NEWPORT — Patients who walk through the doors of Dr. Roger Green’s clinic are eagerly greeted by Izzy, Green’s 5-year-old Basset hound.
The 75-year-old doctor has practiced in Newport for 47 years, and he said he doesn’t plan to even think about retiring until he’s at least 90.
“I love what I do, and I never want to quit,” Green said. “I feel great. I feel like I did when I was 18, but when I look in the mirror, I see something different.”
His day usually begins at 8 a.m. and ends around 7 p.m. after he and his staff see about 50 patients.
He said one of the biggest rewards of being a small-town doctor is building tight friendships and watching his patients grow up.
Green recalled a story of when his brother came to visit from California. “We went to Walmart, and people were saying, ‘Hi,’ and stopping to talk,” Green said. “[My brother] asked me, ‘Do you know everyone?’”
Green replied that he did, in fact, know everyone.
One of the things small-town doctors are known for is house calls. Back in the beginning of his practice, Green made a good number of house calls, but he doesn’t do so many these days.
“I occasionally still make house calls for people I’ve seen for years; I used to do that a lot, and I used to carry an emergency kit,” Green said. “I did a lot of talking, and sometimes I’d eat. They’d feed me, and I gained a lot of weight back in those days.
“I didn’t intend to, but I delivered a couple of babies at home,” he said.
One home delivery came as a surprise to Green, as well as the others in the home.
“A young girl concealed her pregnancy, and the family was shocked, and I was, too,” Green said. “I was seeing a 100-year-old lady, and they said, ‘Would you take a look at her (the girl), too?’”
Green said he placed his hand on her belly and knew right away that she was in labor.
“Within five minutes, she delivered,” Green said.
Even though he stopped delivering babies in 1990, he still cares for a lot of children, and he leaves most of the house calls to home-health professionals.
The HomeCare Association of Arkansas honored Green as the 2010 Physician of the Year.
Arleen Webb, director of the association, described Green as more than a physician — an individual with a big heart.
“He not only treats the medical needs of his patients, but is also involved in providing for their personal needs,” she said. “And he occasionally is known to make house calls.”
He recently attended his 50th medical-school reunion at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. After he graduated from medical school, Green did his internship in Memphis and moonlighted at the old Newport hospital.
Many things have dramatically changed in the field of medicine in the past 50 years, Green said. One is the way cardiac patients are treated. Years ago, heart-attack patients were given bed rest, morphine and EKGs.
“We were taught to keep them quiet,” he said. “In 1974, the first artery bypass took place, and I was astonished.”
Speaking as a cardiac patient himself, Green, who got a pacemaker put in a few years ago, said, “I guess it’s good to get the patient perspective, but I don’t want to do it very often.”
Along with improved antibiotics and DNA probes that get results within minutes, Green said the length of a hospital stay has decreased from a week or 10 days to only three days.
In 2004, Harris Hospital named the Dr. Roger Green Emergency Center after him.
“I spent so much time over there that they named it after me,” Green said with a chuckle. “I was really surprised and flattered that they’d do that.”
Green and his wife, Kathy, have been married 30 years, and she has worked as his nurse for longer than that. Of Green’s four daughters, two have chosen the medical field.
“I didn’t direct them, and I told them to go into something they enjoy,” Green said, adding that his daughters spent a lot of time with him at his office.
Green’s daughter Barbara Sweatt is a nurse practitioner whose office is next to his. Another daughter, Allison Lee, will graduate from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in May; Lee’s husband also is a doctor.
Harris Hospital CEO Claude Camp commented on Green: “Dr. Green has been practicing in this community since 1963 and is well-known not only as a dedicated and gifted physician, but also as a concerned and involved citizen.
“As CEO of Harris Hospital, I am proud to have a physician of this caliber as a member of our medical staff. He has dedicated his life to treating his patients and serving the medical profession.”
In addition to his love of medicine, Green said he loves all kind of music, especially blues. He said he plans to attend the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena in October.