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Cutting Open Dr. Leadbetter MAG
"Someone who has inspired me?" He repeats the question then leans back in his chair to ponder the question, "My eleventh grade Chemistry teacher was a young man who had gone to medical school. He had a unique way of teaching. It wasn't the usual routine way. It was because of him that I got into medicine in college. His name was ..." He pauses then nods as the name re-enters his mind. He then continues, "Mr. Daw. But imagine now its Dr. Daw."
With the inspiration of Dr. Daw, Allen William Leadbetter entered John Hopkins University in 1961 and remained there until 1965. From there he attended the University of Maryland Medical Schoo,l doing his surgical training in Burlington, Vermont. Once Dr. Leadbetter had this under his belt, he spent two years in Charleston, South Carolina as a general surgeon for the Navy. Then he came to Westerly where he has been ever since and hopes to retire.
Dr. Leadbetter now practices at the Westerly Medical Center. Why surgery? "I don't like long-term illness. I enjoy the immediate gratification of surgery," states Dr. Leadbetter.
The split-second decisions a surgeon is forced to make every day takes a toll both mentally and physically. The average life span of a surgeon is less than that of the general population. In Dr. Leadbetter's words, "There are periods of boredom punctured by hair-raising events which I kind of thrive on. You need the intense danger to thrive on."
Being as experienced as Dr. Leadbetter is, you see changes in medicine and illnesses from when you first started. For example, he used to do about 23 appendectomies a year and now he does about ten. "People don't stay in hospitals for the same things anymore," he states. "There are still too many auto accidents, too much drug abuse, and too much alcohol abuse. But people do take better care of themselves overall.
Dr. Leadbetter sets simple goals for himself: provide for his family, put food on the table, keep the house warm, do the best for the people he must care for and do his job well.
A job well done can sometimes be a burden. Dr. Leadbetter recently saved the life of Rhode Island State trooper John Lamont. The media went wild. His opinion? "I'm ready to return to a normal life. It feels like I'm under a microscope. It will be good to get back to normal."
Although trooper Lamont survived, not all of Dr. Leadbetter's patients do.He recalls one specific time when an airline stewardess was driven off Route 78 in Westerly and he wasn't able to save her. "You get closer to some patients than others. If an illness is taking them in a cruel way it's easier to deal with the loss of the person because it's better for them. You have to take the personality out of it. It's disturbing but you have to go on and take care of the next problem."
The best reward of being a surgeon is the children. They bring in drawings and little presents to express a really gratifying thankfulness.
I then asked, "Dr. Leadbetter, how does it feel to know that you've made a difference in people'' lives?" Once again he leans back in his chair then answers, "I don't know that I have." c