Robert Langan

My Proud Story...

As family doctors, we hear a lot of stories - some funny, some sad, some deeply moving and some complex. Our patients depend on us to listen to those stories and offer advice, an explanation or sometimes, just to be heard. Over an average career, a family doctor might hear hundreds of thousands of stories, and those stories affect us and change us and, hopefully, keep us humble and focused on what is truly important in our lives. Occasionally, a story might even imbue the teller with a form of immortality.

When I moved to Pennsylvania after seven years in the Navy, I provided care for people who had been in my new practice since before I was born. One family included an elderly but robust man, his wife and their only child, an adult daughter with mild intellectual disabilities who lived with them. Prior to my arrival, the daughter had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and was undergoing treatment. Over the years, I took care of them throughout an assortment of minor chronic illnesses and acute problems.

One day, I was walking through the depths of our main hospital, rushing to a meeting, when I saw the father. He was walking slowly with a cane now, burdened down by heart failure, arthritis and the realization that he would soon leave his little family. I caught his eye, and his face broke out into a wide, crinkled smile. We sat down on a bench—the only bench in the depths of our main hospital—and talked.

To this day, I can’t remember what we talked about, but whenever I think about that talk, what I can recall are emotions: happiness, gratitude, affection and a sense of responsibility. It was such a small thing, to listen and to talk, but it affected us both greatly. Within two years, he had died, and his wife and daughter followed shortly after. Their little family of fifty-odd years was gone, only surviving in my memory.

To this day, nearly ten years later, I think of them every time I walk through the depths of our hospital and see that bench. His bench. Their bench. They live on through me; now, in a special way, they will live on through you, too.

Robert Langan, MD
Program Director, Family Medicine Residency
Hired in 2016