Sometime in the early 1980s, George L. Dixon Jr., MD, decided that he would work as hard as he could for 10 years and then retire.
His wife reacted in a way familiar to husbands everywhere. "George," she said, "I want six months notice so I can find a job."
But then Mrs. Dixon offered some sage advice: "Retire to something, not from something."
In searching for something to do in retirement, Dr. Dixon said he recognized his frustration of treating so many patients in poor physical condition. He's convinced the patients' outcomes might have been better and rehabilitation speedier if they had been active and in good physical condition.
Dr. Dixon's first venture was producing films and then videos of outdoor scenes that a cyclist or hiker might see. The scenes are displayed in front of walking or riding exercise machines to keep the exercisers from getting bored. He started the venture during the last six years of practice, eventually turning it over to a daughter and son-in-law who still run the business.
Once he retired, Dr. Dixon decided to write a book, "Exercise a la Carte, An Activity Menu to a Healthier Lifestyle." It was a tortuous experience learning how to operate a computer while writing a book. Unable to find a publisher, Dr. Dixon had several thousand copies printed and has placed them for sale in book stores in Albuquerque, N.M. Next came an exercise newsletter that was short-lived.
Eight months before retiring, an acquaintance, Mary Lou Coors, vice president of St. Joseph Healthcare Systems, turned to Dr. Dixon when she needed an expert in rehabilitation at a soon-to-be opened rehabilitation center adjacent to St. Joseph Hospital in Albuquerque. He took the challenge with the proviso that he would find a younger person for the position within a year.
Dr. Dixon helped to bring five physiatrists to the staff during that year. In the last year, he has learned how to use computer software to create a case management program that keeps track of the treatment of 1,500 to 2,000 patients a year. Now 68-years-old, Dr. Dixon still works at the hospital 15 to 20 hours a month.
Dr. Dixon also has been active as a member of the board of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Foundation for six years, including one year as president.
He will have been retired from orthopaedic practice for eight years this month. "I miss the camaraderie in OR," he admits. "I miss the tension and working with a team. It was exciting and dramatic.
"I miss the patients." You could tell from the way he said it that he misses the patients most of all.
But he keeps looking forward. "I'm trying to convince the health plans that they need my book," Dr. Dixon said.
Mary Lou Coors, vice president of St. Joseph Healthcare Systems, left, discusses case management computer program with George L. Dixon Jr., MD.