Blainephysicians celebrate 25 years in practice

Published on Thu, May 10, 2007 by JackKintner

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Blaine physicians celebrate 25 years in practice

By Jack Kintner

Blaine’s two physicians, David Allan and Marta Kazymyra, first met when a college secretary assigned them to be lab partners in an undergraduate biochemistry class. “When he asked me out,” Kazymyra said, “my reaction was what? You want to go out? On a date? With me?”

Allan’s persistence paid off, though. Over that first year they earned each other’s respect, Kazymyra a precocious and dedicated 18-year-old college senior from Regina, and Allan, the older and more laid back Vancouver boy with a degree in science from the University of Alberta.

Allan had returned for a year-long honors program at the University of Regina when they met and together chose the medical school at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, graduating in 1977. They interned in Flint, Michigan, before beginning practice in remote Vanderhoof, B.C.

They married in 1979, about the time they left Vanderhoof to explore a few less isolated locations in both the US and Canada. They worked locums, temporary appointments, in a few locations, one of which was Bellingham. They enjoyed the medical community in Whatcom County but found no opportunities to join a practice.

They were literally packing to return to Canada one day when they got word about the availability of the general practice in the former Sears Foundation medical building at 377 C Street that they’ve since purchased.

Dr. Subrahmanyan – “Dr. Subru” – had retired and the practice was temporarily in the hands of Bellingham physician Mike Verrett. Allan arrived in 1980 and two years later, on April 5, 1982, Kazymyra joined him as did long-time office nurse JoAnn Baker.

“I remember that first day,” Baker said. “Because of the pent-up demand we didn’t get out of here until after 7 p.m. Tears were shed, I won’t say whose,” she laughed. Office manager Sue Cushman has been there 19 years and receptionist Chris Dodd, 16 years.

Another long-term employee, office manager Ruth Pickering, retired two years ago.

The newlyweds settled in Ferndale, welcoming sons Stephen in 1983 and Michael in 1986. Eleven years ago they moved to a house they built on Harvey Road, closer to work and in time for both boys to complete middle and high school in Blaine. Stephen is pursuing a business degree at the University of Washington and Michael is majoring in landscape architecture at Washington State University.

Reflecting on their professional life together, both mentioned how well the practice in Blaine has worked for them in providing a modern practice with a personal touch. “We really like the homey atmosphere we can maintain here,” Kazymyra said, “because there’s a lot more to medicine than technology.” Both have styles that reflect their training in differential diagnosis as opposed to relying on the more impersonal batteries of tests.

“And what do you know, after all these years working and living so closely we’re still married ... aren’t we?” joked Allan with a quick glance at his wife. The couple said that they’ve always gotten along well ever since those days in the bio-chem lab. “We’re still just running a little mom-and-pop kind of thing,” Allan smiled, “which is exactly what we want. As long as there’s an magnetic resonance imager (MRI) around fairly close, of course.”

Their practice has made two concessions to the modern age, an x-ray machine and computers in the office that connect the practice to hospital networks (though patient records are still kept by hand).

Other than that, Allan said, about all they’ve changed in 25 years has been the wallpaper and the phone books. Marcus Welby would feel right at home, although a significant part of their practice involves using their medical skills in St. Joseph Hospital’s state of the art operating rooms. It’s not unusual for one of them to assist often referring a patient to a specialist for surgery.

The changes in medicine they’ve seen in 25 years have been huge, especially in medical technology, they said. One thing they like about this location is that they can be a part of a skilled medical community in Whatcom County but are also far enough from major medical centers in both Bellingham and Seattle that they can be somewhat independent.
They made the decision not to deliver babies early on because of the distance to St. Joseph Hospital. In their leisure time he reads and she plays tennis.

“We’ve found that our styles really balance each other,” Kazymyra said, “in that while there are differences in the way we work, we can complement each other quite well in a shared practice like this. It’s better for the patients and has given me time for the kids, too.”

Allan, on the other hand, sees himself as older and more patient, the leaven to Kazymyra’s yeast. “I’m so old I remember when Sears and Roebuck were just dating,” Allan joked, proud to still have a sense of humor and most of his hair after so many years.

When asked about leaving Canada for an American practice, Allan said that they really hadn’t thought that much about it and were just looking for a place to work when the Blaine opportunity came long.

“There weren’t any problems working in Canada, but we did feel a little isolated after practicing up north for two years,” Allan said. “The Canadian system emphasizes wellness and is a good one if you’re reasonably healthy but there can be long waits and there’s a shortage of personnel.

“Here in the U.S., on the other hand, people are a little spoiled, to be honest, relying on the price-is-no-object kind of almost immediate care available to people here. What we like most about Blaine, though, isn’t about being in the U.S. or Canada. It’s the people. We love them.”

In 25 years of practicing medicine they’ve had a significant health-related encounter, many of them full-blown crises, with many of the people in Blaine. The best stories about their years in practice are, of course, confidential, the stuff a small town doctor’s life is filled with, and both use humor as a gentle but effective way of reminding the inquisitive to mind their own business.

Keeping the confidence of their patients can be more difficult in a small town because their practice is so visible with after hours emergencies, the occasional house calls that both have done and neither will ever admit to, or the companionship of beloved town characters they’ve helped through old age to gracefully facing death. They’ve seen courage in little kids and yet are still intrigued and often surprised by the work, its variety and human dimension.

“Take Trav Skallman,” Allan thundered, “now there was a really great...” His voice quickly trailed off, caught in deeply felt memories of one of Blaine’s many true gentlemen of the past, memories he can share for the most part only with his partner and wife, who nodded her understanding and smiled, a look they’ve shared for three decades at home and on the job.

That college secretary sure knew her chemistry.