Often, people find Dubois to be exactly the right place. Less often, exactly the right people find Dubois.
The person at left is my primary care doctor, Tracy Baum. She’s not your typical doctor. Okay, in fact she’s not actually a doctor at all. But at least for me, and evidently for many of us in Dubois, she’s an even better option than the alternatives.
Tracy and her husband Marty (below, right) came to Dubois recently from a part of Alaska that’s even more remote than we are. As a board-certified nurse practitioner, Tracy was the family “doctor” out there, providing all kinds of primary care for people who live in places where there aren’t any highways at all. (At least Dubois has one.)
Marty has a plane and flies it, so the lifestyle worked.
Tracy and Marty loved Alaska, but they wanted to live closer to their children and grandchildren in the lower 48. So, like many others who eventually end up in Dubois, they embarked on a careful research project to find the right location for a couple with their particular life requirements to settle permanently. Lucky us.
Marty, who is a furniture builder by trade, has spent the past year converting a former bait and tackle shop to the Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic. Tracy took a part-time job at the Dubois Medical Clinic, while privately in her clinic offering her skills in integrative medicine, which her website describes as “looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.”
There’s the waiting room, at left. Maybe you can see how proficient Marty is at his own line of business, which had to take a break during the renovation process.
“Integrative medicine” may sound a bit flaky, but it began to make sense to me. This is something you simply can’t offer in an ordinary medical clinic.
Growing toward retirement age, I began to see different kinds of traditional doctors and physical therapists for my minor and ordinary health problems. All of them had different advice, and it was often conflicting and contradictory.
My first consultation with Tracy, which lasted about an hour, may have dug deeper into my pocket more than the hasty chats I can get for a cheap copay. But as a retired medical editor well familiar with reading clinical studies, I recognized quickly that Tracy knows a lot about a lot.
Putting all the pieces together carefully with her considerable knowledge on many medical fronts, she was able to create a picture that made a great deal of sense to me.
One day last spring I heard that that, in a shift of ownership at the main medical clinic, Tracy had been laid off. I quickly sent a text of condolence.
“I couldn’t be happier!” she texted back. “Now I can open full-time.”
And so she has. The clinic now accepts most kinds of medical insurance, offers a wide range of clinical testing and some medications (but not narcotics) as well as all kinds of basic primary care.
In a pinch, if a problem arises with plan #1, she can even deliver a baby.
“As a family nurse practitioner, my training does not include deliveries,” she told me. “But I spent considerable time with a family practice doctor who was aware of my plan to practice in remote areas. Her philosophy was, if you’re out in the boonies, at some point you will need to know how to catch a baby. And she was right – it has happened.”
That’s encouraging, yes. But what clearly excites Tracy is that she can now begin to lay the plans for telemedicine, online consultations with experts elsewhere in the country.
Of course! In our small town, distant from major medical centers, with our incomparably good Internet service, our very smart and forward-thinking family “doctor” should be able consult with some of the best specialists in the country via teleconference and interactive online image sharing.
Medicare has just changed the rules to encourage this innovative kind of medical practice for people with chronic conditions, and where the government goes private insurers often follow. Dubois is just the kind of rural area the new rules were created to serve, and yes, nurse practitioners do qualify.
Just beyond the back door at the clinic is Marty’s large workshop (shown at right). Alas, the woodworking business has continued to languish while he had to step in as business manager and temporary receptionist at Tracy’s end of this remarkable Mom and Pop shop.
Which will come first at the back end of the building: The sound of saws and hammers (beyond the door, at last), or the chirp and whirr of new electronic equipment on the clinic side?
© Lois Wingerson, 2015
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