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GIBSON CITY – Dr. Gregory Delost decided to practice medicine in Gibson City 30 years ago for one simple reason.

“There were no stoplights in the county,” said Delost Monday night at a reception honoring him for his selection as a 2015 Rural Physician of Excellence. “I hate stoplights.”

It was actually a chance meeting with Dr. Paul Sunderland that convinced the family practice physician, originally from Clinton, that Gibson City would be an ideal place to work.

While completing his residency in Rockford, Delost and his wife, Laura, originally from Farmer City, passed through the city after a visit with family.

“It looked like a nice town,” Delost said. The couple stopped at the hospital and met Sunderland.

Delost asked Sunderland if the town needed another physician, and Sunderland and Dr. David Hagan pursued him "like bulldogs," Delost said. "They really made me feel wanted.”

Gibson City did eventually get a stoplight. “I was embedded by then,” Delost said.

During the award ceremony, held at Railside Golf Club, Hagan said Delost did consider leaving after his first year.

“If he had left, I don’t know what would have happened,” said Hagan.

From 1986 until Dr. Mark Spangler joined them in 1996, Hagan said he and Delost delivered babies, backed each other up on cesarean sections, backed up the older general practitioners in the ICU and CCU and were always on call for codes.

“It was a good time,” Hagan said. “I can’t imagine those 10 years, how I would have survived, without him.”

It’s because of his commitment to rural health that Delost was honored with the Rural Physician of Excellence Award presented by the Illinois Rural Health Association.

“It’s a way to honor those physicians that are in the trenches every day exemplifying our mission,” said Margaret Vaughn, executive director of the Illinois Rural Health Association.

Vaughn said the extra time Delost spends visiting patients at the Annex, where he serves as medical director, and the way he treats his patients were among the traits that stood out to the selection committee.

“The thing that really came through in his nomination is his compassion for his patients,” Vaughn said.

It was because of his own rural physician, Dr. Schrage of Clinton, that Delost decided to become a doctor.

“He was the neatest guy,” said Delost of the surgeon and general practitioner. “He always gave you a shot, but you were always laughing when you left.”

When he was 3 years old, Delost announced he was going to be a doctor, but told his parents he wasn't going to give shots.

It didn’t turn out that way, said patient Harlan Bottles, of LeRoy, who was one of Delost’s first patients.

“He gives me shots,” said Bottles, who attended the reception and ceremony with his wife, Carol.

And like Delost in his youth, Bottles said he always leaves laughing, even when he gets a shot.

“We have a time. We always joke back and forth,” Bottles said. “He’s been so good to us.”

It’s the dedication to his patients that has impressed GAHHS Chief Operating Officer and Chief Clinical Officer Robin Rose, who presented Delost with his award.

“Your efforts and tireless dedication to your patients never cease to amaze me,” Rose said.

Delost said he has no plans to stop anytime soon.

“I talked to the financial people a while ago, and they said I can retire when I’m 77,” Delost laughed. “And, Laura agrees with that.”

Delost’s children, Shelli Zimmerman, Nick Delost, Jessica Delost and Eric Delost, all attended the event, and  a constant stream of co-workers and patients greeted the Delosts during the two hour reception, which culminated with the award presentation.

Despite peppering many of his conversations with humor, Delost said he was “overwhelmed” by the award and the number of patients who attended.

“I feel privileged that they place their lives in my hands every day,” he said.

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