(Troy Wayrynen/The Columbian)Buy this photo
After 41 years of caring for Clark County's youngest patients, Dr. Gerry Bader is hanging up his white coat.
Well, sort of.
The Vancouver Clinic pediatrician will retire from his practice at the end of the year, but the 71-year-old can't bring himself to completely cut ties with the medical field.
If you go
• What: Retirement party for Dr. Gerry Bader, pediatrician at The Vancouver Clinic.
• When: 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 8.
• Where: Lewisville Park, Juniper section, 26411 N.E. Lewisville Highway, Battle Ground.
• Additional information: Parking is $3 per car. Bring hors d’oeuvres to share.
He'll continue to serve on the board of directors for the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington. He'll also continue to volunteer to care for the clinic's uninsured, low-income patients. And, for the next year, he'll continue to hold monthly clinics for student residents at the Washington School for the Deaf.
"I'm not planning on crawling away and curling up in a corner," Bader said.
Bader came to Clark County in 1971, when, after completing his medical training, he took a job with the Vancouver Clinic. The Illinois native never intended to stay in Vancouver for 40 years, but he fell in love with the community and the Pacific Northwest lifestyle.
So, in Vancouver he stayed.
Throughout the years, Bader worked full time, carrying a patient load of about 4,000 kids. Today, he's caring for the children and grandchildren of his original patients.
"It's wonderful," he said. "It's been neat to see. That's something most people don't get to see."
In addition to running his own practice, Bader has devoted himself to community service.
In 1974, Bader became the physician for the Washington School for the Deaf, providing care for the students living at the Vancouver school during the year.
In 1991, when the Free Clinic opened, Bader signed up to help treat the clinic's patients. He also served a nine-year stint on the clinic's board of directors, and, after a couple-year break, he returned to the board last year.
"Talk about loyalty to a community organization, his loyalty is just extraordinary," said Barbe West, executive director of the Free Clinic.
In the 10 years the clinic has tracked volunteer hours, Bader has logged 447 hours, West said. In addition to being a board member, Bader serves on clinic committees and is in charge of recruiting providers to volunteer on Vancouver Clinic-sponsored nights a few times a month.
"He has a heart that is so big about giving back to the community," West said. "He just exudes giving back and making a difference."
He's made such a difference in the lives of his patients and colleagues that they've taken it upon themselves to throw Bader a retirement party, which is open to the community.
Former patient Monica Bustad is among those who wanted to thank Bader for caring for her family. Bader was Bustad's physician when she was a child and teenager. Now, the 35-year-old takes her three children to see the pediatrician.
"He really cares about your whole person, not just what you're there for," she said.
As a child, Bustad remembers Bader working closely with her parents when she was diagnosed with an eating disorder. He connected the family to resources and helped her parents to understand the situation, Bustad said.
For Bader, those caring relationships go both ways.
Thirteen years ago, Bader's wife, Sue, died from breast cancer. His patients, the staff and the entire community rallied around him.
"When my wife was sick years ago, they came in to support me," Bader said. "I know a lot of times they weren't coming in because the kids were sick. They just wanted to check on me."
Those relationships are what Bader said he'll miss the most when he retires. But he's looking forward to traveling with his wife of seven years, Lori, visiting his family in Illinois and spending time with his five kids and six grandchildren.
While Bustad is happy Bader will get time to relax and be a grandpa, she and her kids will miss seeing Dr. Bader when they visit the clinic.
"It's like an end of a legacy," she said. "He's been the heartbeat of pediatrics for a long time."