Dr. Paul celebrates 50 years of practicing medicine
The days of packing up the black bag, jumping in the car and making the first round of house calls are over, but that's okay with Dr. Leonard Paul. "The good old days were not the good old days," Dr. Paul said. "With all of our laboratories and technology, we're doing a much better job as physicians than we were 20 or 30 years ago."
Dr. Paul would know — this year he's celebrating his 50th anniversary as a physician. Dr. Paul is currently a professor in the department of family and community medicine. He's been with the Health Science Center for the past 19 years, including 12 years as chairman.
His career began in Ohio. Dr. Paul was the oldest of seven children, raised during the Depression. "I received a scholarship in engineering and after a number of years, I decided I didn't like it," Dr. Paul said. So he did what most other men his age were doing: he joined the Army. "I would work as a lab technician in the medical core of the Army. I was always interested in medicine, but the G.I. Bill made me realize I could actually become a doctor."
After serving in the Army, Dr. Paul went to Ohio State University, where he graduated first in his class. "I had the opportunity to do anything," Dr. Paul said. "But I chose general practice. It was quite the surprise. All of my classmates thought I was crazy. The deans and associate deans kept telling me 'you can't be first in your class and go into general practice.' But I said 'I can,' and I never regretted it."
Dr. Paul moved on to Northwest Indiana, where he joined a group practice and served patients for 23 years. While he enjoyed the work, he realized it was time for a change. "I was at the peak of my career," Dr. Paul said. "But I saw older physicians that didn't keep up with medicine. They were getting a little dowdy and I didn't want to end up that way. I didn't want to be an old codger of a doctor. I wanted to be challenged."
He entered the academic arena, arriving at the Health Science Center in 1982. The job has been anything but mundane. "You think you're going to have a normal day, and every afternoon, there's a surprise," Dr. Paul said. "But that's the challenge of it. That's the fun of it." He was department chairman from 1982 to 1994.
One of his most poignant moments came only four years ago. Dr. Paul was named the "Family Physician of the Year" in the state of Texas. The newspaper in the Indiana town where he first began practicing published the announcement; suddenly Dr. Paul was swamped with letters of thanks and congratulations from patients he hadn't treated in more than 20 years. "That is what I appreciated the most, people remembering me and remembering what I stood for," Dr. Paul said. That is why he loves medicine.
His joy in his work is evident to anyone who meets him. Patients describe Dr. Paul as warm, caring and concerned. Colleagues say he truly embodies the heart of the profession. "Dr. Paul is an extraordinary physician," said Dr. Steven A. Wartman, executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the Medical School. "His love and dedication to the practice of medicine are apparent to all who come into contact with him. He is a role model for our students and residents and we feel privileged to have him on our faculty."
Dr. Paul says the secret to his success is that he loves what he does every day.
"I'd rather practice medicine than play golf," he said. So don't expect to find this 71-year-old on the links. He says as long as he is a value to his patients, he'll be here, doing what he loves most.