As he sat in a hospital room and watched his younger sister receive treatment from doctors for a serious illness, a young David Stout felt a calling to enter medicine.
The doctors and nurses cared for his sister, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis, around the clock for two weeks as the family observed and leaned on each other in prayer.
They weren’t sure if she was going to make it because the illness was usually fatal, especially in those days, said Stout, who was in third grade at the time.
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With excellent care and by God’s grace, Stout’s sister, Joyce Irwin, survived and grew up to have a normal life, but the moment stood out to Stout and shaped the path he would take in life.
That moment was decades ago, and after 38 years in practice, Stout retired a week ago.
After much thought, consideration and prayer, the 67-year-old announced his retirement in the spring, and he worked his final day last week at Family Medical Center in Seymour.
“I know this is the right thing, and I’m comfortable with it,” he said.
During his last day, his staff gave him a card and a gift certificate to purchase a plant for his garden. The majority had tears in their eyes as Stout opened the card.
He spent his first day of retirement being inducted into the Seymour High School Wall of Fame. A member of the Class of 1969, Stout was honored with a dinner, gave a speech to students, toured the school and was recognized at the Owls’ football game Friday.
In April, he began saying goodbye to his patients and even called it his “farewell tour” like people see when famous bands announce their final go-around.
That took an emotional toll, he said.
“There hasn’t been a day in the last six months that I haven’t teared up or that they haven’t teared up,” he said. “I’m amazed at that and the relationships that we have found.”
A week ago was Stout’s last day at the practice he opened 37 years ago, wrapping up a career that has included delivering more than 3,000 babies, conducting 54,120 patient visits and performing more than 4,900 procedures. That’s not to mention the countless hospital visits.
While a student at Jackson Elementary School, Stout’s third-grade teacher, Maude Fish, asked the class what each student wanted to be when they grew up.
Inspired by the experience with his sister’s condition, Stout told the class he wanted to be a doctor.
“Our experiences in life are meant to be for the most part, and they can either shape us or they can destroy us,” he said. “For that instance, I think it really shaped my mindset of a profession or something that I wanted to do. I’ve not looked at this as a profession, but a calling.”
It wasn’t just a thought of a young child. Many want to be a doctor, but Stout had committed to the idea of being a doctor long before the question was asked.
So after he graduated from Seymour High School in 1969 and Western Kentucky University in 1973, Stout attended medical school at Indiana University and graduated in 1977. He practiced a year in Indianapolis after a residency at St. Vincent Hospital before moving back to Seymour to open Family Medical Center in 1981.
By coincidence, Fish ended up being one of his first patients when he founded Family Medical Center.
“She said she remembered me wanting to be a doctor in grade school,” he said.
Of the years he has practiced, he estimates about 15 were in solo practice, which was challenging, but also forged close relationships with his patients.
“Your patients become your family,” he said, adding his social network is limited to his personal family, church family and medical family, which includes patients and staff. “Just getting to know these people and being a part of their life has been special, and I hope I’ve been able to improve their lives.”
Now, the practice has more than 10 providers that serve their patients.
Dr. Aaron Frey is the latest doctor to join the practice, which has been special for Stout to see because he delivered Frey when he was born, was Frey’s family doctor, his mother was a nurse at the office and the two have gone on a couple of medical mission trips to Haiti together.
Frey has taken over the care of the majority of Stout’s patients. Seeing that happen given their history is special.
“It’s just been an incredible blessing to see things like that happen,” Stout said.
Stout has loved every part of the medical profession, even dating back to medical school in the late 1970s.
Medical school required a grueling schedule of constant study, especially the first two years when it was all academics.
“That first year, I’d study until 2 in the morning, sleep until 6 a.m., get up, start studying and go to classes,” he said. “I’d go all day and return home and repeat the process.”
He didn’t want to study all of the time, though, and he set aside time for a break — well, a small break.
“I’d set an alarm every two hours and take a 10-minute break,” he said. “I even had a seat belt for my chair to keep me in it.”
His clinical studies began in the third and fourth years, which he loved, and then the residency at St. Vincent provided him with more hands-on experience.
After his residency, he practiced for a year in the suburbs of Indianapolis before returning to Seymour to open Family Medical Center.
“I wasn’t fulfilled by city life, and Seymour was my home, and my heart has always been here in this community,” he said.
He liked surgery and procedures through medical school but decided on family medicine because of the close relationship with patients.
“To take care of someone from birth to end-of-life issues and everything in between is unique,” Stout said.
Family medicine also afforded him the opportunity to deliver babies, perform procedures, practice orthopedics and more.
“Family practice was the only thing that allowed me to do that,” he said.
Stout said doctors also pride themselves on the amount of time they put into a patient visit. He said it’s important to understand what goes on before and after a visit.
“There’s time spent on records, educating ourselves, making plans for your care, appropriate tests to order and the review and interpretation of those tests and the communication of those,” he said. “Our office may close at 5, but our workday doesn’t.”
There also has been a significant portion of his life where he has not slept through the night because of medical calls.
“For about 30 years, there wasn’t a night that I slept all the way through,” he said. “Oftentimes, I stayed the night at the hospital.”
The most difficult part has been being next to a parent who has lost a child or is losing a child.
“It doesn’t matter what age,” he said.
It’s also difficult to tell patients they have an illness they won’t beat.
“We know we are mortals and we will all have to face that time. We just don’t know when,” he said.
Medical mission work also has been close to his heart for nearly two decades.
Most of his work has been done in Haiti, although he has made trips to Honduras.
He began going to Haiti in the early 2000s and has gone between 10 and 15 times since.
The first trip was to the north coast of Haiti, and the life he saw there made a significant impact on him.
“It’s why I’ve gone back so much,” he said.
Stout is a member of a team of missionaries and local Haitians who brought a clinic to Chambron, outside Port au Prince.
“They have care that’s staffed by Haitian doctors and nurses,” he said. “That’s one of the most rewarding things that I’ve been afforded to do while I’ve been there.”
He was scheduled to take a trip during the week the earthquake happened Jan. 12, 2010.
The trip was obviously delayed, but Stout returned a few weeks later to assist in the aftermath.
“We did things we had to do to save lives when we were there,” he said.
Stout said the earthquake woke the world up to the plight of the Haitian people and brought an understanding to living conditions and lack of medical care.
The mission work — like a career in medicine — has been a calling for Stout, and he plans to return there to help in retirement.
“You’re blessed to be a blessing,” he said, which is a quote from a pastor who has mentored him. “My life has been a blessing, and what a waste not to bless someone else.”
Stout plans to spend time with his wife, Debby, and their children and grandchildren in retirement. He also enjoys gardening, music and fishing.
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Name: Dr. David Stout
Education: Seymour High School (1969); Wabash College (two years) and Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry (1973); Indiana University School of Medicine (1977); residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis (1980)
Occupation: Retired Sept. 27 from Family Medical Center, the practice he started in 1981
Family: Wife, Debby Stout; children, Meghan Stout Swan and Emily Stout Jackson; and six grandchildren ages 3 to 13
Practice: Delivered more than 3,000 babies, conducted approximately 54,120 patient visits and performed about 4,900 procedures.
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“I’ve not looked at this as a profession, but a calling.”
Dr. David Stout