Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

The changing face of medicine

The Gananda Community, a rather large housing development, encompassing parts of both Walworth and Macedon and boasting their own school district, was undergoing a growth spurt in the mid to late 1980s. The once federally- planned community promised a host of amenities, including daycare, grocery and medical services. Homes were being built and sold at unbelievable rates.

By 1989, the Gananda Community was excited at the prospect of a medical center opening up nearby that could serve the residents of Walworth, Macedon and the surrounding areas. Prior to its opening, those needing medical services and primary health care had the choice of traveling miles west into Monroe County, or heading east to Newark.

Gananda Family Medicine opened up right near the Canandaigua Road and Gananda Parkway intersection, and in a short time, Dr. Louis Kapner became the primary physician for hundreds of patients. The service offered not only primary medical care, but x-ray and lab facilities as well.

Over the years, Gananda Family Medicine changed major hospital affiliations and new medical faces came and went. A physical therapy center, dentist, pharmacy and orthodontist eventually located in spaces nearby. Although Dr. Kapner would be helped with a revolving door of other doctors and physicians assistants, Dr. Kapner was a constant figure.

Kapner was known for thinking outside the medical box, an attribute that often landed him in hot water with the medical establishment. His patients recall the fast, thumping footsteps in the hallway as they waited in one of the small treatment rooms. He entered with a smile and always gave the patient the time they needed, not the time alotted by the fast-paced medical clock.
It came as a shock to many of his patients when Dr. Lou Kapner announced his retirement back in June. By now, thousands of patients had come to count on his and the staff’s medical prowess. Why would this bundle of seamless energy leave at the young age of 62?

The answer was simple, yet complicated. Lou Kapner was cut from the old-style family practice medical tree. He wanted to be a general practitioner, the first line of medical defense a patient would encounter. The family doctor, a person with the knowledge of all, but lacking the fine line expertise of a medical specialty. “I never found the job stressful. I always enjoyed the patient. I liked talking to people,” Lou recalled, as he sat relaxed, medical frock missing.

With medical charts in hand, Lou Kapner entered an examining room ready for what ailed the next waiting patient. Times had changed over the years as the doctor/patient relationship seemed strained by time and money. Regardless of the corporate signature, Dr. Lou Kapner was a round peg in a square hole. He hated what he saw as the business of medicine interfering with the needs of the patient.

Thick folders of medical history would have to be boiled down to fit the electronic wave of the future. Medical staff would be jockeyed from practice to practice, to fill requirements that Kapner perceived was for the good of the patient. Success of a general medical practice was judged, not on the quality of care, but the “numbers game” and the number of referrals to specialists – where the money really was. “I’m not a team player, I have a private practice attitude,” admits Kapner.

Bottom line, a general family practitioner is low man/woman on the medical totem pole. While a GP can expect to earn between $100,000 to $200,000 annually for a very hectic schedule, those doctors choosing the career of specialists, gear more towards the million dollar mark.

A salary of $100,000 to $200,000 may be more than the average worker, but to become even a family general practitioner, a doctor invests years of training and starts out in debt that takes decades to whittle down. That is why, Kapner explains, the medical profession leans towards careers as specialists.

The extreme shortage of general practitioners in this area is evident. New doctors are being scooped up as the ink dries on the diploma. The family doctor is relegated to those who truly want to practice general medicine and those who see the field fitting into their family lifestyle.

Dr. Lou Kapner is worried at the state of the medical future and what the new wave of government medicine will bring.
What will become of Dr. Kapner and those who follow his path? “I don’t know, we are at sort of a crossroads. I enjoyed the practice and warm relationship with patients and I will miss that.” He said he was lucky to work with a loyal, dedicated support staff at the Gananda Family Practice. He believes there should be more incentive, perhaps a school loan forgiveness structure, to entice more towards family medicine.

Filling his shoes at the Gananda Family Practice is two year veteran Dr. Adriane Trout, a Newark resident. Starting in September the service will add Dr. Thuc Huynh, who will reportedly be moving to the Macedon area.

As for Lou Kapner, he now fills in, when needed, at emergency urgent care facilities, places with set hours, little paperwork and the anonymity of walk-in patients.