Marvin Menne was my family doctor from the time I was about ten (I tried to find a photo of the good doctor himself, but was unsuccessful–who knew that someone could be that far off the grid these days?) I was a tolerably healthy kid, but had the usual number of youthful ailments and necessary check-ups, so I suppose my medical involvement was pretty typical.
Dr. Menne’s office, as you can tell from this photo, was modest. A small waiting room in front, a receptionist/appointment setter behind the counter, a couple of examining rooms, and then an office and a room for more involved procedures, which I rarely saw the inside of, thank goodness. It was the office of a small-town GP, not far removed from the Norman Rockwell illustrations.
Dr. Menne had a vaguely mournful expression much of the time, the expression of someone who’s seen too many broken limbs and lives. But I recall that even as a child, he would square himself up to me, sit, and listen, until I had told him everything I had to say. Only then would he prompt me with further questions or continue with his examination.
In today’s overheated discussions of health care, we romanticize the small-town doctor, who made house calls, accepted chickens as payment, or what have you. Let’s remember that the modern health care system has resulted in a high level of care, far beyond what my small-town doctor was capable of, and overall health has been improving. Instead of a chicken, today’s poor rural patient brings a Medicaid card. But the necessity of caring remains, and I have a feeling that doctors like Marvin Menne can be found all over rural areas just as in my childhood. With the election of a doctor from Mountain Grove to the presidency of the American Medical Association, this is a year to think seriously about the state of health care in rural America. Here’s a hint: It’s not good.