Departing doctors leave a giant legacy in Windsor health care
July 30, 2017
In a small but growing community like Windsor, the retirement of a much-beloved and respected family physician is big news — especially for the multiple generations of families the doctor helped deliver and care for over the years.
This year, however, will be a double-whammy as two doctors at the UCHealth Family Medicine-Windsor office will be hanging up their stethoscopes after many years of dedicated local medical service.
Dr. Robert Bradley put in his last day June 30, and his partner, Dr. Michael Carey, will retire Friday, leaving some pretty big shoes to fill. They've also served as each other's general physicians, so the pair say a first order of business will be finding their own family doctors.
More complex, however, will be their transition to a world that no longer requires them to be on call 24-7 or put in long days, as both have frequently been doing since the 1970s and '80s — and the long-ago days of making house calls in the community.
"I guess we'll actually be locked out of the office, and I'll lose my computer and my ID, so that's going to be a tough one to swallow," said Bradley, who celebrated his 70th birthday about six months ago. "But after 40 years, it's about time to lay off. It's my time, and I'm wearing out a bit."
Both he and 71-year-old Carey have been based out of the UCHealth clinic they established seven years ago, though both have been involved in other local practices and affiliated with area hospitals and related health facilities for many years.
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"The best part about family practice is that you really do get to know the families, and in the old days in Windsor, we knew everybody," Carey said. "And it was great working with Dr. Bradley. We were always blessed with a great staff, and we always got along well with everyone."
Retirement is a bittersweet experience for both physicians, but each has plenty of activities to keep busy. Besides focusing on his two daughters and six grandkids, Bradley said his next plan is to head off to do a fill-in spot in Hana on Hawaii's Maui. And Carey said he's also likely to play a part-time role in health care — he's not letting his medical certifications lapse — but he said health issues have convinced him to slow down.
"I had quadruple bypass surgery last fall, and then a week later I found out I needed rotator cuff repair on my shoulder, so the appeal of 12-hour days was starting to wear thin," he said.
As Bradley's patients have aged, he's moved more into geriatric care, serving as director of the Windsor Health Care nursing home ("That's like my second home," he adds) and also overseeing the AccentCare Hospice. But he said the direct work with local families will be the component he'll miss the most.
"Delivering babies was definitely the highlight of my career, and my work with a general family practice. I miss the kids — my initial plan was to be a pediatrician," he said. "But your practice grows old with you. I enjoyed all the relationships, and it was a privilege being invited into the very personal lives of my patients."
Bradley's last attempt at a break from work saw he and his wife head to offer health care in an Aboriginal community on a remote island off the shore of Australia's Northern Territory.
"I had spent 20 years working as a doctor, getting increasingly more involved in business and management, so I wanted to see if I could still practice medicine, so we went on sabbatical for six months, and I ran a five-bed hospital," he said. That experience was followed by dozens of Methodist missionary and medical trips to locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Brazil, Ecuador and Armenia.
Carey, originally from Nebraska, grew up in Denver and attended Colorado State University for his undergraduate studies and then joined the military. While based in Minot, N.D., he met a Canadian woman and opted to follow her to Saskatchewan, where he did his medical training. He eventually returned to the U.S. and set up shop as a family physician in Windsor in August 1982.
Carey also has served on church and medical missions in Mexico and Tanzania and said he was inspired by Bradley's work in Australia. Like Bradley, the move to retire is a major lifestyle change, even with four adult kids living and working in the Front Range.
"I've been having more second thoughts about it, so I've also considered doing locums again, maybe in Hawaii or New Zealand," he said. "I've also heard that Saskatchewan medical graduates can work in Ireland with no license change, so maybe that's an idea for the future."
Bradley was born in Ohio and moved to Colorado as a child, attending medical school at CU Denver and completing his internships in Cooperstown, N.Y. High on the draft list during the Vietnam War, he opted to join the U.S. Public Health Service and worked for two years on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock, N.M.
"I loved the cultural experience, and we still have friends we keep in contact with from that period," he said.
Bradley scouted out the Windsor and Greeley area in 1975 and said it appealed to his farming upbringing, so he completed his residency at the old Weld County General Hospital, before establishing a solo practice for 11 years. He's worked as part of local group practices for 25 years, with the UCHealth office as his sixth office in Windsor.
Both said they also will continue to take part in their church's work at the Sterling Correctional Facility, where they've been part of the Kairos Prison Ministry for many years.
Part of their responsibilities at the Windsor clinic will be handled by Dr. Brandon Stilson, who Bradley and Carey recruited last fall, and other physicians likely will come on board to help take on patient responsibilities.