Physician Buddies: Respect, Trust, and Fun

April 22, 2014
Greg Kelly

Too often, the true measure of a doctor's sacrifice and dedication goes unheralded. One way doctors gain fresh perspective and positive re-enforcement is through enduring friendships with their medical colleagues.

“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”

—William Shakespeare

In this day and age, it’s understandable for physicians to look for defenders of their good works. Too often, the true measure of a doctor’s sacrifice and dedication goes unheralded.

I’ve learned that one way doctors gain fresh perspective and positive re-enforcement is through enduring friendships with their medical colleagues. My physician dad proved a good example here. Although you’d never know it from his mostly dispassionate style, dad had scores of doctor-friends. They worked together, traveled together, and discussed medicine and life together.

Among dad’s many friends was James W. Parker, Jr., MD—a prominent and pioneering African-American physician who practiced on the Jersey Shore. Ever dedicated to his work of healing the less fortunate, even an illness couldn’t bring him to entirely close his office and Parker only stopped taking patient calls 2 weeks before his death in 2004.

Born 2 months apart, my dad and Parker both joined the staff of Monmouth County, NJ’s Riverview Medical Center in 1956.

“Jim Parker was a very accomplished doctor, who cared for his patients and his community more than any person I ever knew,” my Dad told me. “He had a busy practice because he cared for the less-well-off, but, also, because he knew what he was doing.”

The 2 doctors shared a mutual respect and admiration. As a teenager, I’ll never forget one winter morning when I drove my father to meet Parker. Dad had been invited by Parker to join him and his friends at his Florida vacation home for a week of R&R. My father was the only white person to be included in Parker’s large entourage of travelers.

“I was very much honored to be included,” said Dad, “and we had a great time.”

The son of a physician, Parker was revered in his community for his humanity. A man of large stature—physically and intellectually—Parker was a founder and member of scores of local service organizations and boards. A lifelong resident of Red Bank, NJ, in tribute to his devotion, a borough health clinic and a street were named in his honor.

Known for providing care beyond the physical, Parker—a Howard University College of Medicine graduate—was a great believer in education.

“Jim knew the power and worth of an education and he always promoted it as an important means to a fulfilling life,” dad once told me.