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A Summer Thank You

It is officially summer in Boca Grande. It is definitely hot. Hopefully, it will rain most afternoons by 5 p.m. You can park downtown easily. You may even get a table in the front room at The Temp if you say “please.” It is also a time to take a free minute or two to reflect on the season and medicine. 

Nothing has been more saturating in medical thought over this year than the pandemic and COVID-19 infection. It is a relief to walk down the streets of Boca Grande, or go into its stores and restaurants and see few or no masks in view. Yes, we are still seeing new COVID-19 cases in the clinic. But, fortunately, those strange days (for all of us in different ways) of trying to change personal behavior without a change in human nature are in the rearview mirror. There will be more to say about judicious masking, vaccination choices, and treatment of the illness, but mandates and closures are likely a thing of the past. Thank you all for continuing to try so hard to do the right thing for yourselves and your neighbors during the last two years.

Recently the Boca Grande community said goodbye to Pete Nicholas. In the words of Charles Dickens, “He was as good a friend as the old town ever had.” He is missed by all who knew him and the community issues that benefited from his generosity and vision.

From a physician’s point of view, Peter was a pleasure to know. Not only was he a leader in the science of medical engineering, but also he really like medicine. Not many board members have found it pleasurable to show up in the Clinic, have a cup of mediocre coffee (doctors love free mediocre coffee), and ask what is new or interesting. He would challenge me with “What can we do better for the patients? He would ask us to put our thinking caps on.”

For me, Pete’s death was sad, but in some ways it was a message of where medicine is going. Pete built his career trying to find ways to repair that part of the body that was damaged. Boston Scientific reopened clogged arteries and rewired frayed cardiac conduction pathways, among other medical tricks of the trade. When Pete started in the 70s, bypass physiology and surgery were at the cutting edge of active intervention for cardiovascular disease. Now those techniques are commonplace. Were Pete to be heading a new medical startup company today, his vision might be different.

The great advances in medicine in the future will be to prevent or at least postpone those disease processes which damage the human body.

There will be molecular advances which inhibit the development of “bad cholesterol” by interrupting its synthesis, thus retarding the development of atherosclerotic plaque (hardening of the arteries) until later in life. There will be discoveries generated from the identification of the last 8 percent of the previously uncoded human genome which will lead to the understanding of, and the prevention and delay of onset of diseases such as aging, dementia and cancer. Pete would have been right in there, pushing for treatment answers for us all. Thanks again, Pete.

This year it has come to my attention that I am going to be 76 years old in September. On receiving that news, I paused. My first reaction was that it would now be easier for me to shoot my age in golf. This revelation was then followed by my recollection of my telling my lovely wife, Danni, that I would probably work about five more years when we came to Boca Grande full-time in 2006, sixteen years ago. No doubt, I have had blinders on for the last two decades. In 2006, I never thought that I would practice Hematology and Cancer Medicine for eight more years and then have a chance to resume my interest in general internal medicine for yet another eight years. It has been a great run for me, but it is time for me to find yet another course this fall.

Thank you to the Boca Grande Health Clinic for giving me the job. Moxie and I have loved coming to work each morning. Thank you as well to all the residents and guests of Boca Grande for letting me care for you when I could. In a world that often seems polarized and unkind, loving and working in Boca Grande has been a privilege and a joy.

About the Author

Dr. Ervin joined the Clinic in November 2014, practicing internal medicine. His educational background includes medical school at the University of Rochester and a medical internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He received hematology/oncology training at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and is board certified in […]

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