'Physician Citizen' for a half century

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This is a break from custom. Normally, though I write the opinion pieces that appear in this space, which I suspect most readers know, I do not sign the editorials.

Today, though, requires a personal touch because it's, well, personal for me.

That's because my guy, Dr. Kenneth Gold, received a well deserved award Saturday night in Madison when the Wisconsin Medical Society named him its "Physician Citizen of the Year."

Applause. Applause. Applause.

FIRST, LET'S CITE some of the doctor's public accomplishments.

He has practiced medicine in Beloit for half a century. Wow.

He was the medical director for the Beloit Fire Department for many years and was a crucial factor in developing the city's tremendous emergency medical services program, which has saved countless lives. He also served as medical director for the Clinton Fire Department.

He has been a member of the board of directors for the Beloit Area Community Health Center, which brings quality healthcare to the area's less fortunate and underserved population.

He has been associated with the University of Wisconsin Medical School for years, mentoring and training student physicians in clinical settings. Patients became accustomed to Dr. Gold showing up in the exam room with a student in tow.

NOW LET'S get personal. A year or so back I opened a letter from Dr. Gold's office and it scared me. I thought it might say he was announcing his retirement. But, no, in his eighth decade he was only dialing back his hospital visits a bit, turning more over to Beloit Health System's capable hospitalists. Even so, from what I hear, nobody is surprised when the doc still shows up very early in the morning to check on a patient.

He's always done it the old-fashioned way - making house calls, visiting nursing homes, being where he was needed most. I won't violate anyone else's patient confidentiality, but I know of instances in which Dr. Gold traveled extensively to see to a patient's needs.

I've seen him in action with his students. Calm, patient - but demanding. He lets them take histories and make judgments, then encourages them to think outside the box. No doubt, his intellectual prodding has contributed to producing some very good doctors serving the communities where they set up practice.

EVERYBODY HAS A story about their own health problems, and so do I. Most fairly routine, a couple more serious. Dr. Gold saw me through it all, making a point of treating the whole person. It was never enough to fix an issue. He also stays focused on how one is coping with the issue. And a lot people have used his cell phone number to call him, at his insistence, to report in about how the recuperative process is going.

More importantly, I've had family members rely on his golden touch to get them through tough times. I can violate the patient rights of one of my sons, so I will. John contracted some sort of nasty gut issue that just wouldn't go away. He couldn't keep anything down and was shedding weight at an alarming pace. We saw one specialist and then another over several weeks, tried this and tried that, all to no avail. Dr. Gold was not my son's regular physician, but I called to ask if he could step in and try to help.

It was mid-morning when I called, and I was told there wasn't time because Dr. Gold was scheduled to leave in an hour or so for family vacation. I said I understood, but asked if the office could please give him the message.

He called back quickly. He told me to get my son there right away. Then he spent nearly two hours in examination, going over the kid like a detective hot on a case. He put John on a program involving medication and diet. Net result: In less than a week - after two months of problems - my son was in the pink of health and has stayed that way, now delivering emergency medical services himself as a Rockford Fire Department paramedic.

I HAVE NO DOUBT there are legions of patients, past and present, with similar tales about Dr. Gold going above and beyond when they needed his help and skills most. The man is a legend in Greater Beloit's medical history and now, fittingly, in the state of Wisconsin's medical history.

I've been among the lucky to call him "my" doctor.

But he's really Greater Beloit's doctor. And we're all lucky.

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