Why I Love House Calls

I’ve always been a people watcher. Now I get paid to spy on folks. I have to ask detailed, personal questions. Sometimes I even snoop around patients’ homes. 

In the 1930s nearly half of all patient visits were house calls. Now most patients are rushed through ten-minute office visits. But if I need to know what’s going on with a patient, I stop by—unannounced. Today I’m surprising Terry Wayne.

He lives in an industrial area just across from the big homeless shelter—the only house on the block. Aha! I see it. Looks like his kinda place. It’s a buy-and-sell-pawn-shop-looking compound.


I walk right in past the alien hanging on the front door. 


Looking up from his chair, Terry seems overjoyed to see me. A hippie from Birmingham, Alabama, he found refuge in Eugene, Oregon. He’s been coming to my office for eight years. Now he’s giving me a tour of his place. First he poses with the gift he just got from his granddaughter: a Terry look-alike doll!


“I been upset ’cause my granddaughter just moved out with my daughter. My daughter’s homeless and two centimeters. Having her baby any day now. We’re not sure where she and her boyfriend run off to. Been losing sleep over this.”

His wife, Rhonda, shows me the room where their daughter and granddaughter were staying. I turn around and see a cookware display. He’s been paying me all these years by selling cast-iron pots and pans. “Yep. Here’s my collection I was telling you about. They’re all from the 1800s.”


Snooping around his house, I notice a lot of cool stuff: 


“I pick things up at garage sales and thrift stores, then I sell ’em on eBay,” he says.

His wife leads me through a secret door into the back room where he keeps most of his collection. 

“What does Rhonda think of all this?” I ask.

“She don’t mind long as the main part of the house is clean.” Terry is obviously proud of his stockpile. “Everything’s made in the USA,” he says.


Terry Wayne is diabetic. He tries to eat healthy. I check his heart while he stands by the fridge. “Cutting out ice cream and them bags of gummy worms has really helped me lose weight, doc.”


Terry exercises every day. “Been fixing up these bikes.” He takes me on a ride around the block on his quadracycle. “You know me and Rhonda’s never been on a plane. Travel makes me anxious. I need to be in my own bed at night. Even then, my brain won’t go to sleep. I have nightmares about being locked up in the South. I’m better during the day. I’m not really afraid of anything—except tornados and my government.”


While he pedals, I take a few notes on my laptop, then finish up his chart when I get home. Next morning I get this e-mail: 

“I just wanted to let you know I had a great time yesterday. It was the first time I have laughed or enjoyed anything in months. I have been trying to describe Rhonda and my feelings about this whole family thing, and thanx for letting us vent on you. From what I have been searching online I think we both are experiencing pure mental anguish which is leading to both our emotional distress. It feels weird having a doctor as a friend but boy does it feel great. We both love you and your real heartfelt concern for us.”

I guess a house call is like visiting a friend you love who just happens to be a patient. 

(Click here to read part 2 of this story.)

Pamela Wible, M.D. is a family doctor is Oregon. Watch her TEDx talk here. Photos by GeVe.

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20 comments on “Why I Love House Calls
  1. Laura Hart says:

    Pamela, thanks for being a pioneer. You are a genius. Many of us knew this is how it should be, but you actually have the guts to do it, and to lead the way for others. You’re the BEST!!!

  2. Vicki says:

    I love this story with it’s pictorial…thanks Pamela, It shows the beauty that we are, this will go viral!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Ah! Yes! Please share with all your friends Vicki. This could be the new normal in health care. 🙂

  3. Tamara Miller says:

    Awesome article! And now so proud to call you my physician as well!

  4. Sheila Swan Laufer says:

    That’s just great!

  5. Diane Binnings says:

    You really are wonderful, you rebel and redux poineer you! That’s why you’re my doc! Loved the picture/story… More, More!

  6. Jeannette Laframboise says:

    Loved this post! This is exactly why I love community nursing. I am able to see patient’s in their own environment and focus on their needs one on one.

    How I wish you were located near me and I could have a fantastic doc like you!

  7. Geoff says:

    Thank you, Pamela, for embracing Life, our community, and us, individually.
    I hope Terry’s daughter, et al, are okay. I’m glad you were there to listen to them.

  8. Fawn says:

    Hi Pamela,
    That was a fun visit. I remember when my uncle Eugene had his Dr’s office n the downstairs section of his house with its own entrance. Peeps used to come to him at his home for medical things. I hope you visit me some day and we can drink green smoothies. Have fun in this nice quadracycle riding weather!

  9. Ed Dorsch says:


    You rock! I’m so glad you’re my doctor. Thank you for blazing a trail and showing everyone a new (old?) way to be a physician. And a new way to be a patient, for that matter.


  10. Sandy says:

    Such a great story and a wonderful comment on your vision and on progressive Eugenians!! You go girl :))

  11. mjfmiller says:

    Dear Dr. Wible,

    It makes me want to cry; too nice, too caring, too healthy. Next, you’ll be taking patients off of lifetime medications (you know the ones that don’t really cure anything) and maybe healing something?
    Keep up the good work; I think it is as incredible as Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon; home doctor visits again; a walk per a patient’s medical care.


  12. karen moeller says:

    wonderful article… the way it should be… and great bike too! wonder what he would sell one like that for…. 🙂

  13. andrea says:

    Great story, it’s nice to see someone making this type of medicine work 🙂 My favorite housecall patient (who is a sweet german lady, aged 90) makes me tea (and puts the pot in an actual tea cozy over a tea candle warmer!) and specially puts out 3 or 4 types of munchies (german sweet bread with cream cheese and jam is always my favorite) for me even though I tell her I don’t need it. Wish I could do that kind of visit more often!

  14. Mary DeForest says:

    Right on!!!

  15. Ajay J Mohabeer, MD says:

    I remember well those early days, in England, where I trained. GPs always go on house calls…and I always enjoyed it, when rotating through General Practice! The “adversary” nature of Doctor-Patient relationship that we have now, did not exist then.

    Good job Dr. Wible!

  16. Karuna says:

    Hi Pamela, wow! how I enjoyed this story. No wonder you love Medicine, it’s about the people. I am forwarding this! with love karuna

  17. Doc says:

    A return to this option of medical care is what may bring the cost of healthcare down and keep our elderly safer, better able to live alone longer.

  18. linda timberlake says:

    You are one of my heroes!

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