Mark Hayward's City Matters: Doctor finds rewards treating the poor
A crowded emergency room?
An aspirin when the pain is slight, whiskey when it hurts more, a street-corner transaction when it's unbearable?
That's what some 1,300 patients of Dr. Gavin Muir can count on. A family practitioner and the medical director of the Manchester Community Health Center, Muir was named family physician of the year last month by his colleagues.
"I never (treated) the worried-well Caucasian population," said Muir, 43. He works at a clinic where seven physicians handle a caseload of 10,000 patients. About half their patients require an interpreter to talk to their doctor.
They deliver babies of women scarred by the brutal custom of female circumcision. They have to convince patients not to rely solely on home remedies. They see patients who give priority to the grocery bill over expensive medication.
Yaritza Monis Vega brought her 2-year-old in for a checkup to Muir last week. "He respects his patients a lot," said Vega, who paid $15 for the visit.
Igbal Mohamed, a physician assistant who shares a tiny office with Muir and two other providers, said she followed him as a student and returned to Manchester just because of him.
Muir earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his medical degree from Temple University. He did his residency in southern Colorado, where he obviously picked up some Western state influences.
"He's just more laid back, really laid back," said his medical assistant, Cindy Hamel. "Nothing really bothers him."
But he has his busy schedule. His day is booked with back-to-back, 20-minute examinations. And the schedule can be thrown out of whack when Mohamed asks for help to treat a boil or Hamel schedules three diabetic patients — notoriously complicated cases for a physician — in a row, something akin to finals week for a high school senior.
Five years ago, the clinic moved to a refurbished mill on Hollis Street. Its white walls and clean tile floors make it look modern.
But the hallways are small, and Muir's office would be mid-manager size, if he didn't have to share it with three others. (He would marvel at the luxury of my 25 square feet of desk and chair space.)
As for Obamacare, Muir's biggest worry is there won't be enough physicians or nurses available to treat the influx of patients.
He came to Manchester for three reasons, he said. The government paid off 80 percent of his college loan because the job involved serving the poor. The White Mountains are nearby. And unlike other medical practices, the Manchester clinic eschews the use of specialists to deliver babies.
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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