Physician Buddies — Respect, Trust & Fun
In this day and age, it’s understandable for physicians to look for defenders of their good works. Too often now, 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 in Red Bank, NJ. Ever-dedicated to his work of healing the less fortunate; even an illness couldn’t bring Dr. Parker to entirely close his office and he only stopped talking patient calls two weeks before his death in 2004.
Born two months apart in 1918-1919, my dad and Dr. Parker both joined the staff of Riverview Hospital in 1955. “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.”
“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
The two doctors shared a mutual respect and admiration. As a teenager, I’ll never forget one winter morning when I drove my father to meet Dr. Parker. Dad had been invited by Dr. Parker to join him and his friends at his Florida vacation home for a week of R&R. My father — a man totally free of prejudice who always judged people by their actions, never their appearance — was the only white person to be included in Dr. 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 and grandson of slaves, Dr. Parker was revered in his community for his humanity. A man of large stature — physically and intellectually — Dr. Parker was a founder and member of scores of local service organizations and boards. A lifelong resident of Red Bank, in tribute to his devotion, a borough street and health clinic were named in his honor. The Parker Family Health Center is a free healthcare facility for Monmouth County residents who don’t have health insurance or the ability to pay.
Known for providing care beyond the physical, Dr. 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.