Caring for patients and community for over 40 years: Reflecting on four decades of family practice

Serving Jerauld Co. Since 1978, Dr. Tom Dean retires 

Sorting through forty years of files, health care provider notes and odds and ends that tend to collect in an office over the course of four decades of family practice, Dr. Tom Dean took a moment to contemplate the rewards, challenges and changes in his field of medicine.   

“Family practice is so rewarding, developing the long term relationship with patients gives you the ability — I think, I hope — to make better clinical decisions if you know the individual well,” Dr. Dean reflected. “Medicine now has become so complex and more fragmented. It’s my big frustration. You can’t treat human beings like parts of a car. Like my friend, the late Dr. Rick Holm would say, ‘Nobody knows the patient’s story.’”

Dean explains that patient care is at its prime when it is coordinated.

“But often it’s not. Practicing right now is as hard as it’s ever been,” said Dr. Dean. “We have an incredibly complicated medical system and requirements and justifications in order to get paid.”

At 76-years-old, Dr. Dean said he has been thinking about retirement for quite a while. 

“I’m well past the usual time of retirement. My memory isn’t as good as it was 20 years ago,” he laughed. “My clinic schedule hasn’t been too overwhelming though and I haven’t had night call for the last several years. People who haven’t done call don’t understand how stressful it can be. I never got used to it.” 

In what he calls a “gradual conclusion,” his August 1 retirement was chosen with intention and purpose. 

“I started on August 1, 1978 and I chose August 1 to retire,” he explained. 

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