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Tribute to doctor playful, tearful

October 10, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Dozens of friends, family members and colleagues filled the Hager Hall Conference & Event Center in Hagerstown Saturday night for a tribute to Dr. Dan H. McDougal, medical director of Antietam Health Services and a volunteer physician at the Community Free Clinic of Washington County.

After years of patient advocacy and dedication to seeking care for those least able to obtain it for themselves, McDougal has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease, an incurable, fatal neuromuscular disease, Community Free Clinic Executive Director Robin Roberson said.

He was honored Saturday night with tributes from elected officials, co-workers, friends and family that were at times playful and at others tearful.

The event raised $48,845 for an endowment fund McDougal established for the Community Free Clinic.

Roberson teased McDougal, affectionately known to clinic staff as "Dan the Man," for his characteristic e-mails written in all lower case with no periods and his habit of discarding sticky notes in drawers instead of in the trash. Antietam Health Services Chief Operating Officer Mike Zampelli joked about McDougal's use of gingerbread man-shaped paper clips and unease with "administrative speech." And both said they had learned and grown both personally and professionally from knowing McDougal.

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Roberson called him "an amazing physician who has gone above and beyond to make good things happen at the Community Free Clinic" and "one of the kindest, most genuine people that I will ever cross paths with in my lifetime."

She said McDougal had personally recruited many of the free clinic's volunteer providers, put in extra hours to meet patients' needs and often treated the clinic staff to dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. He once purchased a gift card for a stranger with an elaborate holiday light display to thank them for the cheer it provided, Roberson said.

In his position at Antietam Health Services, McDougal worked tirelessly for the good of both physicians and patients, Zampelli said. He fought insurance-related hurdles, such as inappropriate denials, on behalf of patients with such zeal that one insurance company posted his name and photo on a bulletin board and forbid anyone in the company from talking to him, Zampelli said.

State Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore, a personal friend of McDougal's, presented him with a state seal medal, Senate and House of Delegates resolutions honoring him, and a proclamation from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley commending him on his "positive and lasting contributions" to the state and declaring Oct. 10, 2009, a special day of tribute to him.

In a recorded video played before McDougal addressed the audience himself, he encouraged people to contribute to the endowment fund established for the free clinic.

"I would say for anybody that wants to give back to their community, there is no finer place or happier place to do that than the free clinic," McDougal said. "Every dollar that we get goes straight to the patient, so this is, if you're going to give to a charity, this is one of the purest, most efficient ways that either your time or your money are given to the community."

A 5K run/walk to benefit the endowment is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. at the Williamsport High School cross country course. The event is $15 in advance or $20 the day of the event, and participants can register by calling the free clinic at 301-733-9234.

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