Down home doctoring
Dr. Brent Ardoin perched himself on an examination table in an exam room located inside his office on Poinciana Street. He spoke about his 30-years of practicing medicine in Mamou and how it has changed over the years. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
By: TONY MARKS
The name Frank Savoy has become synonymous with medical practice in Mamou over the generations. This is particularly evident by the hospital that bears the name. However, another doctor has left his lasting footprint on the medical scene of the town.
Dr. Brent Ardoin, who was born and raised in Mamou, has been practicing internal medicine in Mamou for the last 30 years after receiving his residency from University Medical Center. “I’m not quite sure what made me decide that I wanted to be a doctor,” he stated recently, “but I know that ever since I was a kid that was something I wanted to be.”
Over the decades since he first started in Mamou, Ardoin has witnessed changes to the medical profession and the way it is practiced. One difference is nowadays the medical profession is more specialized.
“Back then when I started a lot of the older surgeons did mostly everything,” he explained. “They did the vascular work, the gall bladders, the hips, and a lot of everything. Patients seldom left here because we didn’t transfer patients like we do now.”
“When people had heart attacks, we took care of all of that at the same hospital,” he continued, “and now things have become so specialized that it’s tough to keep patients in a rural environment hospital for certain things that are primarily treated elsewhere.”
Another change to the medical profession is that doctors now are not owning their own businesses. As Ardoin put it, “A lot of the doctors when I came into the practice went into practice on their own.” He went on to compare that to today. “Most physicians now are employed by the hospital,” he said. “Very few come in and go into private practice, and that’s changing because of how difficult it is with computers and taking care of all the business aspects.”
“You’re going to see less and less of that type of thing as doctors get older,” he continued. “I think what’s coming in the future is doctors are going to be employed by the larger hospital groups, physician groups, or something of that nature.”
With the medical landscape changing, Ardoin is becoming the last of a dying breed of doctors who treat patients in their own office. Ardoin operates his office on Poinciana Street in Mamou which is across the street from Savoy Medical Center.
“Mostly what I do is take care of older people because they have mostly what I treat such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and gastrointestinal ailments,” he said. “It’s nice because these people are very interesting folks, and they’re fun to visit with and talk to.”
Aside from the usual high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Ardoin also treats such things as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease. “We have in this area the same problems like everybody else,” he said. “Some of the special and maybe the more unique things that we have to deal with is poverty. So many people are poor around here, so it’s difficult for them to get their medicines. It’s also difficult for them to travel to get to where some of the specialists might be, and they have difficulty arranging transportation.”
Ardoin is also involved in other medical areas in Mamou. He stated, “I’m also board certified in critical care medicine, geriatrics, and Hospice and palliative care.”
While running his office for the last three decades, Ardoin has also been involved with working at Savoy Hospital since the beginning of his career. “When I first came here, everybody did everything,” he said. “We used to all take our turns working in the emergency room for example, but now there’s an emergency room group that does emergency room work. I was chief of staff for many years, and I was medical director of the ICU and the pharmacy before that. I had a lot of hats and jobs at the hospital before.”
Ardoin has taken off some of his many hats as he retired from the hospital on July 1 of this year. With that part of his job behind him, he hopes to devote more time to other areas. As he stated, “Going forward I do plan to just focus on my office practice and my geriatric practice that I have both at the nursing home and even with Hospice.”
Another advantage to retiring from the hospital is having more free time. “I haven’t had much in the way of free time probably for the last 30 years,” Ardoin said. “I’ve been on call anywhere from 10 to 14 days a month, so that doesn’t leave you with much free time which is really a hassle of the job.”
“Hopefully being retired from the hospital will give me a little more time off to maybe travel a bit,” he continued. “I’ve got one son who’s married to a neurologist, and they live in Iowa City, Iowa. I have two grandchildren that are there with them, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit them more frequently.”
Despite the hassles of having no time off, Ardoin feels rewarded by being a doctor in his small town, and he described it as being special. “It’s really great to come home and treat people that I’ve known all my life and people that my parents may have known,” he said. “It’s actually like a dream come true to be able to come back to where I was born and raised. Lucky for me my wife is from Opelousas, so her family is around here. For us it’s really special to be able to get older doing what we want to do in a place that’s home.”
He then went on to describe practicing in Mamou as being a privilege. “It’s been a privilege to serve the people of this area, and that’s what doctoring is really about,” he explained. “It’s about service to your community and the people who come looking for help. I’ve been very privileged to get to do that for 30 years, and hopefully I can continue to do that for sometime longer. I have no plans on retiring, and my wife and I are quite comfortable in the community. We have no plans on going anywhere.”