After 50 years, NE Nebraska doctor has no plans to retire

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CREIGHTON, Neb. (AP) – A doctor from northeastern Nebraska recently celebrated his 50th birthday in Creighton, and he’s not planning on retiring anytime soon.

Dr Douglas Laflan, a Kearney native who received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine at Omaha, had no plans to practice medicine in a rural area for more than three or four years. But, he said, “the marriage and the mortgage” held him back in South Knox County for five decades and it continues.

The 78-year-old doctor specializes in family medicine and operates under the roof of the Laflan Medical Clinic with his daughter Lindsay in downtown Creighton. Both are the go-to sources for immunization checkups, heartburn, indigestion and more in the city of 1,200 people.

Laflan was born and raised in Kearney and graduated from Kearney High School in 1960. He doesn’t know when he first became interested in medicine, but he goes to the dentist with his father and sees his mother fall ill with leukemia, helped Laflan know that medicine is what he wanted to practice.


He had also gotten a job at a Kearney hospital after graduating from high school and was working in and around the emergency room, piquing his medical curiosity.

Laflan enrolled at Kearney State College at the time to pursue pre-medical education. After a few years in college, he chose to move to Los Angeles and work with a friend who had helped him find a job in this field.

But it was not long after that Laflan’s mother was diagnosed with leukemia and Laflan returned home to help take care of her. His mother’s fatal diagnosis, combined with the physical demands of the job he was doing in California, triggered Laflan’s decision to stay in Kearney and return to school.

“There was a lot going on for me at the time. My mother died of cancer and I was starting to face some arthritis-related issues, ”he told the Norfolk Daily News. “So I had to take a step back from some things and decided to finish school.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Kearney State, Laflan applied to medical school. He was not accepted the first time he applied due to insufficient results in math categories. Math was never difficult for him, he said, but it was just a lot of work.

“There was a saying we used to use back then that the hardest part of medical school was getting in,” he said.

Laflan’s second attempt to be accepted into medical school was successful. He wanted to enroll in a surgical residency program, but life simply prevented him from achieving that dream, he said.

Laflan therefore sought a doctorate in family medicine, which he obtained in 1970.

Laflan’s studies coincided with the Vietnam War, and he was “taken in twice by Uncle Sam” to serve during the war, he said. But because of his joint pain, Laflan failed the two physical exams he took several years in a row in the late 1960s.

“They said ‘Sorry’ and I thought ‘Don’t be’,” he joked.

Laflan was invited again in 1971 to serve in the military. An examiner told him at the time that despite what previous medical examinations had indicated about his condition, “if you are good enough to practice medicine in private life, then you are good enough to practice medicine in private life. army”.

But the military pulled 22 meds from Nebraska that year, and Laflan was 24th on the list and was never sent overseas.

It was then that he was contacted by recruiters to come and practice at Creighton.

“They invited us to look at the place, and what I wanted was a place where I could do a practice,” Laflan said. “I came here and my intention was to practice for three or four years and then go back to a surgical residency. Well, weddings and mortgages; so I just stayed here, and have been here ever since.

One of the most interesting parts of his job, said Laflan, is the ability to see medicine evolve firsthand.

About halfway through his residency at Methodist Hospital in the late 1960s, nearby Clarkson College got a computed tomography (CT) scan, which was not yet common in medicine. This scanner could only be used for the heads, not the rest of the body.

After that, Laflan said, CT scanners exploded and became a part of almost every hospital in the area. Soon after, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) became important.

“And it was a lot more important because there was no radiation involved in it. MRI scans are probably the best test out there, ”he said.

Drugs have changed dramatically as well, Laflan said. In the 1970s, there were a limited number of cholesterol-lowering pills, but there are at least a dozen now, he said.

A common treatment for ulcers in the early years was “milk and Maalox”. The patients took milk every hour and Maalox every half hour to neutralize the acid. Ulcers almost always had to be operated on to be repaired back then, he said, but now the operation is almost never necessary.

Laflan Medical Clinic has overcome its share of hassles over the years, including the flooding that once destroyed all medical records in the basement clinic and the “irreconcilable differences” with the local hospital. But the COVID-19 outbreak is taking the cake for Laflan.

“You see a lot of it in 50 years, but there really was no such thing,” he said of COVID. “Constant change keeps you on your toes.”

Before the virus outbreak, Laflan said, the clinic saw around 25 to 30 patients a day, but that number dropped to 10 or less when the outbreak peaked. But patients are slowly starting to come to the clinic again at a faster rate; the Laflans tended to treat 10 to 15 patients a day during the summer, he said.

Laflan Medical has helped eight patients recover from COVID since the outbreak again. One patient has died, said Laflan – an older patient with co-morbidities.

Laflan said he was proud of the way he and Lindsay got through the pandemic. But what Laflan is most proud of in life, he said, are his four daughters – both for who they are and for the careers they’ve built for themselves.

Laflan and his wife, Cathy, raised four daughters who also all pursued medical careers. Lindsay is a nurse practitioner at the Laflan Medical Clinic; Alison is hospitable; Rebecca is a physiotherapist; and Jennifer is a nurse practitioner. Each of Laflan’s daughters practices in different locations in eastern Nebraska.

“In our family, we have a lot of diplomas but not a lot of money. But I don’t regret it at all, ”he said.

No immediate retirement plan exists for Laflan, he said, as he was reappointed last fall as an Aviation Examiner until September 2023 and wishes to continue practicing at least until then. date, he said. His plans are to eventually hand Laflan Medical over to Lindsay.

He said once his aviation exam certification expires, he will have to decide whether he wants to continue working full-time at the clinic or only pursue the pilot exams.

“As long as I’m healthy I think I’m able to keep doing what I’m doing,” Laflan said.


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