December 20, 2000: Class Notes


1991-2000 & Graduate School

Class Notes Features:

Russell Rider '82: a truly small-town doc

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Russell Rider ’82: a truly small-town doc

At midnight on June 30, 1989, Russell E. Rider ’82 arrived in Long Lake, New York, a tiny town in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. There was no furniture in his house, and he and his wife slept on a bare floor.

The next afternoon, a man was standing on his front porch, blood dripping from an errant hatchet blow, sheepishly asking for help.

Eleven years later, Rider is the only resident practicing doctor in Hamilton County, New York’s smallest. He drives a rusty Pontiac station wagon with 160,000 miles on it and a loose piece of body metal that bangs in the breeze. Rider makes house calls and keeps a Bible in the waiting room.

The only problem is the office. It’s a converted Laundromat that’s cold in the winter, with walls so thin that Rider has to be careful to talk quietly with patients so others don’t hear personal details. Minor surgeries are performed in a storage room piled high with pharmaceutical samples and bandages. When no one’s in the operating chair, the nurse uses it as a desk.

Two years ago, Rider asked town officials if they could fix up the old building. Instead, townspeople of Long Lake, with a year-round population of 930, decided to raise $600,000 — one-quarter of the town’s yearly budget – for a new office. It opens next year.

“The setup here is just perfect,” says Rider, who himself grew up in a small town and enjoys the doctor-patient relationships he develops. He likes calling patients by their first names, being able to hug them, seeing them about town. “I’m blessed to be here,” he says.

Rider, raised in the Adirondack community of Elizabethtown, wanted to go into medicine as early as the age of 12. A psychology major at Princeton, he went to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, then on to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica for his residency in family practice.

In 1989, when he was about to graduate from his residency, he got a phone call from John Hosley, then the Long Lake supervisor. Only a few minutes earlier, Hosley had overheard in a conversation that Rider was looking for a small town to practice in. He made Rider an offer immediately. “I didn’t want anyone to get there ahead of me,” Hosley recalled.

Hosley’s father, Morrison J. Hosley, was Long Lake’s physician for more than 35 years. But after he left, the town saw a long string of doctors who came and went. Sometimes there would be none at all. So there was great incentive for Hosley to find someone who wanted to put down roots — especially since the nearest hospital is a 45-minute ambulance ride away.

And roots there are. Rider has five children, home-schooled by him and his wife, Maxine, in a house two miles from the office. At the Independent Baptist Church, Rider serves as both Sunday school superintendent and choir director. He plays basketball on Wednesday nights (occasionally interrupted by patients who know where to find him), and has a decade’s worth of carpentry and gardening tasks to perform when off duty.

Consequently, Rider says he’s not going anywhere.

By Alan Wechsler

Alan Wechsler is a reporter for the Albany Times Union.


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