There is no denying that healthcare has changed in the last thirty years. From quick access to a local doctor who still did house calls to a completely computerized elimination of paper charts, the pace of change has been significant. Just ask Paula Frakes Wohlgemuth. After serving for thirty-two years as the office manager for Dr. John Growney and helping transition the practice to Amberwell Eighth Street Clinic, she has seen it all.
Wohlgemuth was employed with the Youth Center of Atchison in 1989. She was working with adjudicated youth at that time, and she notes, “I never realized there were so many young adults that were in need of care and education.” She transferred that skill set to her role in the family practice setting, and she has been a guiding hand ever since.
“When a patient walked in the door, she knew their name, she knew their family history, the names of their cats and dogs and pets and who everyone was related to,” says Dr. Growney. He notes that she came in early and worked late and did whatever it took to keep the office operating smoothly. “There is so much more I could talk about; you can't put the thirty years of love that Paula put into the office on one page! I cannot tell you how much I am going to miss her!”
Jim Growney, a physician assistant working collaboratively with his father, has known Wohlgemuth since he was young. “One thing I appreciated about Paula was that patients came first, and not just regarding their direct medical care. She knew there was so much more to enhancing the patient's experience than just a stethoscope.” He adds, “Paula has been the anchor–and the face and the voice–of this clinic. No words of gratitude come close to saying how invaluable she has been to us!”
Wohlgemuth notes, “I am definitely going to miss the patients. They are like family to me and they all have become a big part of my life.” Wohlgemuth knew many of the patients before she even stepped through the doors thirty years ago, since she was reared in the community and in the Atchison school systems.
In addition to her own “institutional knowledge” of the patients of Atchison that she brought to the office, she also gained the same with the Growney family. She has been around long enough to see numerous Growney grandbabies grow up to intern in the office, where she has educated them on customer service and how to properly treat people in professional environments.
But now, the care for patients and paperwork that she managed in her long career in a medical office will turn more inward. She is looking forward to a more personal kind of caregiving: taking care of her mother. “My heart is full as Mom continues to tell me how happy she is, and I have fulfilled a promise to my father.” Wohlgemuth also wants to go fishing and to spend time with her own children and grandchildren. And she has another hobby: “I love the farm life, checking cattle, fixing fence, and mowing.” So there is still much for her to do. It is the farm that keeps her moving. “If you don't have your health, you can't enjoy everything else you love in life!”