Today, a doctor's time is as precious as gold. During the time it takes for him to make it from his Floral Park office to a patient's home, he could have examined three or four patients.
But for Dr. Ephraim Zackson, 77, who has been treating patients in the Floral Park, Bellerose and Glen Oaks area for 50 years, making a house call is not only enjoyable but necessary.
"I still make house calls. You learn more about a patient by spending 10 minutes in their home during a house call than you could in 10 years of office visits," he said. "I became a doctor for the interpersonal relationships"
Nineteen out of 20 office visits could be handled in the home, Zackson said. If the patient goes to the emergency room, it will cost the government $500 to $1,000. Most patients do not need the extensive testing a hospital will perform, Zackson said.
The practice of a doctor making house calls has to come back into vogue for basic economic reasons because it will save the government billions of dollars.
"Working with Dr. Zackson is great," said Maria Seecoomar, who lives in Hollis and grew up in Astoria. She is a third-year medical student at Stony Brook University and doing one of her medical school rotations with Dr. Zackson.
"I like the house calls because no one else does that. It makes me feel we are doing something for the community. It is greatly appreciated," she said.
Zackson has been training residents and medical students from Stony Brook and Winthrop Hospital since 1985. He said that during the last 15 years he has worked with more than 150 doctors in training.
After finishing medical school at Hahnemann Medical College and completing an internship at Queens General Hospital - now Queens Hospital Center - Zackson opened his office in December 1950. His father and brother built the office as an addition to the home that his father had bought in 1930 for $1,200 to raise a family.
A giant smile appeared on his face when he began to talk about the people he has taken care of over the past 50 years. He said he has seen them grow up, have kids and become grandparents. There are even a couple of families which he has treated through five generations.
"I remember my first patient when I was a second-year intern at Queens General Hospital," he said.
"My father got me an old sofa to examine patients and there was this old Queens car dealer with a prostate problem. As I was examining him, a spring on the sofa popped and hit him in the ... I quickly said, 'Don't worry. It is part of the exam.' I don't think he ever knew what happened."
The first child he delivered at his practice is now 50. "My God, 50 years," he exclaimed looking up toward the sky.
The family invited Zackson to the baptism back a half century ago and as the priest said the boy's name, Michael Anthony Ephraim Minichino, Zackson tumbled into shock. The family had named their child after the doctor who had delivered their son.
Zackson no longer lives in the house where his parents raised him, his brother and twin sisters. He said it was just an outer shell of a home when they moved in 1930.
"You could look up from the unfinished cellar to an unfinished attic," he said. "The subsequent decades were spent in trying to complete the home, all the while trying to live in it."
Zackson's office looks like any other medical office. There is a waiting room, nurses' station and two examining rooms. But the pictures hanging on the walls are from places as exotic as Egypt and as local as Mineola. The photos were taken by the doctor - a photography buff.
At 77 Zackson is still going strong. He sees about 10 patients a day, which is down from his heyday when he treated between 30 and 35. He has not retired unlike his wife, whom he met in medical school and was a pediatrician, because as he puts it, "I am stupid."
"I don't want to quit," Zackson said. "I am 77 and was born with a stubborn gene. When I become senile, I'll quit."
©2000 Community News Group
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