At 87 years old, Dr. Russell Dohner is a country doctor from a bygone era: He has delivered thousands of babies and charges just $5 a visit. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
By Kevin Tibbles, NBC News correspondent
RUSHVILLE, Illinois -- For more than half a century in the rural town of Rushville, Ill., the doctor has been in.
Dr. Russell Dohner, at 87 years old, still serves this community of 3,192 people about a four-hour drive southwest of Chicago.
In fact, folks here say he’s likely assisted in the births of more babies than there are people in living Rushville.
“They consider me an old country doctor; and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Dohner as we sat in the back of his storefront clinic on the main square in town.
The good doctor first opened his doors here in 1955 and he has been treating anyone and everyone who’s come through the front door ever since.
There’s still an old rotary phone on the desk where his longtime nurse Rose greets those who come to sit in the waiting room with its faded Rockwell prints and Christmas cards from patients past.
“I come here every day for a while,” Dohner said. “Even on Sundays I come here before I go to church.”
“Seven days a week?” I asked.
“Yes, I always come here,” he replied.
Both Dohner and Rose do admit, however, they’re not too happy about church services being moved ahead to 9:30 a.m. as it cuts down on his clinic time.
In a high-tech world of machines and gizmos a visit to Dohner’s office is a slice of nostalgia. Patient records are still kept on little cards which, in turn, are kept in a dozen or so filing cabinets along the wall.
Along with the rotary phone there’s also an old electric typewriter. No cell phone. No fax.
If the people of Rushville need him, they’ll know where to find him. On Tuesdays, for example, he’ll be at his Rotary Club meeting.
“Where is your computer?” I inquired.
“Far, far away,” came the reply. “Never had one.”
We both laugh.
There is something else a little old fashioned about the way medicine is practiced here: the fee.
Dohner charges just $5 a visit. That’s it.
He admits he raised the price from the original $2 a few years ago and says he sees no reason to change it again.
“I always felt it was alright to just charge $5.”
He adds it comes in helpful to the many people in town who may not have insurance.
Sometimes those who are unable to pay his fee have arrived with fresh baked cookies.
“He just wants to help people and be here in case they need him,” said Lynn Stambaugh, the administrator at the local hospital. And she should know, as Dohner delivered her and all her siblings as well.
And should you ever have a medical emergency, the doctor is prepared for that as well.
“Just come around the back door,” he said.
It may only cost $5 but in this town, surrounded this time of year by chest-high fields of corn, it is worth so much more.