Hope, Healing and House Calls: Dr. Hope Tinker

October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

I enjoyed working on this project, for many different reasons.  Not only did it bring me closer to a fascinating subject, I also felt more comfortable interacting with her because she was a doctor.  This was a situation, I believe, in which my background helped establish a connection.

My interest in healthcare, especially rural health care, stems from my dad who is a family practitioner in my home town.  It’s pretty rural there too, and while I’ve never really had an interest in becoming a part of the medical field, I’ve always wanted to explore the role of doctors in their communities.  Family practitioners often become the most important medical professional in a person’s life, yet, in my experience, they appear to be the least appreciated, by hospitals, insurance agencies and sometimes patients.  On a daily basis they must balance seeing large numbers of people while devoting the time and compassion each person deserves.  Now, as insurance costs rise for doctors and pay little on behalf of patients, private practitioners are moving away from independent practices to join with hospitals.  This, in turn, pulls them from their country offices to the city, making it increasingly difficult for rural families to find doctors in their area.

Dr. Tinker has established her place in the small community and continues to remain independent, preferring to work closely with the people of Fayette.  Running her practice out of a wing of the town’s refurbished hospital, she is one of the last independently owned family practitioners.  She owns her own space, pays her employees, finances her own insurance costs and does the hiring and firing.  Perhaps this is not be particularly remarkable to many people, but it’s something I have seen disappear in my dad’s life and in the lives of many other doctors who could not afford to remain on their own.  Despite the demands of maintaining her business, she also continues to make house calls, though not in the sense of W. Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor.  Her house calls are made only to the elderly, whose age typically becomes an obstacle to their clinic visits.

I wasn’t able to spend as much time with her as I would have liked.  In less than two days I was able to cover her making her house calls and working in the clinic, but there were several shots I felt I missed, leaving me with that horrible sick feeling with which I’m sure every photographer is familiar.  Also, the first meeting felt a little set up even after telling her multiple times that what I wanted to do was only what she would normally be doing.  But in the end, I felt I got enough of the shots I needed to tell the story.  Originally my plan hadn’t been to build a multimedia, so I feel I still have some editing work to do before it’s polished for publication, maybe play around with color (just for you Grant and Roxie), but for now it’s posted on my Vimeo site.

I am so thankful for getting the chance to work with Dr. Tinker, who was amazingly open to me telling her story.

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