The more than 2,000 babies Dr. William Wells has delivered into life in Gibson County over his more than 63 years of practicing medicine here would easily match the combined population of the towns of Patoka and Owensville.
Wells can’t even count the number of patients he’s cared for in his career, but he remembers the early times, when sometimes he saw as many as 74 patients in a day. He’s made hundreds of house calls — and still makes a few, now and then.
He’s retiring next week, concluding probably the longest individual medical career in the county. Deaconess Gibson Hospital hosts a public reception for him at the hospital’s health and education room from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28.
He’s ending his long career, he said, after realizing that he’s served as long as his uncle Kermit did. Wells said his mother asked him, when he was in fifth grade, what he wanted to pursue as a career. “She said that I told her, ‘Didn’t you know that I want to be a doctor like Uncle Kermit?’ ”
Wells, a native of LaPorte County, came to Princeton more than 63 years ago after completing Indiana University undergraduate and medical school degrees, a residency in Ohio and serving as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force.
His path to Princeton came when he met a local doctor, and after a few letters, agreed to come to town to talk about establishing a practice here. After meeting all the doctors in town, all the pharmacists in town and touring the hospital on State Street, he decided to open his office on State Street.
He worked from that location until joining three other providers in building the medical arts building on North Main Street in 1969.
When Wells came to Princeton, he worked at his office in addition to performing surgeries, anesthesia and working the emergency room and delivery room at the hospital. “Sometimes I’d be up all night working in the hospital,” he said, after working a full day at his office.
In his career he’s had some life-long patients, sharing the happiness of new life in families and in the sadness of sickness and death.
The tools and technology of his profession have changed drastically. Almost none of the medicines and technology used in his early years are a part of his practice today. “It’s been a continual learning process,” he said, noting that he thinks his medical office had the first computer system in the city years ago — operating on only 40 megabytes. Today’s technology eclipses what he thought was cutting-edge operations at that time.
While his practice required lots of long hours, Wells found time to help raise four children: J.B., Julie, Jennie and James Wells, and taught each of them how to master one of his favorite hobbies: racing sailboats on Kentucky Lake or Lake Michigan. He also earned a pilot’s license and enjoyed flying.
Those hobbies are behind him, and he admits that he’s still working on what he will do when he retires. “We’ll see what happens,” he said of his leisure plans. He might just start with enjoying time visiting friends.
“I love my work. I’m really kind of distressed about saying goodbye,” he said. “I’ve spent the last two or three weeks hugging patients. But I just felt it was probably time.”
Dr. Michael Clark has worked in the North Main Street office with Wells for the past eight or nine years. “He’s been a wonderful colleague,” he said.
Wells said his only “words of wisdom” for new doctors are simple: Keep up with the changes and developments in medicine — and “the patient’s welfare comes first.”
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