End of an Era

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I’m a huge fan of my dad.

Daddy’s girl – not ashamed to admit it.

I drop his name every chance I get – Dr. Keith Frey.

I’m an only child and we have a unique and wonderful relationship.

So, excuse me for a moment, while I take a major milestone in his life and talk about how it affects me.

Because it does.

My dad saw his last patient today.

You can see her in that picture, walking away. Down the hall. Her emotional goodbye complete. She graciously allowed me to take some photos.

She told me nine members of her family were patients of my Dad. NINE. Her husband, her sister, her brother-in-law, her sister-in-law, her mother-in-law, her two kids, and, of course, her. Now do you understand why that goodbye got a little emotional?

Don’t even get me started on the nurses.

Thankfully, we’ll still see Becki and the crew regularly. Our family doctor is a part of the same practice. But it will be so sad when Kenton asks to see Grandpa’s office (or, “osssish” as he says it) and I’ll have to tell him it’s not there.

The whole family came for today’s monumental milestone. Including the gal who’s been by his side since before medical school.

My mom is very emotional about this chapter closing. We all are.

He’s not retiring, but he’s moving on to another job. A job that will require more from his MBA than his MD. Yes, he has both. I’m not afraid to toot his horn.

So, he has to say goodbye to patient care. The caring for patients, for people, that he’s done for more than 30 years.

The other day, I asked him when he saw his first patient.

“Saturday, July 1, 1979,” he replied.

I laughed. “You remember the date?”

“Yes,” he replied, matter of fact. “I had seen many patients in my days as a medical student, but Saturday, July 1, 1979 was my first day as a real physician, with my MD.”

“Do you remember your first patient?”

“No, it was a 24 hour shift in the ER, but I do remember being nervous,” he chuckled, the memory coming to life. “I was so nervous, I looked up the correct aspirin dosage for an adult patient. Everyone knows that! But I needed to be sure. It was the first time I was solely responsible as a physician.”

I was 2.5 years old. I came along as a major surprise during medical school, but that’s another story. I don’t remember my dad not being a physician. Not seeing patients as part of his routine.

Over the last 34 years, my dad has seen thousands of patients. Delivered hundreds of babies. Saved many lives. Changed many more. He’s one of those doctors you love. The one your kids are excited to see. The one you like to see. Because he cares. He cares about your health, but more importantly, he cares about his patients. He cares about you.

Growing up, we would commonly be stopped in the grocery store, at a restaurant, at the park by a grateful or curious patient. So many strangers looked me in the eye and said, “I just love your Dad!” My heart swelled with pride.

It still does.

After church on Sundays, we could never rush off to lunch or brunch. At least half the congregation were patients. And they had questions. Coughs. Colds. Pains. He would always listen patiently, a hand on their shoulder or back. Give a recommendation, reassurance, or pray. They would turn and go, satisfied. He would turn to the next person waiting for him – the same compassionate look in his eye.

He is a family physician. He is. He still has a license. Up until just a few years ago, he also practiced OB. That was my favorite. I loved when he was on call. When he got home from delivering a baby, I would always ask with great enthusiasm, “What was it?” He would always reply, “A baby.”

One time, he was driving me home from a high school basketball game my sophomore year. That was the year I was on the dance team. We performed during the half-time show and I was still wearing my uniform – similar to a cheerleading outfit. His beeper went off. He had to go deliver a baby. There was no time to take me home. EXCITING!

I sat in the L&D waiting room in my little Tumwater High School dance team uniform patiently awaiting my hero father stepping in to save the day and bring new life into the world. When he was done and came to retrieve me, he proudly announced, “It’s a baby!”

Today, he saw a four year old girl for her well child check. Her name is Alison. She was the last baby he delivered. It was so incredibly fitting that he got to see her today. I saw her too. She’s beautiful and healthy. Such a poignant picture of the work of my father.

My dad is a physician. That’s part of who I am. I’m really not sure how to process this change in career for him. I’m happy for him. This new job is a blessing. It’s a good move for him. It’s here in the Phoenix area, which means my parents are not moving away and that is HUGE. We have a couple of nuggets pretty obsessed with their Papa.

photo cred: O’Grace Photography

But it is bittersweet and today I’m focusing on the bitter part of that equation. It’s a sad day for many people and rightfully so. My dad impacted many lives. My dad will be missed in his capacity as a healer.

It is the end of an era.

Sometimes, that means you need to cry.

May you continue to be blessed, Dad, in your new venture. May God use the gifts and talents He blessed you with to continue to help heal people. Thank you, on behalf of all of your patients, for the gift of a compassionate, loving, humble physician.

My dad said it best when I asked him what this meant to him.

“I’m sad, yes. But more than that, I just feel humble. It is so humbling to use

the gifts God gave you to impact people and that has a profound impact on me.”

photo cred: O’Grace Photography

On a lighter note… Camille looked adorable today.

I put her in an outfit my mom made for me when I was her age – around the time my dad saw his first patient. Vintage. I loved having her doddle around on his last day seeing patients in something I wore when that chapter was just beginning. Full circle.

I love you, Dad. You’re humble, kind, loving, caring, selfless, crazy smart, wicked funny and devishly handsome.

Your doppelganger is jealous.


Daddy’s Girl

About Michelle Fortin

Michelle Fortin is a follower of Jesus, a wife and a mom. She's also an award winning broadcast journalist and public relations professional. Michelle spent nearly a decade working in television newsrooms across the country, both behind and in front of the camera. Training future broadcast journalists in her faculty associate roles at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and at Arizona Christian University was a cherished focus of her post-TV career. Today, she maintains a roster of public relations clients focused on empowering fellow “momprenuers.” She also serves as a speaker for various women's and mom's events. Michelle received her bachelor’s degree from Biola University and Master of Mass Communication (MMC) from Arizona State University. She and her husband, two young kids and English bulldog call Scottsdale, Arizona, home.


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