Why the Best Doctor for Dubois is a Geek

Often, people find Dubois to be exactly the right place. Less often, exactly the right people find Dubois.

Tracy Baum
Tracy Baum, nurse practitioner

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.

Marty Baum

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.”

Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic waiting room.

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.

Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic examination room

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.”

Future telemedicine center

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.

TracyStoreRoomMedicare 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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Sellouts Amid Vacancies: Autumn in Dubois

Leaves drop from aspens. Motels are vacant. Does Dubois go quiet? All is not as it may seem ….

DomekHere’s the center’s new director, Sara Domek, clearly delighted by the success of the event.

Dubois has one of the largest year-round populations of these rare sheep, she told me. The Bighorn Sheep Center, which supports research and education into the bighorn sheep, is one of the town’s main attractions for visitors.

Sara told me that events like this bring in about a fifth of the center’s funding. The rest comes from foundations.

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© Lois Wingerson 2015

The Great American West in Your Vest Pocket

How many times I have longed to get away on vacation! But leaving Dubois this year only makes me appreciate it all the more.

cactusesHow well I remember all those vacations before I retired, when I longed for a chance to get away. How odd to get away this year, and find I spent so much time longing to get back.

During our trip to the prickly, alien world of southern Arizona, I began to understand why many of us who first come to Dubois to get away find it so difficult to stay away once we have left. Visiting the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, all I wanted was to return to that softer high-mountain desert back home up north, made so much gentler by the sight and smell of sagebrush and the waves of grass.

But it wasn’t merely that I missed the familiar landscape. There’s much more to it than that.

I learned what it looks like around Phoenix and Tucson. We drove through many beautiful mountain passes, and I saw the actual OK Corral in Tombstone. It was okay.

Butch Cassidy: mug shot from Laramie State Prison. The ranch he must have been missing during his only prison term was right here in Dubois.

So many others, like us, were also out there, covering vast amounts of territory to satisfy their curiosity about the real West. They could have seen it so much more simply and quickly, within a few hundred square miles, by just going to Dubois. (Why aren’t we pointing this out to people?)

Think about it: All the eras of Western geology. Dinosaurs nearby in Thermopolis. Native American prehistory in the mountains all around. Then the history: Mountain men, cowboys, and our very own famous outlaw, Butch Cassidy. Railroads? The ties were hewn right here. A great restored ghost town and working (though failed) gold mine, just around the corner in South Pass City. Not to mention the greatest American National Park, a long day trip but really so close.

As to the landscape, we traveled over many days to tour Arizona, and here’s what we found:

Painted Desert. Luckily, because there is so little vegetation here (I’m guessing), our dog was actually allowed on the path, unlike so many other National Parks. But we aren’t allowed off the path.

Painted Desert: Yes, you can see it from your car in the Petrified Forest National Park, or hike overland deep into the adjoining Arizona back country to explore it (no highways nearby). But there’s nothing like actually scrambling up these multicolored slopes and exploring the rambling draws. I do it all the time, close to home.

Our own painted desert in Dubois, just one small part of it. There are many places around town where you can hike these fabulous badlands and see the formations up close.

“This should be a state park or something,” said a neighbor on one such hike. Lucky for us, most of it isn’t anything official. It’s just delightful.

Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Petrified Forest National Park. You might get this good a view with a great set of binoculars.
Petroglyphs Dubois WY
Petroglyphs in a valley near Dubois, about a half-hour drive from the middle of town.

At the end of a short paved path, using a telescope provided by the Park Service and looking down and to the right, in good light you can catch a glimpse of the petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock in the Petrified Forest National Park.

In Dubois, tourists can contact the local museum for a guided tour to see our many local petroglyphs, right up close. I think ours look better, but then I could actually see those.

Undoubtedly I’ll keep traveling. But if I long to keep learning about the true West, I know exactly where to go (or stay).

Unless I suddenly develop a passion to be surrounded by cactus.

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© Lois Wingerson 2015