Jack Strayer: The iron men of medicine are all gonePublished 8:57am Thursday, October 10, 2013
By Jack Strayer
If I had chosen a career as a medical doctor when I was young, I would have been the third “Dr. Strayer” in the Niles-Buchanan area. My father, Dr. John W. Strayer, was a surgeon at Niles’ Pawating Hospital for more than 50 years. My grandfather, Dr. John C. Strayer, was the original country doctor in Buchanan and delivered nearly every baby born between 1910 and 1951, including me!
In 1965, when Medicare was created, my father advised me not to become a physician because I would eventually become “nothing but a federal government employee.” Back in the day, doctors enjoyed being their own bosses, with little government intrusion into their practices. They even listed their home phone numbers!
A prominent local physician recently told me that doctors like my father, who practiced medicine between the end of World War II and the 1980s, are now referred to as “the Iron Men of Medicine” because they worked so hard 24 hours a day. My father made house calls almost daily, checking in on his patients upon whom he had recently performed surgery. Frequently, I would go with him and sit in the car while he went inside a patient’s home, making sure they were comfortable and on the mend. He made “rounds” every night at the hospital to check on his post-op patients, or to give encouragement to those who were about to “go under the knife” the following morning.
Doctors don’t make house calls anymore. They also do not publish their home phone numbers. It is not that doctors choose to work a 9-5 job, but they are now employees of health care systems, tightly regulated by the federal government and the insurance industry. Because of insurance regulations and hospital policies, they are not allowed to make house calls and can only receive phone calls through a health care system message center.
Next week, the Affordable Care Act will kick in and several new layers of health regulations will become enforceable, and American medicine will be once again changed forever. Today’s doctors and their patients will serve and be served under a new set of rules and regulations, enforced by federal government employees and insurance bureaucrats. And many of today’s physicians will advise their children not to become doctors, lest they become nothing but federal employees.
My father passed away in 2006 at the age of 91. He died a proud, happy, successful and accomplished man. I am sure he considers himself blessed not to be around for the changes that the Affordable Care Act is making in the American health care system.
A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)