December 20, 2000:
Rider '82: a truly small-town doc
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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 Yorks 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
The only problem is
the office. Its a converted Laundromat thats cold in
the winter, with walls so thin that Rider has to be careful to talk
quietly with patients so others
dont hear personal details. Minor surgeries are performed
in a storage room piled high with pharmaceutical samples and bandages.
When no ones in the operating chair, the nurse uses it as
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 towns 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. Im blessed to be here,
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. Elizabeths
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 didnt want anyone to get there ahead of me,
Morrison J. Hosley, was Long Lakes 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 decades
worth of carpentry and gardening tasks to perform when off duty.
says hes not going anywhere.
By Alan Wechsler
Alan Wechsler is a reporter
for the Albany Times Union.