Hanging up his stethoscope: Spurgin retires after 33-year career in Berryville
For a new doctor in a small town, building a successful practice takes time, effort and dedication.
For family medicine specialist Dr. Randal Spurgin, it took a lot of years and more than a few late nights. There was also the occasional baby.
“Medicine was different in those days,” said Spurgin, 66, who celebrated his retirement Wednesday, June 30, with a reception at the Mercy Hospital Family Clinic in Berryville, where he practiced for 33 years. “Most family practice-trained doctors, a lot would go to smaller towns and at the time, smaller town docs pretty much did it all. I delivered babies for almost 10 years. I worked in the emergency room for almost 10 years. I worked in the hospital until 2008.”
At the same time, Spurgin and his wife, Panda, were raising two daughters, both of whom eventually would follow their father into the medical field — although not as doctors. Spurgin said they’d seen enough of that.
“Emily was 7 years old when we moved to town,” Spurgin said, “and Laura was 3.”
Emily works as a physical therapist in Manhattan, Kan., while Laura is a respiratory therapist who works in wound treatment for Northwest Hospital in Bentonville, where she helps administer hyperbaric treatments to patients.
“I think they always wanted to do something in healthcare,” Spurgin said, “but they saw Dad on call and how much after-hours and weekend stuff I did so they kind of shied away from that.”
In addition to the actual medical work he did, Spurgin was also active in the community. That was almost a necessity, he said, for a new doctor in a small community.
“In a small town, if you take part in the community, become involved in the athletics programs at school and you have kids, and then if you do the ER, hospital, [obstetrics], it’s really easy to build a practice,” Spurgin said. “You get to know new people in the emergency room and some of them you just click with and they want to stick with you. That’s how it works.”
Spurgin was part of a group of young doctors who were recruited to serve the Berryville area by Dr. William Flake, a surgeon, in the 1980s.
“He was family practice-trained before he went back and did his surgical residency and then he came to Berryville,” Spurgin said. “He built the clinic and he started the family practice ball rolling in Berryville and recruited a good number of family practice docs to town. Several of them, I’ve had the good fortune of working with for years, including Dr. [Shannon] Card, Dr. [Richard] Taylor and Dr. [Charles] Horton.”
During Spurgin’s retirement reception last Wednesday, Flake had nothing but kind words for his former colleague, along with his fellow physicians at the clinic.
“The best thing has been the doctors that I’ve got to work with,” Flake said, speaking before the sizable group of well-wishers, colleagues and former patients in attendance. “They’re good solid physicians. They don’t miss things. They are compassionate. They take care of their folks real well.”
Carolyn Bossardt, manager of infection prevention and case management at Mercy Hospital — who was also celebrating her retirement on Wednesday after 35 years — broke away from her own retirement party to pay her respects to Spurgin.
“We had a good time,” she said during her visit. “It was a good run.”
Flake praised the camaraderie among the clinic staff — which he described as a rare commodity — and expressed his desire that Spurgin enjoy his retirement. But not too much.
“I hope you have a great time playing with those grandbabies and riding your bike or whatever, and I hope we’ll see you over here keeping your skills up and having a good time taking care of some folks,” Flake said. “I’m glad that you’re getting this time to do what you want to do. If you decide you want to come back, it’ll be no problem.”
For the time being, Spurgin said he has plans to explore the mountain bike trails near his home in Bella Vista.
“It’ll take a while to cover them all,” said Spurgin, an avid cyclist with, as he put it, a “garage full” of bicycles, “but that’s probably number one on my list. We hope to travel a little bit if COVID will continue to settle down. I like to fish. I like to play golf.”
No matter what activities he decides to pursue, Spurgin joked that he would eventually, inevitably return to Berryville.
“I’m going to come back to Berryville,” Spurgin said. “I’ve got a couple of plots at its cemetery, so I’ll make it back. I’ll be right across from Bobcat Arena. That’s where we’ll end up. We haven’t really left. We just moved away temporarily.”