A medical family serves Waco through the 20th century

Pharmacist William Colgin opened a drugstore on the Waco Square at the beginning of the 20th century. He had three sons who began a multispecialty clinic in Waco. Merchant was an internist, Irwin a general surgeon, and William an ENT surgeon. These brothers started practicing medicine in Waco around 1910. They founded the Colgin hospital and clinic in 1920, which stopped during the depression in 1939, and the site became the Joanna McClelland Memorial hospital for indigent patients, and the brothers went on to serve Waco into the 1940s. The next generation, two internists James and Merchant, practiced from 1948 to 1988 (Merchant continued to 1993). They started their practice in the Alico building, moved to 2320 Columbus after the building was shaken in the May 11, 1953 tornado, then on to the Hillcrest Medical Tower in 1975 until they closed. James’ son Murray returned to Waco once he finished his internal medicine residency, and practiced in Waco from 1987 to 1999. He is currently practicing in Kerrville, Texas.

One of the Colgins almost had his career cut short in 1942. Lieutenant Merchant was traveling to England in a group of ships to serve in the 8th Air Force’s medical corps when a German U-boat surfaced (3000 Allied ships were sunk by U-boats during WWII). The captain used a loudspeaker to tell the men on the boat they had 20 minutes to abandon ship before he sunk them. He proceeded to torpedo their ships, then sent word by radio to a neutral ship to come pick them up and take them to safety in Bermuda, and Merchant soon joined another naval convoy to England. Years later in 1990, Merchant researched and found that U-boat captain who was still alive in Germany and corresponded with him, grateful that he had spared his life so that he could do good serving the medical needs of Waco for the next nearly 50 years.

Rod Richie, MD

Rod Richie is a pulmonologist and critical care specialist who came to Waco July 1977. He has held most every medical leadership position in Waco, has been voted best teacher by the family medicine residency program more than any other, and actually served as the director of the program in its early years. Just like there are arguments for GOAT in men’s tennis between Sampras, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, no list of best doctors ever in Waco is complete without Rod. He has served as a mentor to many Waco physicians, including myself, and countless people in Waco credit him with saving their lives.

Apart from his remarkable medical practice career and leadership, he is a longterm medical director of Texas Life Insurance Company and EMSI, and teaches Insurance Medicine on a national and international level. He loves reading, summer hikes in the mountains with his wife, and skiing the mountains of Colorado in the winter.

We asked him some questions this week:

How do you feel about medicine in Waco today?

Like almost all older Waco physicians, I loved the medical environment “in the old days,” when we had two not-for-profit hospitals in friendly competition for the hospitalized patient, and with almost all physicians actively engaged in both hospitals. The medical environment now is increasingly “one or the other” — either Baylor-Scott & White – Hillcrest based, or Providence based. In my opinion this has led to less, and not more, competition as patients within either of the two medical camps are prevented from seeking out any physician “in the other camp.”

How do you enjoy your medical practice? Are you tired and burned out, or energetic and vibrant, or somewhere in between?

Most older physicians have had increasing difficulty accommodating to the new demands of medical practice, both outpatient and inpatient. As almost every person who sees physicians on a regular basis will attest, physicians now spend more time peering into their computer screen and clacking away at their keyboard than they do in real face-to-face encounters, and this is tough on both the physicians as well as their patients. The demands of the electronic medical record are far more than any physician had to respond to in the past, and yet modern medical economics are demanding physicians see more patients in shorter and shorter time periods. This certainly takes its toll and is evidenced by numerous surveys showing that ever-fewer number of physicians’ children are choosing to enter medicine, and physicians are retiring at ever-earlier ages.

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