McDougal remembered as 'completely full of love'

May 10, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

o Obituary

o McDougal named 2009 Person of the Year

WILLIAMSPORT -- Dr. Dan McDougal, former medical director at Antietam Health Services and the Community Free Clinic of Washington County, died Monday of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, cutting short his impassioned work to ensure health care for all, said his wife, Penny McDougal.

He was 64.

At the free clinic, McDougal volunteered his time to care for patients without health insurance and recruited many other providers to do the same.

He was known for fighting against unfair practices by insurance companies on behalf of patients and physicians, and advocating for health care reform that would put the emphasis back on primary care.


McDougal was The Herald-Mail's 2009 Person of the Year and the recipient of a 2009 People's Choice Award from the Community Foundation of Washington County.

Penny McDougal said her husband's work ended "way too soon" and called on others to honor his life by helping finish the work he started.

"I have to say he was an exceptional person and maybe there's no one who can do it all the way he did, but maybe everyone can pick up a part," she said.

McDougal was diagnosed in February 2009 with ALS, an incurable, fatal neuromuscular disease that weakened his body and eventually forced him to leave Antietam Health Services and the free clinic. However, he continued to advise clinic staff and started an endowment fund to help fund the clinic in perpetuity.

In his final weeks, he was cared for at home by his wife and their daughter, Amy Hutchens, with support from Hospice of Washington County, Penny McDougal said.

"We were able to be with him until his very last breath, hold him and be there with him," she said.

Hutchens said she admired her father for speaking the truth even when people didn't want to hear it.

"He always did the right thing with conviction, even if it wasn't the easy thing," she said.

Michael S. Zampelli, Washington County Health System vice president for Antietam Health Services, said McDougal was an "incredible influence" in his life.

"Dan and I worked together for over 12 years, and what I remember most about those 12 years was that Dan was a relentless advocate for getting the right thing done for patients and for physicians," Zampelli said.

McDougal's level of diligence and effect on the community would be "an incredibly difficult challenge" to replace, he said.

"When he saw something that wasn't right, he'd do anything to fix it," Penny McDougal said. "He wouldn't be told that it couldn't be done."

In an interview in December, McDougal said two of his proudest accomplishments were getting insurance companies to comply with a Maryland law that requires mental ailments to receive the same coverage as physical ones, and getting insurance companies to cover medical-imaging tests without the "mother may I" game of getting individual approvals from the insurance company.

"I was taught at (Johns) Hopkins how to take care of people, how to practice medicine properly, and I've never let go of that, but in fact, I've lashed back at insurance companies and administrators who try to compromise care," McDougal said in December.

Hutchens said her father passed no judgment on his patients and cared for each one the way he would want to be treated.

A former U.S. Air Force addiction specialist, McDougal helped addicts come to see their addictions as a disease and fought against the perception that addicts aren't deserving of consideration or care, Penny McDougal said.

McDougal was a loving and dedicated husband and father, Hutchens said. He also is survived by a son, Colin McDougal.

"He was a person, more than anybody I think I've ever known, who was just completely full of love," Hutchens said. "He loved my mom ... he loved me ... he loved boating ... he loved his patients, his co-workers. It's just a lot of love to disappear from the planet at once."

Family members ask that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Washington County Free Clinic Endowment Fund at 249 Mill St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

A memorial service will be May 22 at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Congregation of Frederick, family friend Roberta Nevitt said.

If you go ...

What: Memorial service for Dr. Dan McDougal

When: May 22, 2 p.m.

Where: Unitarian Congregation of Frederick, 4880 Elmer Derr Road, Frederick, Md.

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