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Horn leaves to establish practice in Florida

June 26, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN - Not a single patient called to cancel their appointment with Dr. Arthur H. Horn on June 1.

During the week before that, in fact, the situation was much the same. And the week before.

"It's been hectic. We've been seeing like 60 patients a day. Nobody cancels, nobody doesn't show up because they want to see him. They want to say goodbye," said Horn's office manager, Sue Jordan. "They want to have that closure with him."

Horn, who came to Washington County in 1984 to help Washington County Hospital develop a pain management program, began conducting exit visits with his patients about two months ago and shut down his Hagerstown pain management and treatment practice in early June.

It was not the intensifying medical malpractice problem that prompted the decision, nor was it the rising costs of operating a practice in Maryland, nor the diminished reimbursements from insurance companies and Medicare. Horn, who served nine years as an assistant medical examiner, closed his practice here because of his wife.


"My wife has said that she's been on my carousel for 20 years now and it's time for me to get on her carousel," said Horn, who agreed to move with his wife, Shelly, and teenage children from their Frederick, Md., home to Satellite Beach, Fla., where he will set up a smaller, beachfront practice.

An interesting path

Horn, 51, took an interesting path to Washington County, one that started with the degree he earned in cinematography from Brooklyn College. After graduation, Horn worked on video productions, including a Rolling Stones video and "Don Kirshner's Rock Concerts."

"It was all a lot of fun," Horn said. "It was absolutely a dream come true."

While he enjoyed the production business, Horn abandoned it in the late 1970s because, following Panavision's introduction of a new viewfinder technology in its cameras, he felt the business had passed him by. So, he enrolled in the school of medicine at St. George's University in Grenada, graduating in 1984. After interning at medical centers in Kansas City and Brooklyn, Horn was invited by Washington County Hospital to help start up the hospital's pain management program.

Horn served in that capacity for only a short time, however, discovering through it that instead of helping to train other doctors, he wanted to work directly with patients suffering from chronic pain.

"I think treating pain is a very, very interesting aspect. Treating pain is a very nebulous thing," Horn said. "I look at chronic pain as very much an art."

Many of the patients who came to Horn over the years arrived at his door in considerable pain, nearly crippling in many cases. Most had sought treatment from other doctors and been on other medications that did little to alleviate their pain, he said.

Mark McKenzie of Frederick could hardly walk upright following a back injury when he walked into Horn's office.

"I had a bad disc in my back and the medication I was using for it wasn't doing anything," McKenzie said. "I was in terrible shape. I couldn't hardly get up out of bed in the morning until I came to see Dr. Horn."

McKenzie said he has not ruled out moving to Florida to retain Horn's services because of the difficulty he has encountered trying to find another doctor he can trust.

"I can't replace him. It's really tearing me up," McKenzie said. "Everything he's ever said to me has been truthful. He's honest."

Attention to his patients

As doctors seek to meet with as many patients in a day as possible, driven by the lowered reimbursements they receive for treating those in their care, many of Horn's patients said he tended to be more giving of his time and more attentive to their concerns than is the norm.

"He's great with the patients. They look for somebody that's going to listen to them, and that's what Dr. Horn does," Jordan said. "He's very good to work for, very laid back, not pushy. He never yells. I've been here 51/2 years and I've never heard him yell. I'm going to miss him. It's going to be a hard transition."

On his second-to-last day on the job, Horn spent the day meeting with patient after patient, offering them progress reports on their treatment over the years, inquiring about their efforts to find other doctors and issuing referral notes dictated into a microcassette recorder while pacing in three-step rotations in the small observation rooms in his Virginia Avenue office building.

In each of the visits, Horn seemed to offer his patients all of the attention he had, setting aside all those he'd had earlier in the day and all those in other observation rooms waiting.

"You certainly can come down to Florida, but you have to bring a bathing suit," Horn said to one of his patients who was lamenting his departure.

Then, as the visit drew to a close, the woman uneasily offered up a handshake and prepared to leave.

"Hold it, you're not getting off that easy," he said, hugging the woman and offering his assurances. "You're going to be OK."

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