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Advertise on the Tentacle

August 11, 2008

Hanging it upů

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

…a stethoscope, that is. On August 8, Dr. Wayne Allgaier snapped the closure on his leather medical kit for the last time. Last Friday, he hung the stethoscope up for the last time.


You say you don’t know Wayne? Well, you’re definitely not a Brunswickian, are you? You see, most of us here know him, and most all of us have been treated by him at one time or another.


Wayne has been our family doctor since the late 80’s, when we moved west from suburban bliss in Farmbrook to the hills and train whistles of Brunswick. All three of my children, my wife and I were all treated with his gentle and loving hands.


A little about this special man. He’s a family practice doc, at least until last Friday, anyway. He came to Railroad Town 34 years ago, after Brunswick’s two venerable old family practice doctors had given up their practice.


Brunswick is special, but you’ve heard me say that before. This place is special because people still matter more than “stuff,” and the method used to find a new doc was no different. Bank of Brunswick president and town power broker Emory Frye volunteered to lead a search committee.


The thinking was that if you put the bank president in charge, he could assist with more than just getting the guy. He could even help keep the guy!


Mr. Frye helped land Doctor Allgaier, aided by Wayne’s in-laws, who had moved to Brunswick from the urban mess that was becoming Silver Spring. Mr. Frye helped the young Allgaier’s to find a home, along with a home loan. One follows the other!


Wayne and his lovely bride Vicki were still stationed in Guam, as Wayne was finishing up his stint as a Navy doctor over there. Once across the pond, the Allgaier’s settled in the place that would become their home in every sense of the word.


Doctor Allgaier’s first medical office was a humble little space in the downtown area, with a small waiting area and two smaller treatment suites. His staff was appropriately sized then, too, but it would eventually grow to a large suburban practice with two locations.


Wayne and Vicki raised six children, all of whom are special people in their own right, and each reflects the mix of traits that come from a father who holds in his hands the ability to make people well, and a mother who has to keep the family’s ship on course through the long hours of nursing home, hospital, and in-home visits.


When the flow of patients threatened to bring the practice to a halt, another group of prominent citizens, led by former teacher and administrator Joanne Runkles, led an effort to obtain low interest federal funds to build a shiny new medical center.


Thanks to Joanne’s patience, persistence, and sometimes belligerence, the Brunswick Medical Center was opened to great local fanfare and considerable relief. Wayne had been joined by Dr. Len Kinland, another much-loved family practitioner.


Once in the new building, they added two female doctors, Judy Henry and Kathleen Stern. Dr. Henry later passed away from complications related to childbirth, and Wayne was deeply affected by the loss of this wonderful doctor. A number of physicians, nurses, clerical staff, and allied health professionals have been a part of this outstanding practice over the years.


As the practice of medicine got more involved in recent years, the Brunswick/Jefferson Family Practice was forced to react to the ever-growing stack of insurance forms, reimbursement claims, and bureaucratic approvals. Instead of hiring a team of experts and claims processors, Wayne and his crew joined forces with a number of other county family practices to create a mega-practice to deal on a more level playing field with the big insurance carriers.


The great thing was that even with the new layers of management, quality of care never suffered and bureaucracy never rose to the level of a large practice. Sure, it took a while to get an appointment, and yes, once you got there, you were going to sit in an examination room awaiting a doctor. Nothing unique to this practice, though.


Now the group functions with a much larger network. Medical records are digitized, and other aspects of the practice of medicine are now more efficient and effective.


So, why does Doctor Allgaier give it up now, just as things are getting smoother? Well, for one, he is a grandfather to 22 grandkids. That alone would suggest that he needs a great deal of time for grandfatherly pursuits like spoiling, traveling, and – did I mention – spoiling?


Wayne Allgaier is not typical. Anything but. He also serves as a city councilman in Brunswick. He approaches his council responsibilities as he has everything else – full steam ahead. He can be seen on the council dais during meetings, pouring over the staff reports, asking questions, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue with his colleagues.


He is deeply involved with his church, holding positions of great responsibility that compare to the importance of his professional and political pursuits. I personally know Wayne’s passion for his faith, and I know it is his most important personal commitment next to his family. He has been a spiritual and political advisor over the years.


So, why a love letter to my doctor?


Well, for one thing, he represents a generation and style that one just can’t find anymore. Try finding a doctor who would gladly jump in his car late at night to visit a sick child (as he did on several occasions at my house). Try finding a doctor whose bedside manner encouraged questions, and who took the time to explain and describe why things were happening the way they were.


Another reason is that Wayne Allgaier IS Brunswick, the only transplant I know who is wholeheartedly considered a lifelong resident. He doesn’t need a Key to the City, as he’s been in just about every home in town. This is as it should be, but it probably won’t ever be that way again.


Finally, I don’t know if I’ve said thank you enough. We’re like that. We know we should say thanks for a lifetime of service to a community, but we often wait until it’s too late to say it face-to-face.


Wayne, thanks for your gentle hands, your sensitive bedside manner, your interest in my family’s (and everyone else’s) well-being, and your commitment to our community. Go ahead and hang up that stethoscope, but here’s hoping that you won’t be hanging up your passion for family, faith, and Brunswick anytime soon!


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