This week’s guest post is about my father-in-law who was one of the last Doctors to make house calls on Long Island: Dr. George Nemecek. It was written by his Ph.D. son, Dr. Russell Nemecek, my husband. The letter was in response to an article in the WSJ.
“Bob Green’s, “A Country Doctor Can’t Forget His 40 Years of House Calls” brought back memories of my father’s tenure as a general practitioner which spanned the same time frame as that of Dr. Kemper. We lived in suburban Nassau County, but the only obvious difference in the medical service Dr. Kemper provided was my father didn’t have to travel quite as far to see his patients. While it might shock the younger generation, these personal relationships with patients and “door-to-door” service of house calls at literally any hour or time of day, were very much what medicine was and how it was delivered in most areas of the country through the 1940s and into at least the early 1960s.
I fondly recall riding along and waiting in the car while my father made house calls. Over time, he phased them out except for a few of his elderly, longtime patients that could no longer come to his office which incidentally was attached to our home. There were no appointments for office hours: first come and first served. Yes, it sometimes meant long waits, but patients had as much time as they needed and his evening hours frequently didn’t end until 9 or 10 at night and even later when he came home for a few days while the rest of the family was away on vacation.
There were no stop watches checking on how many patients could be seen in some set period of time and somehow all of this worked in an era when few people had any kind of medical insurance. Over the years I have often laughed to myself thinking of how my Dad would react to an insurance company questioning a prescription or an ordered procedure.
His so-called day off (Thursday) did not mean the phone wouldn’t ring and on Sundays he visited patients in area nursing homes because that was the only day he had time to do so. Like Dr. Kemper, my father would cringe at the term, “health-care provider”. Being a physician was not an occupation, but simply a way of life to him and those of his generation.
Dr. Kemper recalled the rewards of seeing and hearing from former patients over the years. My father experienced some of that, but he died too young to fully hear multiple generations of thanks. It was left to my mother to hear the countless stories of appreciation over the nearly three decades until her passing away in 2008.
There is no questioning the benefits of today’s medical advancements and technology as medicine has become far more of a science than the art it was in so many ways decades ago. However, in many ways this has come with a cost and not just a financial one. Nevertheless, thank you for the memories, Dr. Kemper, and for your years of service to the medical profession and your patients.”
by Russell J. Nemecek, Ph.D. (guest post author)
Note: Photos are of Dr. George Nemecek as a young man wearing academic medals awarded him in school. In the wedding photo is Dr. George and his wife Frances. The other photo would have been shortly after medical school and in later years in his office.
The flower photo is courtesy of my talented niece, Sally Rose Dolak, who lives in Costa Rica and who blogs daily photos. Her link is: http://rosedevi.blogspot.com/