Remember Marcus Welby, M.D.?
If you do, then you likely are of a “certain age.” I’m of that certain age as well and remember quite vividly watching the TV show Marcus Welby, MD, from 1969-76. Welby was the kindly doctor who would go out of his way to care for his patients in ways not routinely taught in medical school; and always, Dr. Welby routinely made house calls.
Marcus Welby was fictional, a popular, folksy, always-smiling chap portrayed by established actor Robert Young, he of “Father Knows Best” fame. Having earned his chops on the aforementioned series, people already loved him and trusted him because he always “knew best,” a perfect persona for a doctor. His fictional character of Jim Anderson always knew what was right and fair and how to solve difficult problems, so when he donned the white coat of Dr. Welby, bringing with him a self-assured presence, gentleness, and the ability to solve anything, he already had it made. The show was a resounding success for seven seasons, shooting to the No. 1 position in the Nielsen Ratings, and Young was an instant hit as well.
My pediatrician was Dr. Baime, a tall, dark-haired man with thick eyebrows behind even thicker glasses, yet with a gentle manner toward kids. If you were really sick, Dr. Baime always came to the house, black leather bag in hand. When he opened the latch, it would immediately unfold into three sections of strange-looking tools, ominous bottles, and lots of gauze, wraps, and one big stethoscope. As he checked my heartbeat I would look with childish trepidation into that black bag just knowing one of those sections contained the needles, although I couldn’t see them. It never mattered what it was that was wrong with me, but whatever kind of virus or disease or bug it might have been, it always seemed to require an injection.
On TV you never saw Dr. Welby give anyone a shot, he was too busy smiling, doling out advice, and sitting on the edge of the bed chatting with both patient and caregivers. Although a mere dinosaur in today’s medical world, house calls were the way doctors tended to the sick and injured starting in the 1930s when it was difficult for people to travel even a few miles due to a lack of transportation and few doctors.
Dr. Baime’s house calls were always made in the evening after he had finished his office hours. I never realized back then how tired he must have been by the time he got to our house at 7 or 8 p.m., but he never showed it and never complained. His focus was solely on the patient at hand, diagnosing what was wrong and doing whatever he could to alleviate pain and suffering.
Unfortunately for me, Dr. Baime always felt a good, old-fashioned shot of penicillin would do the trick, and as he sterilized his needle and prepared to alleviate my pain and suffering by causing more, he would give that gentle smile and in a quiet, low voice say, “Roll over.” Dr. Baime also said what every doctor always said to a child in those days, usually just before the needle pierced the skin, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” Wanna bet?
They also said then, and medical personnel still say today before drawing blood or sticking a bicep with a needle, “Just a little pinch.” Must be something they learn in medical school, because they all say it. “Just a little pinch.” It’s not a little pinch, it’s someone putting a needle into a vein, an arm, or buttock, and it’s usually a bit more than just a little pinch.
It’s been many years since Dr. Baime sat on my bed, taking time to talk with me, putting his ice-cold hand on my feverish forehead, smiling, and telling me I was going to be fine. And it’s been many years since Marcus Welby sat on the beds of hundreds of people, not always being able to deliver good news, but always able to deliver the tenets of his medical oath with great kindness and caring. In part, this oath says, “I will remember there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”
Just like Dr. Welby. Just like Dr. Baime.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 19 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.