LINCOLN, Maine — Growing up in a home with a doctor’s office in the basement and a country doctor for a father, Noah Nesin was sure of one thing: No way was he going to practice medicine.
Dr. Bourcard Nesin worked 16-hour days at least five days a week. Emergency rooms weren’t prevalent in Maine in the 1960s, so when Nesin wasn’t doing house calls, his patients filled the basement staircase waiting to see him, sometimes until midnight.
“I think I resisted medicine as a boy because everybody asked me all the time if I was going to grow up and be a doctor. I think I just got tired of the question,” Nesin said. “I think as an adolescent, in the ways that you rebel against your parents, I just rebelled against the idea of being exactly what my dad had been.”
Things reversed entirely, Nesin said, when his father approached him during Noah’s junior year in college as the younger Nesin fretted over his decision to study physics.
“He said, ‘You know, you’d make a good doctor,’” Noah Nesin recalled. “That’s the only thing he ever said to me about it, but it must have been powerful, because I began applying to medical school after that.”
Twenty-six years and perhaps 10,000 patients later, Nesin has decided to change careers. He plans in March to leave Health Access Network to take a job in Bangor that he says will allow him to help reshape the way medicine is practiced.
Nesin’s departure marks the end of a medical practice that began with his father in 1953. Nesin’s brother, Joseph, continues as a veterinarian in Chester and their brother Peter is an optician in Belfast.
Several colleagues at HAN said they regret his decision. They describe Nesin as an excellent medical director and unpretentious physician whose expertise, support and gently sarcastic humor will be missed.
“He and Dr. [Stratton] Shannon were the quintessential family doctors in a rural area,” said Christopher Mannari, a physician’s assistant at Health Access. “He is, as is Shannon, the ideal country doctor.”
Nesin “used to deliver babies, he did vasectomies, gynecology, house calls. He still does [house calls] for some of his patients as far as I know,” Mannari added. “Now, people just refer you to a specialist, but for years, these guys [Shannon and Nesin] did everything they possibly could for their patients.”
George Michaud is one of those patients. The 76-year-old Passadumkeag resident was among Bourcard Nesin’s first patients when he began his practice in Howland, delivering Michaud’s son Daniel in 1960 for $27.
“That paid for the hospital and him. Can you imagine that? They were making quite a sacrifice with the job that they do,” Michaud said of the Nesins. “They were both very dedicated.”
Nesin said his new job will allow him to shape the delivery of medical care now to conform with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Nesin said he strongly supports. The job will, he said, hopefully change what is the bane of modern American health care — a turnstile medical system that prizes the number of patients seen more than the quality of care delivered.
American medical care, Nesin said, generally flourishes in its treatment of chronic or severe conditions but the 15-minute doctors’ appointment that most facilities shoot for cramps effective care.
Nesin looks forward to tackling that problem, he said, but regrets leaving patients.
“I’ve always said that after 26 years, the people who continue to see me [do so] because they like me or they are satisfied with the care that I provide,” Nesin said. “That’s a wonderful position to be in as a primary care provider, where you really enjoy seeing all of your patients. I will miss that tremendously.”
“Secondly, I will miss the people that I work with here,” he added, calling them “a remarkable group of people to work with.”