RETIREMENT BACKONS: Dr. David Allen

June 06, 2002 11:00 pm
BEST WISHES: Dr. David Allen speaks with Sigrid Jones of La Grande at an open house Thursday afternoon, where patients and friends of Dr. Allen wished him the best upon retirement. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
BEST WISHES: Dr. David Allen speaks with Sigrid Jones of La Grande at an open house Thursday afternoon, where patients and friends of Dr. Allen wished him the best upon retirement. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

He's been a man for all seasons.

Winter skier, summer scuba diver, seasonal motorcyclist.

And year-around doctor — until today.

Dr. David Allen hung up his stethoscope after seeing his last patient Thursday afternoon, ending nearly 40 years either studying or practicing medicine.

"I started in med school in 1962. That's how my life has been," Allen said Thursday.

The La Grande internist has lived life to the fullest, and although he gave up skiing, scuba diving and flying several years ago, he continues to ride his motorcycle all over the United States.

He's also a wood carver, selling his turned and carved "vessels" at Fitzgerald's Flowers and exhibiting in many Northeast Oregon shows.

"I don't know what I'll do next," Allen said. "Tomorrow it quits. I've done many things, but always superimposed on my life has been my relationship with my patients.

"I'm not going to be in that role anymore, and I think I'm a little melancholy."

The 60-year-old doctor opened his practice in La Grande nearly 29 years ago — on July 5, 1973. He had spent a couple of years in Ketchikan, Alaska, practicing in extremely rural conditions.

"I'd been dropped off by helicopters, into villages," he said.

His love of the rural life and the outdoors played a role in his decision to settle in La Grande. He arrived during the early days of the "new" Grande Ronde Hospital.

"I came here because of the quality of medical care, and because Eastern Oregon is away from the major population centers," he said. "It was a good place to raise a family."

Allen was instrumental in developing the intensive care and critical care units at Grande Ronde Hospital. Much of the equipment taken for granted today was new to the hospital in the early 1970s.

He remembers an early intubation.

"I had to intubate a person with chronic lung disease while the nurse-anesthetist unpacked the ventilator," he said. "That patient went on to live another 10 to 15 years."

A native of Tampa, Fla., Allen holds bachelor's, doctoral and medical degrees from Duke University in Durham, N.C. At first, his plan was to practice academic medicine, but he fell in love with the rural life — and with the patients.

"I've been a country doctor for a long time," he said.

About 80 percent of the internist's practice involves elderly people, Medicare patients.

"I like old people," he said. "Old people know more about being young than young people know about being old. They've had a world of experience, and they know we can't always make things go away."

As Allen leaves his practice, his wife, Cherylne, is retiring as a high school English teacher.

"My wife is a great partner," he said.

The retired couple plan to get on their motorcycle in a few weeks for a trip north — to Alaska.

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