Cheryl Batchelor, R.N., interim chief nursing officer at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, presents the 2011 Physician of the Year award to Robert Deucher, M.D. Dr. Deucher practices internal medicine, with an emphasis on geriatrics, at Pinehurst Medical Clinic’s Neese Clinic on the Belle Meade campus.
PINEHURST – Robert Deucher, M.D., has never forgotten the wise words of a professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine.
“What this patient needs is a doctor” has become as near a spoken philosophy for Dr. Deucher’s medical career as he can express.
“You stick with your patients,” he says. “You do what it takes.”
The advice has served Dr. Deucher well. He is the 2011 Physician of the Year for FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital – nominated and chosen by the hospital’s nursing staff for his “undivided attention” to his patients.
“He shows us all how to care for individuals,” one nomination said.
Dr. Deucher says he knew early on – certainly by grade school – that he would be a doctor. He comes from a family that can practically claim health care in its DNA. His father is a dentist, his brother is a cardiologist, and his sister is a registered nurse.
Educated in the Catholic schools of Parma, Ohio, south of Cleveland and nurtured by his parents and teaching nuns in the philosophy of service, he moved to Atlanta for an undergraduate degree from Emory University. He had applied to 12 other schools, but the offer of a Robert W. Woodruff Scholarship, Emory’s equivalent of UNC’s Morehead, lured him to Atlanta and a new life in the American South.
“It really did open up the world to me,” he says.
Emory also had a dramatic effect on his personal life. He met his wife, Beth, there. They will welcome their 12th child – eight girls (including the new baby) and four boys – later this month.
After Emory, Dr. Deucher spent four years in medical school and three years as an intern and resident at Duke. A postcard from a physician recruiter put him on the path to Pinehurst, a small town known for its big-city medical care and a place where he and his wife felt comfortable about raising their growing family.
He has specialized in internal medicine with a particular interest in geriatrics with Pinehurst Medical Clinic since 1995. His office is located in the Neese Clinic on the campus of the Belle Meade retirement community, where his patients range in age from 15 to 103.
Because he had been tantalized as a 16-year-old by a half-hour meeting with famed neurosurgeon Robert White, M.D., physician/researcher/ethicist and one-time adviser to the Vatican, Dr. Deucher had briefly considered neurosurgery as a specialty. But he eventually realized he belonged in the more general practice of internal medicine. Spending his “formative years” with three grandparents who were in nursing homes and volunteering in those special places cemented his interest in elder care.
“The ability to follow patients through the spectrum of natural life, the natural desire to close out the relationship with a patient, was the final draw,” he says. “
The chance to practice with Pinehurst Medical Clinic and at Moore Regional Hospital seemed to offer the best of all worlds. Dr. Deucher wanted to work in a community that not only demanded but also expected excellence in its health care, and Pinehurst is about half-way between his hometown in Ohio and his wife’s family in Huntsville, Ala.
“The fact that my Duke professors spoke so highly (of the practice and the hospital) made it an easy transition,” he says.
As he had elsewhere throughout his life, Dr. Deucher found mentors and role models in Pinehurst. One is James Tart, M.D., the now-retired PMC cardiologist whose congeniality has engaged many a young physician new to the community. Another is Donald Wallace, M.D., whose inspired care of the elderly has served as a model for Dr. Deucher’s interest in geriatric patients.
“Dr. Wallace’s ability to see patients in the hospital, in the home and in the office has affected my particular style,” Dr. Deucher says.
The nurses who provide direct patient care at Moore Regional have been inspirations as well. Observing them at the bedside reminds Dr. Deucher of the Catholic order that established a hospital in Jerusalem around 1050 at the time of the First Crusade. Its caregivers treated pilgrims of all faiths and operated under a four-word directive of care: “our lords, the sick.”
“This adage of a thousand years ago still holds true,” Dr. Deucher says. “Our nurses serve patients as best as they are able to do. I certainly respect them and love to practice with them. You kind of puff up your chest and say, ‘It’s a great team to be a part of.’”