October 1st, 2020 marks the end of an era for one of Arkansas City’s most successful physicians, Dr. David Schmeidler.
Dr. Schmeidler has practiced medicine for 41 years, and South Central Kansas Medical Center and Cowley County has been lucky to have him for 38 of those years. SCKMC would like to honor his accomplishments and service to so many during this time.
David Schmeidler, born in 1954 to parents James and Joan, grew up as one of ten children in south-central Wichita where he and his large family lived in a 3-bedroom 1-bathroom house. He graduated from Bishop Carroll high school in 1972 prior to attending the nearby Newman University for his undergraduate degree. The future doctor then enrolled at the University of Kansas Medical School in Kansas City where he spent three years learning medicine before moving to Oklahoma. The move to Oklahoma began his family practice residency at Tulsa Medical College, which has since become the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa School of Medicine.
Upon completing his residency and becoming a fully licensed family care physician, Dr. Schmeidler moved into the community that would become his home for years to come, Arkansas City. Schmeidler was drawn to Cowley County due to its proximity to his family, and to fulfill part of the scholarship program provided by KU, that led him to graduate from medical school. The program is known today as the “Scholars in Rural Health” program, and it serves to bring high quality physicians like Dr. Schmeidler into rural areas that may otherwise be overlooked.
At the time, Dr. Schmeidler had no idea that he would be in the area for as long he has been. Schmeidler has practiced in Arkansas City for 38 years. However, he found that Cowley County gave him the opportunity to do what he was passionate about; providing quality medical care for families. He has played many roles as a healthcare provider in our community. From delivering babies, to performing minor surgeries, and providing geriatric care, Dr. Schmeidler found himself in the unique position of caring for many of his patients for most of their lives. Family doesn’t merely apply to Dr. Schmeidler in a professional sense. He and his wife, Karen Schmeidler, have been married for 46 years and they have four children and 14 grandchildren together, three of which he delivered himself.
Just as Dr. Schmeidler’s experience in practicing medicine has changed and evolved over the years, so has healthcare itself. Particularly, the doctor has long observed the differences between care in a rural community and an urban community. Living in Wichita, Kansas City, and Tulsa gave him the insight necessary to become an excellent physician. However, living and working in a rural community comes with its own unique responsibilities for physicians. “If you’d like to break it down by decade, in the first ten years here I took care of a lot of babies. The second ten years I was involved more in adolescent and pediatric medicine. Then the last 20 years, I was still delivering babies and taking care of hospital work, but the patients had aged and I moved more into taking care of more geriatric problems.” said Schmeidler. “I’ve done the full range: diabetes, internal medicine, kidney problems, congestive heart failure, multiple medical problems, and now my patients are grandparents, like me.” This range of work is somewhat unique to smaller rural communities. “In the larger cities, family physicians don’t take care of these problems, they will refer you to this specialist, or that specialist. Most primary care physicians are mostly office based. That’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career.”
Technology has also played a substantial role in the development of modern medicine and has provided both challenges and advantages. “Medicine has changed a lot in the years I’ve been practicing. The introduction of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) for instance.” Schmeidler said. In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in the United States, and with it came the need to develop faster ways of transferring healthcare information in a safe, legally compliant way. The solution to this was supported by the surge of internet-based information sharing in the early 2000’s. During the George W. Bush administration, mandates were passed that ensured a nationwide switch to electronic record sharing in healthcare systems by 2014. There were many implied benefits to these EMR’s, such as a minimization of errors that can be found in handwritten documents, or the cost-efficiency that comes with digital sharing. However, there are ups and downs to any new system. “Personally, I think that these systems are not as efficient as the paper charts, and the information is sometimes not as reliable.” Schmeidler said. However, the upswing of technology in the medical field isn’t always this way. “Of course, technology has brought in new antibiotics, and new procedures. When I started most everything was open surgical procedures, such as gall bladders or hysterectomies. Now they’re all done through a laparoscope.”
Dr. Schmeidler has a long history of going above and beyond for the healthcare community in Kansas as well. He had served as the Hospice Director on the preceptor board at Kansas University for a time, and did precepting work with Wichita State University assisting with physician assistant students. He was an advanced cardiovascular life support instructor for many years as well. At South Central Kansas Medical Center, he was the Medical Staff Director on two different occasions, and had served as Medical Director, Head of Obstetrics, and Head of Home Health on multiple occasions as well.
The doctor was also asked about his opinion on the current state of healthcare in 2020 considering the COVID-19 pandemic. “This has been strange. Coronavirus has really affected everybody. The one thing I have to say about the coronavirus is that the epidemiologists at the CDC study this disease and try to make suggestions and prognostications, but this is a novel virus. We don’t really know what will work, and what won’t work, but I have always believed that handwashing, wearing a mask, and practicing good hygiene are very important no matter what you’re trying to eliminate. Whether it’s the Flu, Coronavirus, the Ebola virus, any virus really.” The doctor likened the COVID-19 outbreak to the AIDS epidemic the United States saw during the 1980’s. “It was a new virus, nobody really knew how to handle it, and many people were dying at the time. Until they came up with medication that would allow people to live a normal life for many years. We also saw similar things with the H1N1 virus, which turned out to be a strain of the Flu.”
Schmeidler left some words for the members of the community that he has served and worked with all these years. “I appreciate the cooperation of the medical staff all these years, and I appreciate the loyalty that my patients have given me. I have always tried to serve the community the best that I can. To all my patients I say, “thank you”. To my wife Karen, thank you for sticking by my side all these years. Through all the late nights and busy days, she was always there for me. None of this would have been possible without her.”
The South Central Kansas Medical Center team would like to express our sincere gratitude for Dr. Schmeidler and his outstanding service to our community for these last 38 years. He will be missed, and we hope all the best for him in the years to come.