At this point in his career, Douglas Curran, M.D., could literally ride off into the sunset. He even has a Texas-sized cattle ranch waiting for him.
But Curran, 68, has plenty of fight left in him. The former Texas AFP president and current chapter delegate to the AAFP Congress of Delegates is taking his advocacy efforts a step further this year as president of the Texas Medical Association(www.texmed.org) (TMA).
"TMA has a lot of influence within the state," Curran said. "I've built a lot of relationships in the state capital. The opportunity to have family medicine leadership at the president's level is a really good thing."
Curran has practiced full-scope family medicine in Athens, Texas, since he started a practice with two of his residency colleagues in 1979. The three-physician practice has since grown to include 14 physicians, with plans to expand to 17. Curran said the practice "has to get bigger because we're going to get smaller," referring to the fact that he is one of a handful of physicians in the practice who are approaching retirement age.
Curran, who still performs a variety of procedures, said he plans to give up obstetrics in the fall after delivering the infants of a few long-time patients who are pregnant. He's been around long enough that he has delivered babies for multiple generations of the same families in the town of 12,700 people.
"It's been a privilege to deliver babies and then have them come back as adults and deliver their babies," he said. "That's pretty neat."
Curran sees up to 30 patients a day and still rounds at the local hospital. He said he plans to continue to work two or three days a week in clinic during his year as TMA president.
"I have a good job," he said. "Not many people get to get up in the morning and exercise, go to the hospital and do the things you enjoy there and then go to work and see friends. Most of the people who come see me are my friends … and they pay me."
Curran, who also volunteers at a local free clinic, said he wants to stay in the trenches so he can be an effective advocate.
"I need to feel the pain of the practicing doc," he said. "That perspective is one of my biggest assets. Legislators need to know you've seen patients in the last 24 to 48 hours."
Curran, however, has no plans to overstay his welcome, so to speak.
"I don't want to be doing this when I'm not good at it anymore," he said. "My younger partners have my permission to tell me when I should quit."
The ranch, and a couple hundred cows, will be waiting.
"It's good therapy," Curran said. "I used to think my grandpa was crazy when he would say he was going out to check on his cows, but it's nice and relaxing to sit and watch the cows graze."
Curran's granddaughter likes to sit and watch the cows with him while dipping her feet in the creek that runs through his property.
"That's about as good as life gets," he said.