The world sure could use a few more doctors like Frank Kelly.
Not that there aren’t any others. I’ve known some. We just need more with the same gentle spirit and bedside demeanor.
We need physicians who don’t simply glance at X-rays but look you in the eye. We need doctors who don’t just check your pulse but listen to your heart.
Frank is an orthopaedic surgeon. He has spent the past 36 years putting people’s arms, legs, knees and hips back together in Macon and Middle Georgia.
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I have never had a broken bone, but I have had appointments with him twice in the past 17 months. I had tendonitis in both arms. (How do you catch tennis elbow when you haven’t picked up a tennis racket in 20 years?)
Frank is honest, too. He didn’t sugarcoat my cortisone shots. He showed me how he was going to stick the needle in my elbow.
“This is really, really going to hurt,” he said.
He wasn’t joking. It really, really hurt.
He also was kind enough to help the nurse peel me off the ceiling.
Frank is retiring on Tuesday. He is placing an exclamation point on his distinguished career at Forsyth Street Orthopaedics, which is now part of OrthoGeorgia.
He considers himself blessed to have had the opportunity to live, work and now retire in his hometown.
Macon is losing a great doctor but keeping a great man.
In March 2006, Frank was given the honor of addressing the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago.
He told the group that while patients usually give orthopaedic surgeons high marks for their technical skills in the operating room, they often got low grades on their listening and communications skills.
He cited a study that reported physicians “typically interrupt a new patient’s story after only 18 seconds. Once interrupted, very few patients will come back to their story.”
He has made “communication” a hallmark of his practice. There is a reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.
His patients are certainly grateful that 12-year-old Frank was “listening” to his cocker spaniel, Socks, one day in 1959. Socks was trying to tell him, probably in cocker Spanish, “I think I’ve got a bladder stone.”
It was Frank’s first diagnosis and sparked his interest in medicine.
He eventually made the move from dogs to people. It was his younger sister, Pam, who became a local veterinarian. She owns Dr. Pam’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic.
Frank and Pam don’t remember much about their father, Burns Kelly. He died while playing in the yard with Frank at their home on High Point Drive in the Ingleside area.
Frank has no recollection of that day. He was 22 months old. Pam was 2 weeks old.
Their mother, Lillian, was left a widow with two young children. She taught school and became the first principal at Ellsworth Hall Elementary in the Shurlington neighborhood. She later became principal at Miller Junior High and Springdale Elementary.
She remarried in 1960 after meeting Tom Mahone at a service station on Vineville Avenue. He was having his car serviced. She pulled in for a fill-up, back in the days when an attendant pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield.
(Tom died in 1980. Lillian is now 101 years old.)
Frank was a straight-A student at Lanier High School. His girlfriend gave him a copy of “Gray’s Anatomy” (the book, not the TV series). He spent hours studying the diagrams of the skeleton and muscles.
He also was captain of the 1964-65 Lanier basketball team and, at 6-foot-3, the Poets’ tallest player. He was invited to try out for the freshman squad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he made it to the final cut. As upperclassmen, those Tar Heel teams made the NCAA Final Four three straight years under Coach Dean Smith.
He met his wife, Lawson, on a blind date while he was at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. They will celebrate their 43rd anniversary on Dec. 18. They have two children, Will and Carter, and three grandchildren.
After his medical internship in Houston, Texas, and residency in Memphis, Tennessee, Frank felt the tug of home. He and Chuck Richardson, a classmate from Lanier, had a keen interest in sports medicine. They worked for Dr. Walter Barnes for a few years, then opened their own practice.
They built the large medical complex where they are now in 1989. The location was ideal, situated between I-75 and the Medical Center.
In high school, Frank would sometimes hang out at The Varsity on Forsyth Street (now Sid’s Sandwich Shop), sipping on a Dr Pepper, never dreaming a Dr. Kelly would one day be practicing medicine on the property next door.
He and his buddies would head for the Pig ‘N Whistle, cutting over to Georgia Avenue through an alley that’s still there. Appropriately enough, it is called Frank’s Lane.
A career in medicine was whispering his name.
He has never stopped listening.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.