Dr. Larry Price has seen an evolution in the practice of medicine during the past five-plus decades and decided now is the time to retire — before the Plumas Hospital District installs a new electronic health records system.
The 78-year-old physician “enjoys making house calls” and relishes time spent interacting with patients, not focusing on a computer screen.
“I like the eye-to-eye contact,” he said.
And since his graduation from medical school in 1966, he has seen a lot of patients. His favorite?
“Blue collar workers,” he said. “I like people who work hard and come in at the end of a long day.”
“Larry’s been able to develop relationships his patients,” said his wife Kathy. “ They have a history together; they make you a part of their life.”
Larry and Kathy are sitting at the kitchen table in their family home in Quincy, reminiscing about his career and their work together.
The couple, who have been married 45 years, met when Larry was 32 and she was 26. He was in private practice in Marin County and she was nurse studying to become a physician’s assistant.
It was 1974 and the couple wanted to relocate to an area with less crime and traffic. They had heard about a place in northeastern rural California where a nurse made the rounds in a Winnebago and they were intrigued.
Kathy was somewhat familiar with Plumas County from childhood trips to the PG&E campgrounds at Lake Almanor.
Initially, there weren’t any opportunities, but in 1975 they began practice in Quincy, in what is now the Plumas Rural Services building on Jackson Street.
In 1981 they built a new office (where the Quincy building is on the Plumas Hospital District campus).
It was a lot of work with long hours.
After four years, the Prices sold the practice and moved away when Larry accepted a teaching position at the University of Colorado at Denver. But Larry didn’t particularly like teaching or the city and the family missed Quincy.
They returned in 1989 and resumed their former practice. Larry worked fulltime and Kathy as much as she could while also caring for their three daughters.
Larry recalled that there was a lot of turnover in the medical community in those years. “Twenty-five docs left town in five years,” he said. “There was a lot of instability.”
That changed with the “Rural Health Clinic designation initiated by Jimmy Carter’s administration,” Larry said. “I had my own rural health clinic before I signed on with the hospital.”
Larry said the designation relieved the financial pressure. “The great advantage of a rural health clinic is it doesn’t matter if it’s MediCal or private pay. It makes no difference.”
Over the course of his practice Larry started off treating people when they were young, watched them grow into adulthood and took care of their children.
In 1995 Price became certified as an internist to better serve his patients as they aged. “Basically it’s a pediatrician for adults,” Price said of the designation that includes subspecialties of heart and cardiovascular diseases, geriatric medicine, rheumatology and much more.
In 2015 he renewed his certification as an internist because at that time he had no plans to retire. “Why would I retire? I love what I do,” he said during an interview at that time.
But his wife Kathy, who retired five years ago, had other ideas.
“Kathy has been talking about the ‘R’ word,” Larry said. A recent health scare coupled with the advent of the new electronic health records system proved to be the catalysts for change.
While not a fan of the evolution to electronic records, Larry said he could see the benefit if the district used a scribe while the doctor was interacting with the patient. That would free the doctor to focus entirely on the patient and actually enable him or her to see more patients. The scribe would enter the data and the doctor would review it.
But that’s for someone else to worry about. For now Larry is focused on projects around the house, travel and spending time with family.
Cuba and a trip to New England in the fall are high on the Prices’ list. The couple has already been to Germany where daughter Laurel lives. Daughter Jennifer lives in Berkeley and Hillary is in Genoa, Nevada, and there will be visits to those locations as well.
Larry was also elected to the board of Plumas Sierra Rural Electric, which he describes as “a very well run organization,” and he is pleased to have the opportunity to serve.
Additionally, Larry is a plane spotter for Flight Aware, an organization that tracks planes around the globe.
Even with all of these distractions, it’s clear that Larry will miss his patients. When one of them, who now must seek another physician, asked which other provider was most similar to his style, he said, “No one.”
And that’s true. A man with a lifetime spent practicing medicine and who likes to make house calls is unique.