“Christ, Kennedy and Albert Schweitzer got me going in this direction. When I found out what was really in this direction, my stubbornness kept me here.”
“…A TACKLE BOX OF MEDICINE AND A WILL OF IRON”
Fresh out of medical school, Jan Gable's goal was to be a medical missionary in a far–off land. Fortunately fate had other plans—there were no foreign posts available and the thousands of people of Konnarock who have come to rely on her as their primary source of medical care have been grateful ever since.
“Loved dearly by her patients and in the face of personal economic hardship and professional isolation, Dr. Gable continues to provide meticulous care,” wrote Congressman Rick Boucher [D–VA–9] in support of her nomination as a Local Legend. Meticulous, caring attention is what Gable is known and revered for throughout the five rural, economically depressed counties which she serves through her Konnarock Family Health Center.
Faced with closing her practice a few years ago, her people rallied to her side. “Please try to help the people of Konnarock to keep a doctor,” beseeched Joan and Jack to Congressman Boucher. “We're away back in the mountains and need one bad. There's a lot of people and we have lots of emergencies!; Dr. Gable has been our doctor for thirty years and every one wants her to stay.”
In a lengthy 1998 profile, M.D. News magazine described the challenges Gable has faced over the years, starting with Konnarock itself—“a 26–mile drive on mountain roads to the nearest doctor no post office, no school, no drug store, no bank, or real grocery—or would it ever. Most of what she sees would quickly bore a doctor who is looking for the exciting or exotic. Konnarock's ailments are the predictable disorders wrought by too little income, backbreaking work, nutritional deficiencies and social problems. Dr. Gable sees arthritis, diabetes, back problems, heart disease, Alzheimer's, injuries, high blood pressure, and the usual rounds of colds and flu. And lots of depression.”
Over the years, she has also managed to maintain a very old–fashioned form of doctoring— the house call. Once or twice a week, she takes her trusty fishing tackle box — which she prefers over the doctor's traditional "black bag"— to visit patients who do not have transportation or who are too sick to travel to the health center. “Some of the people get all their care that way,” she says. “I've been in about two–thirds of the homes in my community. I would love to be a full–time house call doctor. You can't even begin to care for people unless you have some idea of what their home situation is, their physical environment.”
Have the isolation, unceasing hours, very low pay and other hardships been worth it? “For someone like me who is trying to understand life, it's such a treasure to know people over such a long period of time, to know the inside of their lives,” as she told M.D. News. “I don't feel the sacrifices I make, or the hours I spend, or the difficulty of decisions and choices I have made are any more than what they —the local women— give themselves as life choices.”
Establishes a family medical practice in Konnarock, an isolated, impoverished, medically underserved community in the mountains of Virginia.
Opens Konnarock Family Health Center, a federally qualified community health center.
Indiana University School of Medicine