, experienced relatives roots in New Jersey and upstate New York.

His transition from a major U.S. town with a inhabitants of 640,000 in 1987 to a rural Vermont city of 2,300 shocked the Chicago native. At least, that was the situation until eventually he arrived at the setting up that the city committee selected to be his health-related business office.

The a single-story, 900-sq.-foot, pink-painted cape stood south of St. James Episcopal Church. Dr. Welther was astonished when he saw the setting up that was to be property to his apply. He could only envision what the inside was heading to glimpse like.

The building’s kitchen was the practice’s organization business office the living home was selected as the waiting around place and among the two rooms, table counters were established up for his staff of two. The cape’s two bedrooms have been transformed into exam rooms. 

This was The Arlington Household Clinical Follow.

A person serious variable was unaddressed: there had been no sufferers.

That was 35 a long time in the past, and there have been a lot of modifications due to the fact. Tucson’s populace grew to 1.1 million Arlington’s inhabitants improved by 200. The small health care creating was replaced in 1988-89 with a 5,000-square-foot construction. Except for a 3-12 months absence from 2015 to 2018 to be the in-cost physician at Southwestern Vermont Professional medical Center’s Pownal campus, Dr. Welther was normally existing at the Arlington Healthcare Center. Until finally Dec. 3, 2021.

On that working day, Arlington’s 3rd physician in just about 100 yrs gladly turned in his laptop laptop and sadly removed his stethoscope for the last time. In the course of his tenure, he went from zero individuals to more than 4,000 and was current for additional than 100,000 workplace visits. 

Dr. Russell’s healthcare follow technique was not shed on his Arlington successor. Russell was unique in many methods. He served his Arlington neighbors for about 50 a long time. At the exact same time, he founded one of Vermont’s most considerable collections of Vermontiana — currently displayed at the Martha Canfield Memorial Library in Arlington. 

Upon observing a patient who expected fast unique care, it was not uncommon for Dr. Russell to close his practice and individually just take the affected individual to a healthcare specialist or medical center, even if it intended driving to New York Metropolis.

Also, on any presented Thursday morning, Dr. Welther was generally absent from his business. He was, as he had been for so numerous several years, off checking on his patients residing in Bennington County nursing houses or rehab facilities.

Other modifications have taken position at Dr. Welther’s “old place of work.” Now, a federally skilled well being care clinic, the Battenkill Valley Well being Centre, with a crew of about 33 medical, dental and mental well being staff, serves 1000’s of people locally and from neighboring New York and Massachusetts.

No longer does one particular have to go into a transformed bed room for a medical examination. Also absent forever is observing Dr. Welther get there at the residence of a person in have to have and hold that patient’s hand or that of a family members member. That will be missed.

So will the region medical doctor from Tucson, Arizona, who served Arlington, Vermont, for so lots of a long time. Might he now, in retirement, consider treatment of one particular a lot more affected individual: Dr. Michael.   

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