Member of the Month: Charles J. Caskey, M.D.
Life member reflects on life, medicine, and caring for patients like family
TAFP is sad to share that Dr. Caskey passed away on Nov. 27, 2012. Our thoughts are with the Caskey family.
At age 84, 11 years after retirement from the Beaumont practice he ran for more than 40 years, Charles “Chuck” Caskey, M.D., still visits with former patients and staff members. The TAFP Life Member cherishes these relationships as the gems of a distinguished medical career. He watched medicine change greatly during this time, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, as he says, but his patients were like family and they made each day worth it.
And he didn’t hesitate to lead through these transition periods, serving as chief of staff for the hospitals in the area, as president of his local chapter of TAFP, and by sitting on committees and going to meetings. Many don’t see the business side of medicine, he says, “but it is necessary for change to happen in a positive way.”
Dr. Caskey has been married to his wife, Mary, for 61 years. Together they have three children, including one who is a family physician in Lufkin, Texas; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
This Member of the Month profile comes to us with the help of his daughter, Christie, who says that her dad was the type of doctor who woke up at 5:00 every morning to rush to the hospital and visit with his patients before heading to his office to see countless more patients. Despite a busy schedule, “he truly loved what he did and loved working with his staff, the hospital, and all his patients,” she wrote in an e-mail. “It was an honor to be part of a home where medicine was more than just a job.”
Tell us a little about your dad and his career: Dad was the oldest of six siblings and was raised on a farm in a small town in Central Texas. I think this gave him his hard work ethic and love for people. I also think this is what gave him his passion for learning. Education wasn’t a right, it was a privilege, and one he worked hard for. He worked his way through the University of Texas at Austin before attending UTMB in Galveston. After medical school, he enlisted in the Army doing his internship in Hawaii at Tripler Army Medical Center, then practiced medicine for the army in Fort Gordon, Ga., for the remainder of his army career.
Why did he choose family medicine and what was his favorite aspect of it? Dad chose family medicine because it “covers the whole life of a person.” He loved the variety of medical problems that it allowed him to treat. He was able to deliver babies, see children with broken bones, help young adults with issues, and treat the very old in their final years.
His patients often became like family. He “watched them marry, have children, and lose loved ones.” And now that the busy days of waking up early to make rounds at the hospital before heading to the office for a long day of work are over, it is this that he cherishes the most. He truly loved his patients, his office staff, and community. It was family medicine that allowed this bond between him and his patients to occur.
How long was he in practice and how did medicine change over his career? He opened the office doors to his practice in Beaumont, Texas, in 1958. He maintained a busy practice there for 42 years, until unfortunately he suffered a hunting accident in 1999 and retired.
Dad watched medicine change greatly over his nearly 50 years in medicine. Some of the changes were good, some less desirable. He liked that more specialists became available, and the intermingling between family medicine and the specialist allowed for better care for his patients. He watched insurance and lawsuits change medicine. Medicine became more of a business than a practice over time, which I think saddened him.
Change was inevitable, and as always, takes work – I always admired that my father became part of the decision-making process when change happened. He served time as chief of staff for the hospitals in our area and also served as president of the Academy of Family Practice in the Beaumont area. Sitting on committees and going to meeting for hospitals, clinics, etc., is a part of medicine that many do not see. But it is necessary for change to happen in a positive way.
Another change that he saw over time is some people would enter the profession for the money. Dad always said you should never enter medicine for the money or you will find yourself unhappy.
What was one memorable experience he had when caring for a patient? There are too many wonderful experiences to find just one! (Boy, does he have stories!) Once again, it’s all about sharing life with your patients that sticks in my dad’s mind. Even today, 11 years after retiring, he still visits old patients and staff members and they come and visit him. I helped mom and dad put up bags of okra just a couple of weeks ago from a long-time friend who started out as a patient.
When growing up, I always thought it was neat that his career allowed him to meet interesting people, like celebrities and presidents. I also thought it was exciting that he was flown out to rigs and ships to treat patients who worked offshore. Now that I drive to Beaumont each week to help mom and dad, I realize that he is right, it is all about the relationships you develop with your patients and staff and doing the best you can with the days you were given. This is what made him pick family medicine and this is his fondest memory when looking back.
How has he spent his retirement? After retiring, he loved doing stained glass in his shop and giving it to friends and family, sometimes donating pieces to charities. He also gave time to his church with whatever its need might be. Today he spends his time with my mom enjoying life in their home of 45 years. They celebrated 61 years of marriage on Sept. 2, 2012.
With that said, I don’t know how a doctor survives the many demands of a practice without the support of a caring spouse. For as long as I can remember, Mom has had a diploma hanging above her kitchen sink that reads: “Widow to Medicine.” I always thought this was funny – and so true. Being a spouse to a doctor means you had better be prepared to share your life with his or her career. It is truly a calling and not a job.
What advice would your dad give a young person deciding whether to become a family physician? “You need to enjoy people, all kinds! If you don’t enjoy working with people, don’t go into family medicine, choose another aspect of medicine.” The love of patients and staff is what will make each of your days special and exciting when you head out the door. Also, maintain your love for learning; it is important to keep up with the latest medical treatments and techniques.
What is the most important quality a family physician should have? You just need to be a person who is willing to care for others as if they were family members. Whatever you do for others during your practice will be returned to you in more ways than you can count.
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.