Local family practice physician retires after 33 years


Rita Brandenburg’s grandson, Daemon Farmer, marked the fifth generation of her family having Dr. Michael Conway as a family doctor.

It all started with her grandparents, Jerome and Dorsie Nolan.

Since then, she and her parents, Odevah and Geraldine Howard, her children, Rebecca and Nolan Brandenburg, and her grandson have all relied on Conway for their medical needs.

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“What we all liked about him was that if something was wrong, he didn’t stop until he had solid answers for how to treat whatever it was,” said Brandenburg, who lives in Crothersville.

When her son was 18 months old, he fell in the yard while playing with a dog. A trip to the emergency room and an X-ray just gave an answer of no broken bones, and they had a followup visit with Conway.

“Dr. Conway looked at him and within minutes said that his elbow was out of socket and had it back in place,” Brandenburg said.

From that point, she chose to keep her son with Conway instead of going to a pediatrician because of the trust the family had in him.

“His bedside manner is impeccable,” she said. “He treats and advises based on what he would do for his own kids.”

A couple of months ago, Brandenburg heard Conway was retiring after 33 years as a family practice physician.

“My first reaction, as well as my mom’s, was that he’s too young. He can’t retire yet,” she said. “We were worried that we wouldn’t find another doctor like him that took the time to listen to his patients and take the time to know them personally, not just treat and walk out of the room. They do not make doctors like that anymore.”

They plan to have Dr. David Baker as their primary doctor and also continue to see Terri Agan, a nurse practitioner in the office, Brandenburg said.

“I’ve been seeing Terri for almost as long as Dr. Conway, so that was an easy choice,” she said.

Conway said it wasn’t uncommon to have taken care of four generations of a family, and he also had some five generation families.

“It has been an honor, and it has been a blast. It’s wonderful,” the 63-year-old said. “I just saw one of the five generation families earlier this month. They are very appreciative. It’s certainly what makes it worth it. We consider each other friends.”

Conway grew up in Fort Wayne and graduated from Heritage High School in 1972. At a young age, he had a career in mind.

“From what I can remember thinking about a career, I always thought about being a family doctor,” he said. “I can remember in high school thinking being a family doctor would be a good job. The same way in college. I thought that would be a good job.”

He then went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. He said that was a big step.

“No one in my family had ever been to a college like that,” he said. “That was the South, and there were a lot of class differences there. For a middle class, Midwestern kid, that was a big adjustment.”

Conway then moved on to Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

“A lot of people at Vanderbilt are premed, and there is a lot of premed competition, so med school was really just a continuation of upper-level classes at Vanderbilt, but I’m sure it would have been that way at any school,” he said. “There was probably more of it there, where there were just a ton of premed and prelaw students.”

He said the competition at Vanderbilt taught him how to study for medical school.

“In medical school, you run into a bunch of really smart people,” he said, smiling. “If you don’t study hard, you’re not going to go anywhere in places like that. It just takes lots of hours.”

After finishing there in 1981, he did three years of residency at Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he learned from established doctors. In his last year, he started seeing more patients on his own.

Wanting to return to his home state to work, Conway contacted the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians. He was put in touch with Dr. William Blaisdell, who had an opening in his Seymour office and was looking to hire a doctor to share the workload.

Conway interviewed with Blaisdell and got the job. At the time, Blaisdell also had a physician assistant, Greg Comstock, in his office.

“Dr. Blaisdell was a brilliant and incredibly hard worker,” Conway said. “He was a senior guy, and I was a starter guy like just any other business, and I learned a tremendous amount from him, just everything you can think of in family practice. Dr. Blaisdell worked it must have been 100 hours a week, and he loved it, and he was very good at it.”

A few years later, Dr. Mike Kilpatrick, Dr. Randy Brown and nurse practitioners joined the practice to meet people’s demands for family doctors.

“It’s hard to get family doctors to come to small towns,” Conway said. “Studies show that young graduates want to live near big cities. I think a lot of people like that lifestyle. I never looked at any bigger towns than Seymour. My interest was to live in a small town.”

Over time, the practice’s name changed to Jackson Park Family Physicians and then to Jackson Park Physicians.

Then in October 2016, it became known as Schneck Primary Care after merging with Schneck Medical Center.

“That’s what most primary care practices in the nation are doing now is affiliating with a hospital,” Conway said.

The biggest impact was the hospital’s ability to recruit specialists, including hospital doctors, obstetricians and surgeons, to come to Seymour.

“That’s a very positive impact, I think,” he said. “Everybody used to have to drive to Columbus or Indianapolis or Louisville to get specialty work done. Now, between Columbus and Seymour, we have quite a breadth of coverage of specialty physicians.”

As a family doctor, Conway said he took care of average things people go to the doctor for, including rashes, sore throats, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Medicine has moved more to specialties over my career. Primary care has been evolving and decreasing, frankly,” he said. “I think they’ll come back to it. I think they’ll decide that it really has value, and the pendulum will swing back.”

Conway said patients like having someone competent who can guide them through their decisions.

“People have to go to high-level, very skilled and intelligent specialists for serious conditions, and I’m sure it’s very frightening to have to go up to Indianapolis or even in town to go to a specialist for some serious medical condition,” he said. “You like to have a helpful hand and someone to guide you through the process. I think that’s huge.

“Then there’s the everyday sore throat, rash, blood pressure … the reassurance to know that that’s going to get handled and taken care of,” he said.

In terms of retiring, Conway said it was a very sudden decision. It came at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 13 as he was sitting at home reading the sports page of the newspaper.

“I’ve told the patients, ‘If you would have asked me the week before, ‘Are you retiring?’ I would have said, ‘No, I’m not,’” he said. “I have never made a sudden decision in my life. That was one of them.”

Conway said he always had planned to work longer, but that Saturday morning, he said he thought, “Well, what if I don’t work longer?”

“I asked my wife when she got up, and her response was, ‘That’s a great idea,’” he said.

A few weeks later, he shared the news with his coworkers. Then he began telling his patients so they could line up a new health care provider.

His wife, Holly, had worked as a surgery nurse at Schneck for years until landing a job at a small hospital in Fort Wayne. Their home and farm in Seymour are sold, and they will be living near Fort Wayne.

“I am very fortunate I am still hanging around the guys I grew up with. We’re still absolutely best friends,” Conway said. “I’m going to retire to where they live, where we used to live near Fort Wayne. We’re going to move onto a lake. We’re going to be at the lake with two of my lifelong best friends, so I expect to hang out a lot.”

Conway plans to work part time at a family practice clinic in Fort Wayne.

“It will not turn into full time,” he said. “They asked me about that, and I said, ‘If that’s the only option, I’ll just retire.’ I’m not ready to give up the doctoring part.”

He said he will know when it’s time to completely retire.

“All of my friends and the patients tell me, ‘Something will just click in your head, and you’ll be done,’” he said. “It’s such a big skill set to be a family doctor, though. It just doesn’t seem right to stop doing it yet. You spend years and years to acquire the skills, it’s hard to let go of them.”

He said he appreciates the opportunity he had to live and work in Seymour.

“It really has been an honor to work here and take care of people here,” he said. “I think Seymour is a great town. I think Schneck is a great hospital. The folks here are wonderful. They’ve been wonderful to me. They still are wonderful to me. I’ve just been very lucky.”

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Name: Michael Conway

Age: 63

Hometown: Fort Wayne

Residence: Lived in Seymour the past 33½ years but now moving to Wolcottville

Education: Heritage High School (1972); Vanderbilt University (bachelor’s degree in biology, 1976); Indiana University School of Medicine (1981); Medical College of Wisconsin (1984)

Occupation: Retired May 17 after 33 years as a family practice physician in Seymour; now working part time at a family practice clinic in Fort Wayne

Family: Wife, Holly Conway; children, Aubrey Conway, Betsy (Tyler) Pray and Wes Conway

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“It really has been an honor to work here and take care of people here. I think Seymour is a great town. I think Schneck is a great hospital. The folks here are wonderful. They’ve been wonderful to me. They still are wonderful to me. I’ve just been very lucky.”

Dr. Michael Conway on his recent retirement after 33 years as a family practice physician in Seymour


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