(Photo by Dan Whitney.)
April 1 will mark a day of transition for many Cherokee County residents, and that's no fooling!
The previous day, March 31, will mark the end of a 40-year general family medical practice here in town, as Thomas Gary, M.D. closes his West Bluff Medical Associates practice and retires from active practice of his profession.
Dr. Gary is a native of Denison and graduated from Denison High School in 1954. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1957, and then entered medical school there in Iowa City as well. He finished medical school in 1961, then spent five years in public health service, practicing in Detroit and San Francisco. He says he considered the speciality of neurosurgery at one time when he was in medical school, but after doing a rotation in neurosurgery and one in family practice, decided he was more suited for family practice.
Dr. Gary came to Cherokee in 1966, joining the general family practice of Dr. James Blair. When Dr. Blair died in 1969, he continued the practice on his own, and has been in the office on West Bluff Street since it was built. Gary says he has been really glad he chose family practice, and particularly has enjoyed the personal contact with his patients and their families. There are some families for whom he has been the family doctor for four generations, and he said that if he had chosen to continue his practice for a couple of more years, he would have some families going into the fifth generation!
Dr. Gary said he has really appreciated the wonderful support he has received from his patients and the community of Cherokee over the last 40 years, and says he "never would have been able to practice this long without the excellent office staff, the local physicians, and the professional staff (nurses, x-ray and lab technicians, hospice workers, clerical and aides) at the Cherokee Regional Medical Center."
Brenda DeRoo, ARNP, has been working with Dr. Gary for 23 years, and most of his staff of six have also been with the practice for many years. DeRoo will be joining Dr. Patricia Harrison's staff on April 3. All of Dr. Gary's patient files will be going to Dr. Harrison's office as well, and Dr. Gary is encouraging everyone to continue seeing DeRoo if they so choose.
When asked what his plans for retirement were, Dr. Gary responded simply, "to have fun." He then quickly stated that he didn't mean to imply that he hadn't had any fun for the last 40 years.
Dr. Gary has many outside interests, most of which involve the outdoors. Bicycling, hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and piloting his plane are among these interests, and he hopes to do some "fly-biking" in the future. He explained this involves putting his bike into the plane and flying to a town which has biking trails, which he will then use after touch-down.
In addition to all of these activities, Dr. Gary says he and his wife Lee, to whom he has been married since 1960, will be doing some traveling "to places we've never been", as well as visiting their children and grandchildren. He and Lee, a retired Registered Nurse who was employed at the former Sioux Valley Hospital for many years, have three grown children. The oldest, Steven, lives in Sacramento, California, and their two other children, Dawn and Mark , both live in Omaha. Dawn has continued in the "family business", working as a pediatrician.
Dr. Gary plans to take at least a three-month sabbatical from practicing medicine, then will "keep his options open." He says he might be interested in doing some temporary fill-in work for physicians who are on vacation or who, for some other reason, have to be away from their practice for a period of time. He might also take a look at providing acute care services. He has not, however, made any firm decisions at this time about any of these possible "next chapters" in his medical career.
Six years ago, Dr. Gary bought a home in Yankton, S.D., and has spent a lot of his free time there. He plans to maintain his residences in both Cherokee and Yankton. He said he hopes to become more involved in the community of Cherokee than he has been able to, and hopes that he can play a part in developing some more biking trails in the area. He also said that Red Tail park, five miles south of Cherokee, is one of his favorite places, and he hopes he can be involved in a project to construct a bridge over the creek that runs through the park.
Dr. Gary will be sending a letter out soon to all of his patients, and there are also plans for an Open House at the Cherokee Community Center on Sunday March 26 , beginning at 1 p.m. All of Dr. Gary's current and former patients are cordially invited to attend, as are all other area residents.