The 'good doc' is in

BY EMILY LE COZ

Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Rud Robison is the kind of doctor most people think no longer exists.

He listens to his patients. He has a warm sense of humor. And he diagnoses problems with great accuracy – preferring to rely on his sharp mind and keen senses before turning to expensive lab tests.

“My favorite quote is by President Eisenhower's doctor: If you listen to the patient, they'll tell you what's wrong with them,'” said the 77-year-old founder of the Saltillo Medical Clinic, and a man whose bedside manner could have inspired Norman Rockwell.

On a Tuesday evening last month, for example, Robison gingerly examined the foot of a young man who complained of pain in the big toe.

“No, it's not gout,” Robison said, dispelling the man's hypothesis while gently probing the foot. “Are you a runner?”

The man said he was.

“This seems to be tendonitis. You ought to get yourself a better pair of running shoes,” Robison chuckled.

It's that old-fashioned type of medicine that has earned Robison thousands of patients in the 48 years that he has practiced in Saltillo. And it's that kind of professional dedication that will earn him a reception in his honor Sunday at the Saltillo City Hall banquet hall.

The occasion doesn't mark any particular milestone, nor does it signal an impending retirement. But its timing does have significance for organizer and Saltillo Mayor Bill Williams.

Several months ago, Robison “had a brother who died suddenly, and I thought how terrible it would be if that happened to him and how awful it would be if we didn't have a chance to honor him,” said Williams, a longtime patient of Robison's.

The reception, held from 2-4 p.m., will be open to the public.

“All of Dr. Robison's patients can come,” Williams said. “We just want to shower him with love.”

Way back when

When Robison opened his practice in 1958, Saltillo had about 200 residents, doctor's visits cost $4, and few people had health insurance.

Medicaid and Medicare didn't yet exist.

“Back in those days, there were no forms to fill out when you came to see me. You just signed in,” the Tremont native said. “Now it's so complicated. We hit you with all these forms.”

Medical malpractice suits at that time were relatively rare, and Robison's insurance cost about $100 a year. It contrast, it costs about $15,000 annually today.

Much has changed since the father of two boys and four girls opened his clinic at 29 years old. Back then, Robison did office work, hospital work, house calls, baby deliveries, and put in 85-hour work weeks.

His patients got great care, but Robison suffered.

“When I was 37 years old, I weighed 240 pounds and smoked a carton of cigars every three days,” he said. “Then I discovered golf. I lost weight, quit smoking and had a major lifestyle change.”

His second lifestyle change came in 1990 when he sold his practice to North Mississippi Medical Clinics, which is a regional network of clinics and an affiliate of North Mississippi Medical Center. As part of the deal, NMMC sends Robison associate doctors and Robison sends NMMC referrals. He also has more time to spend with family and play golf.

Though he shuns recognition for his role in establishing it, “Robison has played an important role in helping establish our clinic network,” said David Barber, administrator of the clinic network. “Our patients are blessed to have physicans like” him.

His patients are his friends

Today, golf memorabilia hangs in Robison's small office in the Mobile Street clinic. It is framed by photos of his children and other momentos he has collected over the years.

Sitting upright in his chair, a bandage pasted across his arthritic hand, Robison smiled while talking about his fondest collection: his patients.

“Most of my patients are my friends. I know them, and they know me, and it creates a level of trust,” he said. “I have been so appreciative of them.”

And they have appreciated him, as shown by the growing number of referrals they've sent him. Robison won't disclose the number of patients he sees, but an audit 15 years ago showed he had four or five times that of a typical physician.

“I'm a good diagnostics doctor. That's the reason I get a lot of patient referrals. My goal is to get at the bottom of a patient's trouble.”

He does it using the same skills he honed at Mississippi State University and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

“Back then, we didn't have all these tests. We had to use our eyes, our nose, our touch, our ears.”

Of course, the tests are nice, Robison said. And he takes full advantage of the medical center, its advanced technologies and its specialized doctors. He is also in the process of digitizing all his records.

“That's been the biggest change in all my years of practicing medicine,” Robison said. “The tremendous improvement of technology available in this area is just unbelievable now.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com