A Country Doctor

Anyone who has spent any time in the Emergency Room at Framingham Union Hospital or Milford or Leonard Morse knows they were not there for the free water or TV. They are there because they or a loved one has a medical problem that can’t be remedied with two Alka-Seltzers or a Band-Aid. All these hospitals provide crucial urgent care and provide the best services available, but despite the bright colors and magazines in the waiting room they still feel cold and impersonal.

After filling out all the forms and establishing who is going to pay for this unplanned trip, the patient will see a Triage Nurse on an “urgency basis.” You know what that means: Patient “A” comes in with a broken nose, and you have a sore throat. Have a chair. You will be there for a while.

So what you ask? Everyone must deal with this from time to time. The “what” is: Times have changed. It wasn’t that long ago when all you had to do was call the local doctor, a country doctor for a lot of us, and he or she would squeeze you in between regularly scheduled patient appointments. Today’s visit is about one such doctor.

The year is 1946 and the country is looking forward to a new era. WWII is over, and the troops are returning to civilian life. Dr. Gain was the local doctor in Ashland for many years and he was retiring soon. There was only one physician in town and the need for a replacement was crucial. Fortunately for the town, Dr. Charles Morgan, a native of New England and a graduate of Kansas City University Medical School, returned and settled in Ashland. Dr. Morgan took over the practice and set up shop on Main St.

My memory of Dr. Morgan was that of a man more like your dad than a doctor. He always had his glasses half hanging off his head as he scanned the hand written records of you before an examination. Most procedures could be performed right in his office too. Blood work for testing was taken right there, along with simple casts and braces for broken fingers and sprains. He was also the doctor for the schools which meant there were a lot of athletes in and out of the office. I would be in the waiting room and could hear him admonishing the boys for doing stupid things on the ball field, but always with a smile and a pat on the back before they left.

Dr. Morgan limited his practice to Ashland. In an interview with The South Middlesex News in 1976, he said “you can’t spread yourself all over the country,” and he didn’t. He was on staff at Framingham Union Hospital, and served as a director for Bethany Hospital in Framingham, but his focus was primarily on Ashland. He was a true home town country doctor.

Time goes on as we all know, and that same year would also be his last. After 30 years of bandages and prescriptions, Dr. Morgan joined the Air Force as a flight surgeon with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He moved his “practice” to a MATS base in Charlestown, S.C.

I’m sure he lamented the move to some degree. He felt especially bad for the elderly who now needed to find a physician out of town. During the interview with Adam Couture from The South Middlesex News he cited a “four-fold jump in my malpractice insurance premiums last year” along with the rising consumerism movement as motivation for moving on. The insurance increase I understand, but the rising consumerism movement has me a bit baffled unless he saw the movement as driving the insurance companies to make him provide more for less. I always thought he was doing that already. Regarding the military, he said the armed forces “make an effort to provide a standard of living roughly equivalent” to that of their civilian counterparts. He went on to say the Fed pays malpractice insurance and a pension plan which he found attractive.

Today his office on Main Street is occupied by Doctors Pat and Dom Chira. The inside looks pretty much like it did when we visited Dr. Morgan, and the outside is nicely landscaped. If you listen while sitting in the waiting room you might still hear the laugh of Dr. Morgan giving Penny or Gail a hard time!

Sources: Adam Couture, The South Middlesex News

Special thanks to Jerry Bunker for material and pictures for this article.

Steve Leacu for Directions
September 2015