What Dr. Byron VanPelt enjoyed most about practicing medicine was the one-to-one contact with his patients.
"I've had good patients. A few gave me a hard time, but I got good reports from most of them," he said.
VanPelt retired in May after practicing medicine for 41 years in Wheeling. He decided at 71 years old that maybe it was time.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Dr. Byron VanPelt poses with his wife Rebecca in their Wheeling home. VanPelt retired his medical practice after 41 years of service.
"I was ready at my age. We were both ready. My wife (Rebecca) worked for me - she was a big help," VanPelt said, adding his wife was his business manager and later also his nurse. "We were known as Doc and Mrs. Doc."
He said being forced to use electronic records because of new federal legislation also pushed him to make the decision. He believes this new mandate will force more doctors to retire earlier than they originally planned. But another reason that helped make the decision to retire easier was Wheeling Hospital purchasing his practice that is now run by Dr. Shashi Urval.
He added these days primary care doctors are becoming fewer. New doctors want to become specialists because that's where the money is. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners also are starting to fill the role of primary care doctor.
"That's what they're trying to do. In the future, there's going to be more PAs. In the office setting in the future, they will probably have six to eight PAs under a doctor's supervision," he noted.
In addition to having to input information into a computer taking more time and money, VanPelt said it also takes time away from the patient.
"Patients like that personal contact, that you care what happens to them," he said.
Born in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25, 1942, VanPelt grew up in the Wellsburg-Bethany area. He graduated from Bethany High School and went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Bethany College in 1964. He graduated from West Virginia University's School of Medicine in 1968 and completed his internship at Ohio Valley General Hospital in 1968.
He went on to become a captain in the Army Medical Corps and served during the Korean War and at Kenner Army Hospital, Fort Lee, Va., 1969-71.
During his 13 months in South Korea, VanPelt spent four of those months having to inspect the guard posts at the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea.
"I'd have to put a flak jacket on and a helmet. I carried an M16 and 45 pistol and I had a gun Jeep in front of me and one in back. Being in the Army - it was different. Financially it helped me get ahead because I got the GI Bill to go to college," VanPelt said.
He conducted his internal medicine residency at the University of Minnesota Hospitals from 1971-74. VanPelt started his medical practice at the Wheeling Clinic Partnership from 1974-89.
He began his solo practice in Wheeling in 1989 and later was employed by Wheeling Hospital from 2012 until his retirement.
VanPelt said he plans to keep up his medical license so he can continue to serve on the board of directors for the Good Shepherd nursing home. He also may do some volunteer work. For now VanPelt and his wife, Rebecca, are enjoying themselves by traveling to places like Alaska and taking trips with their children and grandchildren.
VanPelt said since retiring he has been able to enjoy his home more but also noticed it needs some work.