Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 2, 2019
Family doc hangs up stethoscope
I was happy when our family doctor announced he was retiring, knowing he could spend more time with his family and pursue activities
that his practice wouldn’t allow.
But I was also sad. Dr. Doug Hinkin has taken care of three generations of our family - my parents, husband Art (sort of), me, and daughters Mariya and Katie.
I say “sort of” for Art because he has never been one to have routine examinations. One time, Doug asked him: “Well, are you going to do something about your high cholesterol or wait for the first heart attack?” Art replied he’d wait for the heart attack. Doug was shocked until Art explained that neither his parents nor grandparents had heart problems and lived long. When Doug thought Art might have asthma, he asked Art to blow into a spirometer to check his lung strength. Art did and blew the top off. Doug frowned and said, “You broke the damned thing ... but you certainly do not have asthma!”
We trusted Doug, and we respected his advice, even if we didn’t follow every suggestion. And he respected us and the decisions we made.
When the girls were little, he did their check-ups and vaccinations. When they were in junior high, he did their required sports physicals. And as they got older, he continued to take an interest in their welfare.
In 1997, when I had a life-threatening auto-immune disorder, he was visibly shaken when Art half-dragged, half-carried me into the emergency room, unable to walk on my own.
“That was one of the more dramatic moments of my career,” Doug said.
I recovered after three months of hospital care and rehabilitation. After, Doug would often explain my situation to medical students who were doing their family practice rotation with him.
When Mom and Dad moved to Manhattan in 2000, I asked Doug if he would take them on as patients. He graciously agreed, and he was always honest and respectful with them. When Dad was in declining health, Doug had a candid discussion with him about how the treatments he was receiving would eventually stop being effective. We and Dad opted for hospice care, and he died two months later at home.
Mom’s health improved dramatically when Doug took her off almost half the medications her previous doctors had prescribed. Severe arthritis left her fingers and toes malformed and painful. When she couldn’t zip her dress, Doug referred her to a specialist who provided great relief. Doug also guided her through first breast cancer, and then lung cancer.
In late fall 2015, Mom went into heart failure. Doug was up-front with her about it. On her last visit, she knew the time was short, and startled him by shaking his hand and thanking him for having been such a good doctor.
After she died, I sent Doug a letter:
... I wasn’t quite sure how to express how thankful we are for your loving, compassionate care of Mom and the rest of our family over
all these years. It’s been so nice to have a family doctor who has known three generations of our family.
... And you’ve even become acquainted with Stan, that guy who lit up Mom’s life, but who could be curmudgeonly when things didn’t go exactly as he thought they should!
Stan told me that one time when he was with Mom at an appointment with you, she was lamenting about her “ugly” hands. He said you took them gently in yours and told the nurses to look at what beautiful hands they were ...
Thank you for your gentleness - and honesty - when it came time to talk to Mom and us about her heart condition. Although it wasn’t easy to hear, it made us more aware of how precious each day was ...
Sister Gaila saw Doug at least once a year. She and her family live in Bolivia, but Gaila always made a point of making summer appointments with him. Recently, she wrote:
... Every summer, I would go to him to get a yearly physical, and last summer he told me that I hadn’t changed a bit since the first
time he saw me. That made me happy ...
It always felt like he talked with me a long time - asking about my life and life in Bolivia. I never felt rushed. And he was very specific with how I could help myself and keep in good health. He always seemed interested and could remember from year to year.
Early this summer, Doug sent an email to his patients informing us of his decision to retire:
It is with mixed emotions that I tell you that I will be retiring from my medical practice August 1st. For nearly 35 years it has been my extreme privilege to be a family physician in Manhattan. I have known many of you my entire career and for some of you I have had the honor of caring for three and sometimes four generations of your family. Many of you have shared your deepest fears and serious medical problems with me and sometimes we have had great outcomes and other times not the ones we wanted. We have had some great joys with healthy children that have grown into great young adults and some others that have struggled with challenges God gave them. We’ve worked through your anxieties and depression, cancers, heart attacks, struggles to walk, remember and sometimes even to breathe. I have been with many of you when you have lost a loved one, and that has always been a most special privilege. I hope we have done a good job for you and know that I will have many, many fond memories of the years I have been lucky enough to be your doctor.
Doug, we have been lucky to have had you as our doctor!
Now, hang up that stethoscope and go play golf!
Doctor Doug with Mariya, left, Katie, middle, and Gloria.