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David Nichols: Primary Care Doc, Pilot Puts Patients First

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2010

Today, hundreds of cards from patients offering love, thanks, prayers, and good-byes litter his house as terminal cancer forces the family physician toward retirement and the end stage of a life of patient care. Before his diagnosis, Nichols had no intentions of retiring soon.

Nichols' time for others is sandwiched between his own blood work tests, media interviews, and family time. Nichols still takes flight to Tangier for visits.

While airborne with his son on the way to the island, "I told him I wished I could see it through to the end. And he goes, 'Dad, at least you're going out with a bang.'"

And a bang it was, as the islanders honored their doctor in August.

Planes packed the tiny runway at Tangier Island. The magnitude of the crowded street could not be captured with a camera lens. Witnesses came to watch Nichols' vision for a healthcare facility come to fruition after five years in the making. The new Tangier Island Medical Clinic comes equipped with primary care, emergency services, wellness and prevention programs, and a surprise: the name "David Nichols Medical Center" branded on the outside. The facility was built to replace the existing 50-year-old clinic. Nichols' medical legacy continues as Elizabeth Inez Pruitt—island resident and physician assistant—oversees care under the supervision of Keith Cubbage, MD, of White Stone Family Practice.

Now islanders can receive an enhanced level of care with colonoscopies, digital x-rays, EMRs, gastroscopy, cardiac stress testing, a modern lab, and a surgical suite for minor injuries.

"I would say that there is not one other family practice building anywhere in this country that could top this," he says.

“I've received way more than what I've given," he says of his legacy on the island. "I hope people will remember, Dr. David Nichols tried his best to help people."

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