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Doc Baker lives on, and we're lucky to have him

Many of us enjoyed the television series “Little House on the Prairie” based on books written by Laura Ingalls. It was often a cute and entertaining chronicle of family life and tribulations in the Midwest during perhaps a simpler time.

One of my favorite characters was Doc Hiram Baker, played by Kevin Hagan — by the way, Kevin lived in Grants Pass until his passing.

He was portrayed as the family doc who made house calls in his black buggy, always available for a family emergency. He was a friend to the patients he served. He was not a rich man but was the figurehead of health care in the community.

Doc did not have access to treatments and cures provided by modern medicine. He basically got by with his book knowledge and tools in his black bag. I doubt if many small towns had a hospital back then. All this is very primitive by today’s standards. He was well portrayed as a man of compassion, integrity, service and honor.

Clearly, health care has morphed into a much more sophisticated animal. We are so fortunate to have access to treatments never dreamed of during Doc Baker’s days. The profession has been forced to make many changes. We now deal with urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, general office visits and a plethora of specialists commingled with hospital facilities. Often we find ourselves trying to navigate through this complex and confusing process.

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the boundaries of the health care system across our country and the world. Who could have imagined the catastrophic impact to our population and national economy? Certainly not me.

As of last week we were reporting over 1.5 million confirmed cases and 90,000 deaths. The economy languishes and will not begin to recover until it is safe for people to go back to work. This is unprecedented during our lifetimes. We hear reports of not enough testing, inadequate protective gear for our doctors, nurses and support teams, with too few ventilators to support critically ill patients. The challenges seem overwhelming, and yet there is a common denominator. Our health care professionals will sacrifice their own lives to protect the sick and vulnerable.

Perhaps technology and procedures have changed, but the people component has stayed the same. I can envision Doc Baker standing shoulder to shoulder with this new generation of professionals. Working extra hours in the emergency room and hospital corridors to care for the patients in need. Even though health care has become more complex, it is the caring people who drive the success of the medical outcomes.

We are so fortunate to be served by the next generation of dedicated health care professionals. “Little House on the Prairie” may be gone, but Doc Baker is alive and well in Jackson County and across our great country. We are all very fortunate to be served by this profoundly dedicated group of professionals.

Bill Haden lives in Medford.

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