If you should need a name


We write today about a friend.

He won’t like it but, regardless, here it is.

Pagosa Country is not without major characters and personalities.

We go back in time and find folks like Dutch Henry Born; Antonio D. Archuleta, noted politician whose name the county bears; Ruby Sisson, a legendary school teacher, after whom we named our library; the bandit Elfego Baca; Fred Harman, whose Red Ryder comic strip attained worldwide fame; and Dr. Mary Fisher — clinics have been named for her, a foundation key to the development of the Pagosa Springs Medical Center bears her name.

We suggest there is someone contemporary who should, by all rights, join their ranks. He would strenuously disagree, but in terms of the length of his service, and the good he did here, he certainly qualifies.

On Thursday, June 27, Jim Pruitt retired from his full-time medical practice in Pagosa Country. He spent three decades working in Pagosa and he personifies what is best in a physician, and a small town physician in particular.

We used to call his type of physician a  “general practitioner.” It was in vogue to use the term “family practitioner.” “Primary care physician” seems in favor now. This is the physician who takes on all comers, who mans the front line of medicine — he, or she, is the doc who cares for and about people, their families, and sometimes generations of families. This individual is not only a special professional, but also an increasingly rare one. Reportedly, fewer physicians opt for this practice these days, many choosing more lucrative specialties.

Not Pruitt. Jim arrived here in the early ’80s, knew what was needed and immediately fit in, totally committed to the place and its people. He was perfect in the role of the small town, family physician, knowing it has as much to do with compassionate listening as it does with prescriptions and referrals. An ear lent to the elderly patient means the world to them; time spent with someone worried about their condition or that of a loved one is a gift. This is a big part of the reason we call medicine an “art.” Jim is an artist.

Further, Jim studied and constantly improved his skills; he kept abreast of advances and results, of techniques and treatments, and brought it all to bear in his work.

There are still a few Pagosans who remember the office Jim occupied on North 8th Street long ago. Lesser docs would have fled. He stayed.

Add to this Jim’s participation in processes that produced advances in the local medical community few would have imagined three decades ago, including his work as primary physician representative on the Upper San Juan Health Services District board and his part in planning a hospital and clinic. He turned over a number of profitable procedures to the hospital and ensured the early success of the emergency room by staffing it himself and with his partners — contributions that will positively affect this community for decades.

Jim could have sold his practice, but did not. Patients who chose not to have records sent to a particular office were transferred to the clinic.

The doc intends to do spot work in the emergency room at the hospital, giving patients the benefit of his expertise and allowing him to stay abreast of happenings in the district.

Jim Pruitt has been an indispensable part of Pagosa – the equal of our other luminaries.

There are plans to build a primary care building at the center. We have an idea for a name.

Karl Isberg