Allyn Dambeck was recognized last Tuesday, June 24, for over 60 years in the medical profession. Staff at Goshen Medical Center, where Dambeck now works, hosted the event.
Later in the week, the doctor, who has held many positions throughout the county, talked about how time has changed the face of medicine.
Dambeck came south to Clinton around Jan. 1, 1979 and started at Sampson Regional Medical Center’s emergency room.
“I was chief of the ER for eight years, a medical adviser for the local EMS and a physician for the jail,” he explained in an interview on Thursday. He even became the medical director for the Health Department and has been doing that since 1979.
“I started with Goshen Medical around 15 years or so ago,” he said. “I’ve been the medical director there for about 10 years. I supervise 15 mid-levels.” He is a contract physician and he is also supervisor for others.
Goshen has offices as far as Jacksonville, Whiteville to Freemont, he said, adding that they are opening a practice in Fayetteville as well.
He regularly goes around to these offices of around 50 providers, sometimes weekly, and focuses on the proof of quality care as well as auditing providers.
“Since I came to North Carolina from Connecticut, I have always lived in Clinton,” Dambeck added. “I left Connecticut because it was too crowded and busy and I wanted a more moderate climate.”
“Sampson Regional was expanding the ER and I fell in love with the area,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been here I have supervised…and most have felt that I have helped them.”
He hopes he has, and plans to continue.
“As long as I am physically and mentally able I want to continue what I am doing,” attested Dambeck about his hands-on approach to the medical profession. “I still do some patient care.”
“I go over charts and help them decide what things to do, and teach them things to help with patient care,” he said. “There isn’t any one thing; it happens every day.” He said that he has really enjoyed getting into the thick of it and mentoring.
“I love teaching,” he said. “It’s about seeing (the doctors’) response and what they can do.” As the medical director for the Health Department, he said that he has really noticed their hard work.
“Our Health Department is wonderful, and it doesn’t get enough credit for what they do,” he expressed. “People get excellent care and attention. They are very capable and are a pleasure to work with.” That same enthusiasm he has for the Dealth Department Dambeck shares with his patients.
Dambeck stressed that he is concerned with all the cases of diabetes he sees, mentioning how many chronic problems comes with that disease.
“It is associated with high cholesterol, hypertension and obesity,” he said. “It’s about lifestyle.” If patients work on their lifestyle, he said, they often are able to cut back on their medications or completely eliminate them. Losing weight or changing their diet can help them regulate their bodies and get off the medications for diabetes, cholesterol, or hypertension.
“I had one patient change (his lifetsyle) and a year later he was no longer obese or on any medications,” he said enthusiastically. “It can be done.”
“It is one of the great things we can do if people will do it,” he stressed. “The Mediterranean style diet is one everyone should follow.” Yet with the Mediterranean diet, he said, ‘diet’ is really a misnomer. It is more about focusing on the right kinds of food and not a diet in the often negative sense of the word.
Not smoking, drinking in moderation, exercise and the Mediterranean diet are the four components he says are important to having a long and healthy life, and they are more important than anything.
During his time as a doctor in Connecticut he remembers delivering the largest baby the hospital had seen, weighing in at 9 1/2 pounds.
“The mother delivered the baby without a C-section,” he said, describing the moment as exciting for him. “I’ve delivered breech babies and I was the chief of the OB/GYN at that hospital for a while.”
Dambeck also spent three years in the military, working at the Naval Hospital at Camp LeJeune.
“I loved it,” he said of his military career, “but I wanted to do patient care.” Dambeck said that in his case the time in the military shifted more towards administrative work and he wanted to be more hands-on so he left after his three years.
“I want to be hands-on, and not stuck with one thing,” he explained. “I like the variety of doing a little of everything. I’ve even given anesthesia.”
Dambeck said that the biggest change he has seen administratively is in the insurance business. When he first started, there was only one insurance company, period, and that was Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“Insurance only used to cover hospitalizations, surgery, deliveries, and a few office procedures,” Dambeck explained. “I used to be able to do my paperwork in 20 minutes on the weekend.”
Plus there was no insurance like Medicaid at that time, and it was generally understood that around 10 percent of his patients were folks that couldn’t pay him because they just didn’t have the money. He said that sometimes those folks could only pay him once a year, like when they received their income tax returns.
Yet the most significant difference in the medical field that stands out in his mind is the changes in imaging.
“It used to be that X-rays were all we had,” he detailed. When he was assisting a neurosurgeon he remembers doing an pneumoencephalogram, which included doing a spinal tap and injecting a bit of air into the spinal column. Patients would sit up, the air would rise and go into the brain cavity and then they would take an X-ray.
He said that now they have other options with the CT scans and MRIs. He remembers when appendicitis was diagnosed by a patient history and physical exam, unlike now when doctors have to order an abdominal CT. In his hands-on approach he also encourages his doctors to prescribe the cheapest medicine to do the job he said.
Outside of medicine Dambeck has many other interests from raising and showing dogs to staying active. He was a college tennis player and he has even shown one of his dogs in Madison Square Garden. He said that he is a history buff and the avid reader enjoys learning about the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
Dambeck has three children. He has a daughter who lives in Boone and provides medical massage therapy and a son in California involved in making olive oil and working with their local Chamber of commerce in agricultural development. His other son focuses on religion in the Middle East.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd