For Dr. Richard Mizer, caring for the health of rural communities is a passion born out of watching his mother provide care as a registered nurse during his childhood and enhanced by a lifetime of experiences in the field.
Shortly before celebrating 35 years of practicing family medicine in Greenfield August 4th, he learned that passion has been recognized by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, which recently named Dr. Mizer its 2021 OAFP Family Physician of the Year.
“As the world of medicine has changed and, in many ways, left behind the idea of a family physician who ‘does it all,’ there have been vital leaders who have maintained our collective scope and our rich legacy,” said Dr. Valerie Good, who nominated Dr. Mizer for the honor. “Dr. Mizer is one of these family medicine champions.”
The OAFP presents the award annually to an individual who meets and exceeds the criteria of being an outstanding family physician. Other criteria include maintaining high professional standards and service orientations, providing high quality and family-centered continuing health care and being active in the community.
During an interview with OAFP that is available on YouTube, Dr. Mizer recalled the influence his mother had on his future career path. She worked an overnight shift in a local hospital in the eastern Ohio town of Cadiz so she would be available for her children in their after school activities, became a “go-to” person for neighbors in helping with some of their healthcare needs and later serving families as a home health nurse.
He also recalled a particular night during a winter term at Oberlin College while taking advantage of a learning opportunity to spend some time in the Emergency Room of a local hospital.
“One snowy night, a doctor came through and had a patient in labor and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come along?’” Dr. Mizer said. “I was a sophomore in college and I got to be available for that labor and delivery that family doctor did and I thought that was pretty cool. Delivering babies and being the family doctor is pretty cool.”
Dr. Mizer graduated medical school at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo and performed his residency at Grant Medical Center, serving as chief resident and developing a wide range of skills that included everything from obstetrics to palliative care. That broad-based learning approach would prove to be a real benefit to him and his patients while practicing in rural areas and is something he encourages today’s residents to consider in their education.
A three-year National Health Service obligation landed him in Greenfield at a time when family doctors in rural areas not only provided the full range of services caring for several generations of a family’s life -- from delivering babies to providing care in nursing homes -- but also had to read their own X-rays and EKG’s and perform several other services when specialists weren’t available.
He said he found it a pleasure and privilege to do the work and he fell in love with the community where he has now lived and served for 35 years. In that time, he said he has learned a lot from his patients, including the importance of the trust they place in their physicians to help lead them through their health care process.
“I think it’s important for physicians, and particularly family physicians, to know that we are leaders in our community because we are family physicians – whether we like to be a leader or not, we are leaders by default,” he said. “We can set examples and standards, show respect and give great health care to everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic is a testament to that, and we can certainly make a lasting impact by championing vaccinations.”
Dr. Mizer has been a leader in other ways as well. In addition to being a practicing family physician at Adena Family Medicine Greenfield, he also has served as chief of staff at Adena Greenfield Medical Center, served as Highland County Health Department medical director and, until 2017, had been the team physician for Greenfield McClain High School for more than 30 years. In February of this year, he was named Physician Executive Vice President of Adena Medical Group, responsible for leading more than 300 physicians and advanced practice providers within the Adena Health System family.
In addition, he has served in many community organizations, including the Highland County Community Action and the Rotary Club, and supports the pipeline of family medicine by serving as volunteer faculty at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine while also regularly mentoring medical students.
He said he appreciates the love and support of his patients, colleagues, office staff, mentors and, especially, his family, in helping him live his passion for all of these years.
“I am humbled by this honor and I think about the people who have had this honor before me and the people who have had such a huge impact and touched my life in so many different ways,” he said. “They know I love what I do, and I’m very blessed to be a family doctor.”
The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians is a statewide, professional association with more than 5,200 members, including practicing physicians, family medicine residents and medical students.