It is not yet 8 in the morning, and already Dr. Russell Dohner’s loyal patients are beginning to queue up in front of his office in the town square of Rushville, Ill. Dr. Dohner will not arrive for at least two hours (his office won’t even be open until 9), but until he does, two or three dozen of the ill and infirm will wait in a calm and orderly manner.
And why not? At $2 a visit, two hours at Dr. Dohner’s is cheaper—and a heckuva lot better for you—than an evening at the movies.
Of course, $2 won’t buy you everything, even at Dr. Dohner’s. High blood pressure, sore throat, a cranky mother-in-law—those are $2 problems. But let’s say you need a penicillin shot or a hemoglobin test. Now the cost can skyrocket up to—are you ready?—$5. And the man makes house calls, too.
What’s he trying to prove? As it turns out, nothing. When Dohner, a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, opened his office in 1955 in Rushville, just 15 miles from the farm where he was born, his fee was $2 an office visit. Somehow, he never got around to raising it. “People are used to this,” he says. “We’ll get by.”
His patients—50 or so a day at the office and almost as many at the local hospital and several area nursing homes—wonder how, though they’re not complaining. In fact, they have nothing but praise for Dohner. His only critics are other physicians, who complain that Dohner does not charge enough. Dohner’s sister, Clarice, says, “My brother works all the time. He doesn’t do anything but work.”
She’s almost right. He has three hobbies: fishing on Sunday afternoons on a man-made lake five miles from the local hospital, greening his town (he donates more than 100 trees each year), and delivering babies. In 28 years of practice, he has delivered more babies than there are people in Rushville (3,348).
Okay, Russell Dohner is never going to be mentioned in the same breath as Madame Curie or Sigmund Freud. But at $2 a visit, the people of Rushville couldn’t care less.