The Country Doctor
'The Country Doctor': Selfless Devotion. LIFE magazine, September 20, 1948. Photographs by W. Eugene Smith.
I first met Dr. Estes when I lived in Iowa. It was 1958 and I was three years old. My parents had rushed me to our small town hospital late one night after I broke a toe. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap as a young man in a white lab jacket walked into the exam room. Dr. Estes was new in town, and no one really knew much about him. He sat down next to me, and we talked before he wrapped my injured toe in white medical tape. He had straight, jet-black hair and the deepest brown eyes I had ever seen. I don’t remember what he said, or everything that happened, I just remember his smile and gentle manner.
The years past, and Dr. Estes took care of our community. Whenever a child came to see Dr. Estes in his office, Millie, his office nurse, gave the patient cookies. When someone was too sick to come to the office, Dr. Estes made a house call. And if someone was too poor to pay for his services, Dr. Estes took produce or other services in lieu of payment. He took care of everyone regardless of their ability to pay.
When I graduated from high school, I decided to become a nurse. I never thought of nursing as a subservient profession because of Dr. Estes’ relationship with Millie. Yes, she passed out the cookies, but she did a lot more than that. Millie and Dr. Estes worked as partners. Millie had been a nurse a long time, longer than he had been a doctor, and Dr. Estes admired Millie's wisdom and intelligence. He always treated Millie with the utmost respect.
I remember everything Dr. Estes and Millie did for me when I was growing up, and I wanted to do the same for others. I wonder how many other people they inspired to become doctors and nurses.