44 years later, Dr. Jerry Martin steps aside from his Rap­pa­han­nock prac­tice

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing that on the very last day of his decades-old fam­ily med­i­cal prac­tice, hav­ing tended to Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dents of ev­ery age for 44 years, that pa­tients were still stream­ing through the door for one last visit with Dr. Jerry Martin.

“I saw about 15 peo­ple the last day,” Dr. Martin ad­mits. “That was the 28th of De­cem­ber. For sev­eral years I would tell peo­ple that one of th­ese days I’m go­ing to re­tire, you’re go­ing to have to find a new doc­tor. I kept re­mind­ing them of that.”

And yet they still came, right up un­til the last hour.

When we caught up with

the doc­tor this past week he was box­ing up the items he wished to keep from his ac­com­plished ca­reer. His Univer­sity of Vir­ginia med­i­cal diploma from 1970, all that re­mained on the oth­er­wise bare wall be­hind his desk, would be the fi­nal thing to go out the door.

It’s been an amaz­ing jour­ney for the 74-year-old Dr. Martin, who hails from Or­ange County, “a lit­tle vil­lage called Unionville. My dad worked for South­ern States and he moved around. Ba­si­cally I grew up in south­ern Delaware.”

He would even­tu­ally re­turn to Vir­ginia — “my whole fam­ily is from here,” he points out — grad­u­at­ing from Bridge­wa­ter Col­lege and UVA med­i­cal school. His post-grad­u­ate train­ing started at the U.S. naval hos­pi­tal in San Diego, at the time the largest U.S. med­i­cal cen­ter in the world and the first stop for dozens of for­mer U.S. pris­on­ers of war re­turn­ing home from Viet­nam. He’d be­come med­i­cal of­fi­cer aboard the USS Pro­teus, a sub­ma­rine ten­der docked in Guam, and fi­nally com­plete his two-year post-grad­u­ate stint in San Fran­cisco.

“I couldn’t de­cide whether to stay in Cal­i­for­nia,” he says. “I loved Cal­i­for­nia, but I got this re­ally in­cred­i­ble of­fer from Culpeper Hos­pi­tal pay­ing $35,000 a year. More money than I could dream of.

“It was a gi­gan­tic walk-in clinic,” he re­calls, “so busy that I was just swamped. And I was think­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to be burnt-out in the first year.’ Peo­ple would come in in car­diac ar­rest. They had no ra­dio sys­tem — you didn’t know what was walk­ing in the door. Ev­ery­thing kind of came through there.”

It hap­pened that Dr. Werner Kreb­ser was at Culpeper Hos­pi­tal, hav­ing been a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner in McLean for many years. He’d pur­chased a farm here, and no longer wish­ing to prac­tice medicine full time he’d re­marked to Dr. Martin that Rap­pa­han­nock County would be a nice place to hang out a shin­gle.

The young doc­tor orig­i­nally hoped to re­turn to Or­ange to start his prac­tice, but he was re­minded that the county al­ready had three doc­tors. Wouldn’t you know, he says, “within a year two died and one moved away. But I’d al­ready made a com­mit­ment to be here.”

Which suited him just fine, as “I was into horses and fox hunt­ing at the time.”

“Dr. Kreb­ser was sort of the main ar­chi­tect of the whole thing,” Dr. Martin con­tin­ues. “We bought a lot [on Gay Street in Wash­ing­ton] from Ray Can­non, who was one of the real­tors here in the county at that time. I think we paid some­thing like $10,000 for the lot, which of course I thought was out­ra­geous back then. I think we put the build­ing up for $65,000.”

It was a mod­ern brick build­ing by town of Wash­ing­ton stan­dards, chris­tened the Rap­pa­han­nock Med­i­cal Cen­ter, and it opened with much fan­fare in Jan­uary 1975. Be­sides a re­cep­tion area and of­fices it con­sisted of sev­eral ex­am­i­na­tion rooms and even x-ray fa­cil­i­ties. The two doc­tors worked by ap­point­ments — Dr. Martin four days per week, Dr. Kreb­ser only one day, while the two physi­cians al­ter­nated Satur­day hours. Emer­gency ser­vice was also avail­able.

“Did a lot of or­tho­pe­dics, bro­ken bones — did the x-rays right here — set frac­tures, mi­nor surg­eries, GYN, pe­di­atrics,” he rat­tles off the care that was of­fered. “Fi­nally, th­ese past 10 years or so, I cut back the scope of the of­fice.”

It’s un­der­stand­ably dif­fi­cult for the doc­tor to sum up 44 years of his med­i­cal prac­tice, treat­ing the aches and pains and so much more of gen­er­a­tions of Rap­pa­han­nock fam­i­lies.

“I would say that the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple I’ve seen down through the years have not only been my pa­tients, but my friends,” he says. “I’ve re­ally got­ten to known them, their fam­i­lies, their lives.”

Which also makes the good­byes dif­fi­cult.

“I got a lot of cards, a lot of notes, a few tears from the pa­tients,” says Dr. Martin. “I of­ten joke when peo­ple say, ‘Why are you quit­ting now?’ Well, I an­swer, ‘I’ve never been sued and I don’t think I killed any­body.’ So leave while you’re on top, when you still have your wits about you.

“Some peo­ple just hang on too long,” he of­fers. “I hope there’s still some mileage left on me. I’m still go­ing to do vol­un­teer work, the free clinic and what have you. I’m still very in­ter­ested in medicine. I still love the in­tel­lec­tual chal­lenges of medicine.

“I don’t like run­ning a busi­ness, deal­ing with the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, the bu­reau­cracy, the man­dates. But I love read­ing about medicine, learn­ing about medicine.”

The doc­tor also has many places yet to ex­plore.

“I’ve been very for­tu­nate, I’ve done a lot of travel. I’ve been to all the con­ti­nents,” he says, re­call­ing one mem­o­rable three-week trek to Nepal with his daugh­ter. “It’s a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, a real eye-opener. There’s a lot of places I haven’t seen.”

And one of the best parts of travel, “It re­ally makes you ap­pre­ci­ate what you have here.”

BY JOHN MC­CASLIN

Dr. Jerry Martin says of his re­tire­ment, “Some peo­ple just hang on too long. I hope there’s still some mileage left on me.”

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