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House Calls with John

"From there, we headed towards Warren, N.H., stopping to meet a nurse who directs the Visiting Nurse Association in Canaan. I had a chance to hear her opinions about community health care in the Upper Valley and to share my own views. Dr. Radebaugh caught up on the news about patients he was following.

"We visited, counseled, and examined seven more patients during the remainder of the afternoon, including an elegant woman painter in her scrupulously cared-for colonial and an overweight hypertensive who lives in a cat-infested trailer. One highlight of the afternoon was meeting and examining a delightful middle-aged woman with transposition of the great vessels.

"I could go on with tales of these individuals, their medical histories, their homes, and their jokes, but the day was long and I realize that your time for

reading student letters is short. I write only to share my memories and to offer a vote of support for this opportunity. I feel grateful to have attended a medical school that encourages a broad perspective in medicine and supports enthusiastic faculty such as Dr. John Radebaugh."

I have to say that I regard that letter as a capstone of my career.

After my retirement in July 1991, I continued to serve as a volunteer physician with the Good Neighbor Health Clinic in White River Junction, Vt., which provides free care to un- and underinsured individuals in the region. I also served occasionally as a substitute physician for small practices. In those roles, I continued to make house calls.

Once I was covering for another doctor

and was asked to visit a woman in her seventies who was originally from Finland. When I arrived at her home, she answered the door with surprise and suspicion.

"I don't know you and will not allow you to examine me," she said firmly. "I'm not replacing your doctor, only trying to help him," I replied.

Just as she was about to close the door in my face, I reached into my bag, pulled out my still-ever-present harmonica, and started playing Finlandia, the Finnish national anthem. There were tears in her eyes as she opened the door to welcome me in.

It was a most cordial visit, and it concluded with a request: "Please play Finlandia again the next time you come." I did.

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John Radebaugh, a retired pediatrician and family physician, is a clinical associate professor emeritus at Dartmouth Medical School. He also did a rotating internship at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital. All the photos in the article are courtesy of the author.

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