Veteran Doctor Retires from IFHS Clinic
Wednesday, July 17 2013
After 35 years, Doctor Don Hudson is leaving the Iliuliuk Clinic. During that time the facility transitioned from a frontier medical outpost to a modern health center, and Hudson didn’t just watch the transition -- he helped make it happen.
Hudson started working in Unalaska in 1978, right at the beginning of what he calls the “crazy fishing days.”
“In the old clinic, that stretch in front of the school, we used to have fishermen lined up in the street, trying to get in the clinic. It was not unreasonable to see 100 people in a day.”
The fishermen weren’t coming in with runny noses either. Hudson says they saw all kinds of serious ailments.
“I don't think we missed much. Everything from bad behavior, psychotic behaviors to fishing hooks through everything and all sorts of broken things. A lot of fights.”
As the fishing industry continued to grow, Hudson says it became clear that the town needed a bigger clinic. He remembers some of the early conversations about it.
“Henry Swanson. Well, Henry and I were sitting up here drinking coffee, and Henry was telling me the story about how he used to swim in this little pond, and I said ‘You know, I think this is the most beautiful place in the entire world. If I had my choice, I’d put my clinic right here.’”
Eventually, Hudson got his wish. Not only did the clinic end up in the spot he had hoped -- he got to help design it.
“We didn't realize how underbuilt we were. We thought we had overbuilt at the time.”
In the new clinic, Unalaska was at the forefront of the emerging field of telemedicine. The setup connected the clinic to doctors in Anchorage, Seattle and Denver, and Hudson says it was pretty different from what’s used today.
“The TV was huge. The TV and cart were probably the 60-inch LED equivalent that you see today -- and it was pretty fuzzy. But we could put two sites on the same screen, so we could actually see two different sites, and then we could listen to a third.”
These days, most of what Hudson does is via telemedicine. Although his title at the clinic is medical director, he lives in Anchorage, and only comes to Unalaska quarterly. The rest of the time, he monitors the clinic and emergency services from afar, reviewing patient files and incident reports remotely.
“I’m the guy that just kind of looks at everything. What I’m doing right now is that I’m going over charts, of everybody’s -- and I look at them from the standpoint of what did the patient complain about, what was done, what did the provider see, what did they do, and then I can look at the next two to three visits to make sure they got better.”
That job will be someone else’s responsibility starting in November. Hudson says his wife has had some health problems in recent years.
“And I really like my wife, so we’re going to spend some more time together. So I’m getting rid of some things that are in the outlier, because this takes a lot of time.”
Hudson will retain his ties to several other clinics in the state, but says his primary focus will be on a project closer to home -- a private venture that uses a hyperbaric chamber to treat various ailments and injuries.
“For an ER doc, who never got the chance to see people improve, to be able to watch people on a daily basis get better -- it’s pretty exciting.”
When Hudson leaves, it will be end of his position, one of the last holdovers from the early, frontier days. The clinic is planning to divvy up his responsibilities among in-house providers and outside consultants, rather than trying to find another do-it-all doctor.