A doctor in the house

June 27th, 2015 1:41 am

First Posted: 1/6/2013

Dr. Lewis Druffner loves trains.

And that's a blessing for the Care and Concern Health Clinic. It was on the clinic's inaugural Charity Train Ride to Jim Thorpe in 2010 that Dr. John Callahan approached Dr. Druffner about the free health clinic in the former Seton Catholic high school.

John asked me, ‘Why don't you stop by, just to see what it's like?' Druffner said.

Druffner, who will be 79 years old on Jan. 15, did stop by the clinic. He liked what he saw and didn't have to be talked into signing on as a volunteer.

I wouldn't have retired if I didn't have Marty (Dr. Marty Moran) to take over my practice, so I did feel I still had something to offer, he said.

Druffner has been volunteering at the clinic ever since. He is also a volunteer at the Leahy Clinic, a similar clinic for the indigent uninsured, at The University of Scranton.

For his volunteer work and for decades of work as a legendary family physician in Avoca, Dr. Lewis Druffner is the Sunday Dispatch Joseph A. Saporito Lifetime of Service Award selection for 2012.

He learned he was the selection on Wednesday evening at the clinic during a break between patients when center director Gloria Blandina made the announcement in front of the clinic staff, setting off a round of spontaneous applause.

I'm flattered, Druffner said. I never expected something like this.

This was not the first time Dr. Druffner has been nominated for this award, said Dispatch editor Ed Ackerman. His name has been submitted each of the past two years but this year there were literally dozens of emails, hand-written letters and phone messages suggesting him for the honor. He really is a perfect choice and not just because of his volunteer work at the clinic. As a full-time doctor, his career was one of service as well. He was that old-fashioned doctor who was more like one of the family. Dr. Druffner was and is loved by his patients.

Druffner said after being retired for 10 years he was a bit apprehensive when he agreed to volunteer at Care and Concern. Between the time I retired and I started at the clinic, medications had changed a lot.

Proving he may be old, but not old-fashioned, to catch up he downloaded the medication app epocrates to his iPhone. It's been a blessing, he said.

Now in his third year volunteering at Care and Concern, Druffner said the clinic helps him as well as his patients. I enjoy it. I look forward to it. I get satisfaction. The patients are very appreciative and I appreciate them.

Druffner grew up in Avoca, graduated from Scranton Prep in 1951, The University of Scranton in 1955 and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He was the primary physician for three ships while serving with the U.S. Navy. One night in the Straits of China, he was high-lined in a boatswain chair to one of the other ships to treat a captain. They put a little red light on your life vest in case and they pulled you over. It was in a squall and it was dark and the destroyers, they rock and roll.

After his Navy hitch, he took over his father's family medical practice in Avoca, where Druffner is a legendry name in family medicine as Druffner and his father birthed generations of families in Avoca and surrounding towns.

In a way, Druffner is different than past Saporito recipients in that he is being honored not just for volunteer work, but for his career as a family doctor which was, like his father's, as much about service to the community as it was work.

Druffner's father was a doctor to hundreds of miners and his office is an exhibit at the Anthracite Museum in Scranton, where the tour guide might tell the story of Druffner's father leaving shoes for poor children on the porch of their home or the family that found the fee they had paid the doctor returned to them in a Christmas fruit basket.

He had a main waiting room and around the hall a smaller one we called the miners' waiting room because if these guys came in from work, they'd be pretty dirty, Druffner said.

I remember my father would get homemade breads and things like that. I remember people coming in with a jar of dimes to pay for a maternity. There was no appointment schedule. He didn't have an office nurse. He'd see them in order. You'd have lacerations coming in, broken arms. You did what was necessary.

Things weren't all that different when Druffner took over the practice in an office in a home he built behind his father's home. Office visits were $3. House calls were $5. Maternity was $75, including pre and post-natal care.

Druffner recalls being paid with a double barreled shotgun by the brother of a man he saved after he collapsed on the sidewalk outside Druffner's home office.

There was very little insurance, he said. It was basically a cash business; that's why the cost was low, because that's what people could afford.

Asked to describe his practice in the early years, Druffner said, Really, you were on call all the time. There were no emergency rooms in the area. If the patient went to the hospital as an emergency, they called the family doctor anyway. The ambulance was basically a second-hand hearse with an oxygen tank aboard. There weren't any trained EMTs. Oftentimes, I was the one who called the ambulance.

The mornings were devoted to hospital visits and house calls. In the afternoon, you'd be in the office, then come out for supper then go back in the office. You'd get finished about 10, 10:30. You'd work 75 hours a week.

Druffner and his wife, Catherine, have six children: Elizabeth, of Avoca; Kathleen and Carl, both of Harrisburg; Michael, of Dayton, Ohio; Tommy, of Michigan; and Edward, of Downingtown. They also have five grandchildren.