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Retirement will not keep this doctor away

May 19, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Dr. George Way meets patients on the street all the time but often can't quite recall their names.

"What I do remember is the face and what was wrong with them," Way said as he looked back over more than 13 years of practicing medicine with the Johns Hopkins Health Plan office in Hagerstown.

Now known as Hager Park Health Center, the office is at 324 E. Antietam St. Other physicians who joined Way in the practice over the years will continue to see patients.

Way, 74, officially retired May 1, but has little doubt that medicine will continue to play a role in his life.

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"I took the training to become a hospice volunteer," Way said. "And I'm not sure yet, but the Community Free Clinic could be a possibility."

Missing the practice of medicine is a factor in his plans to stay active but the overriding impetus is keeping in contact with people.

A native of Nazareth, Pa., Way did his undergraduate studies at Penn State and his medical training at Hahnemann University. He was an intern in Bethlehem, Pa., then spent two years in the U.S. Navy.

After an 18-year stint in private practice in Hellertown, Pa., Way went into corporate medicine with Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown, Pa., in Indiana and in Sparrows Point, Md.

"Too many meetings ... not enough patient care, and that's what I like," Way said. So he connected with The Johns Hopkins University Hospital, working in urgent care in Baltimore from 1985-89 at the East Baltimore Medical Center.

It was in 1989 that Way, then 60, came to Hagerstown when Johns Hopkins opened a health maintenance organization here and began accepting patients.

Thus began a satisfying and pleasant working experience for Way, who continued to practice full-time medicine well beyond the years when many are anxious to retire.

"I love the people but my knees are aching," Way said. "I enjoy and admire my staff - they are a great bunch of people."

Kathy Barber serves as administrator of the Hager Park Health Center. She came a year after Way arrived.

"He's always bringing treats to us," Barber said, noting the box of doughnuts on the table.

"And I still will," Way chimed in.

Way and his wife, Nila, have four children and 13 grandchildren.

"One more grandchild is on the way," he said. "We like to travel - and we will, since our children are in Pennsylvania and New York."

On May 2, Way was lured out to Nick's Airport Inn for what he thought was going to be a quiet dinner. Instead, he found about 40 friends and co-workers waiting to throw him a bash.

"It was great. We auctioned off his old lab coat, his Penn State jacket and those blue tennis shoes he always wore," Barber said.

Way smiled and confessed he later got those tennis shoes - his favorites - back after the party was over.

The rest of the Hager Park staff includes Connie Hose, Chrisie Long, Terry Gross, Lynne McCarthy, Karen Compher, Jennifer Mekosh, Rachel Stephenson, Debbie Reeder, Katherine Cauffman, Tanya Churchey, Joyce Tarner, Donna Luft, Elizabeth Brant and Terri Beckley.

The medical staff includes Drs. Wing Tam, Guoping Xu, Radu Theodoru, Steven Blash and nurse practitioner Brenda Vitucci.

"We've had people call in for an appointment and were told Dr. Way wouldn't be in," Long said. "They would often say they'd wait for him."

She said he'd come into the office on weekends to check his charts and make phone calls to patients.

"He has called me on his way to Myrtle Beach (S.C.) to say a patient could probably benefit from a certain test and have me arrange it," Long said. "Then he would then call back to check on the results."

Someone once asked Way what diseases he specialized in as a physician.

"I told that person, I don't ... I specialize in people," Way said.

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