Rockford and Van Wert Physician To Retire After More Than 40 Years of Service to the Community
After 44 years of caring for patients he’s come to know and love, family medicine specialist Dr. Jerry Sell is stepping away from the practice he has cultivated in his rural hometown.
Dr. Sell, 76, a family medicine physician with OhioHealth, says the decision to retire at the end of the year was a difficult one. “It’s been my life work, my entire life.” A native of Rockford, Dr. Sell has been treating patients in the Rockford and Van Wert areas since 1979.
The day he opened his doors that July, Dr. Sell had 33 new patient appointments at the office. In addition, “I had thirty-five pregnant ladies waiting for me to come to town. Some were overdue,” following the departure of the previous physician, he said. “I think my office staff wanted to run away.”
Dr. Sell hit the ground running, building the practice and honing his skills so he could provide the most comprehensive care possible, which came to include setting fractures, performing colonoscopies, treating skin cancer patients and delivering babies by Caesarean section. On the other end of the reproductive spectrum, “I’ve done almost all the vasectomies in the area.”
For the first 12 ½ years, Dr. Sell was the only physician in the practice. “I was never home,” he said. His wife, Connie, became not only his office manager but a member of an extended family of co-workers and patients. “We had a dedication to patients that helped develop continuity of care,” Mrs. Sell said. “We followed up with patients to make sure they picked up their prescriptions and that they were taking their medicine. If an elderly patient missed an appointment, we’d call their family.”
The couple, who have been married 57 years, met at Rockford High School and married in May 1967. A month later, Dr. Sell was drafted and went on to serve four years with the U.S. Army as a preventive medicine instructor at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he earned an Army Commendation Medal.
Dr. Sell came home to earn his medical degree from The Ohio State University School of Medicine and completed his residency in family medicine art St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Dayton.
His academic performance gave him his pick of specialties and practice locations, but he chose family medicine and his hometown of Rockford to make the most impact. “I felt like I needed to come back. I had made that commitment. Family medicine was the most urgently needed,” he said. “Having a good family medicine physician is the key to getting the best care.”
Personal care has extended to the financial side. Instead of sending patients to a financial services office, “If you can’t afford care, just let us know and we’ll give it to you,” said Dr. Sell, who also made house calls and still does on a limited basis for patients unable to come to the office.
That’s not to say Dr. Sell has practiced medicine of a bygone era. His office was an early adopter of electronic medical records and was the first in the state to use electronic prescriptions, he said. “We had to wait on the state to write the rules.”
The practice eventually grew to three physicians, a nurse practitioner and 24 employees, many of whom were cross trained. Dr. Sell and his partners saw as many as 150 patients a day, but despite the busy schedule, he said, “we treated all the patients and staff like family.”
Longtime friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Conte said attempting to fill Sell’s shoes is a daunting task. “He’s an amazing physician and has such a wide spectrum of skills. I cannot think of enough words that are sufficient to describe how wonderful he is as a person and a physician.”
Dr. Conte recalls an event held several years ago to celebrate Dr. Sell’s career when he cut back his schedule. A woman attended with her 40-year-old son, whom Dr. Sell had treated as an infant. “He’s had a huge impact, and the community is going to feel it,” said Dr. Conte, chief of surgery at OhioHealth Van Wert Hospital. “He very much deserves his retirement, but it will be a great loss to the community and the hospital.”
Dr. Sell and his wife look forward to more travel and spending time with family. Reflecting on his decades-long career he says, “Over time, you come to know your patients and even love your patients. It’s been a very rewarding practice, it’s been a lot of fun, and patients have appreciated it.”
Based in Columbus, Ohio, OhioHealth is a nationally recognized, not-for-profit, charitable, healthcare outreach of the United Methodist Church.
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