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June 6, 1980

James D. Waltner, MD: doctor for a small planet

JAMA. 1980;243(21):2133-2139. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300470007003

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In the emergency room last night, 13-year-old Tommy was screaming and vomiting. He had gulped down half a 10-oz bottle of Nyquil, and the ephedrine was wreaking havoc with him. This morning he has only a very bad hangover—and a visitor.

The visitor, who is presently stopping by the nurse's station en route to Tommy's hospital room, is an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, a conscientious objector, a talented musician, and an expert in animal husbandry who finds a flock of dependent but misanthropic geese preferable to watchdogs for guarding his wood-and-solar-heated home in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

James D. Waltner, MD, is also pediatrician, adopted uncle, surrogate parent, and health educator to hundreds of families in Rio Arriba County, one of the most economically depressed areas in the nation. Most of his patients are direct descendents of the Spanish conquistadores. A few are Native American