In light of the ongoing healthcare debate — or what passes for one, anyway — I thought I’d share with people a tribute to a practitioner of healthcare of a bygone era, who happens to be the father of my pastor. This reprint from the Congressional Record, Vol. 136, No. 69. was on the back cover of the program for his Funeral Mass, celebrated earlier today by his son. Many lessons to be learned here, and not just by doctors. (Granted, this tribute was proclaimed on taxpayer dime, but still…)
A Tribute to Dr. John McCartney
Hon. Stephen J. Solarz
of New York
in the House of Representatives
Tuesday, June 5, 1990
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dr. John J. McCartney, standard-bearer for a vanishing breed, the family doctor.
Dr. McCartney, whose 44 years of service to my constituents has coincided with many of the greatest medical advances of our age, began his practice shortly before the end of World War II. Now, after delivering legions of babies and making scores of house calls, Dr. McCartney has finally hung up his stethoscope and retired.
Alexis De Tocqueville once said, “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of the functions of its private citizens.” Though I’m sure Dr. McCartney would probably shrug off such a haughty statement, this characterization of him is on the mark.
From the beginning, Dr. McCartney took pains to be something more than an average physician. His house calls, a rarity in and of themselves, often turned into car rides to the local hospital. After seeing his patient settled into the hospital, most of the time Dr. McCartney would smile and say, “You’ll be getting enough bills from the other doctors, don’t worry about me.”
A member of my staff, a lifelong Greenpoint resident, spoke to me recently about Dr. McCartney’s attitude toward nighttime emergencies. “Dr. McCartney was different than other doctors.” She said, “Many was the time that one of my children was sick in the middle of the night, and I called his service. Dr. McCartney always called back immediately; he was never angry or impatient. He was always concerned. Among the worried mothers of Greenpoint, he’ll be missed.”
In a community endowed with few Rockefellers, Dr. McCartney never pressured his patients to pay him. Many seniors and parents of large families knew if they didn’t have the money, they still could call their doctor in an emergency. Furthermore, his presence extended far beyond the parameters of his office on Leonard Street. After a patient dies, Dr. McCartney was sure to keep in touch with the family, checking up on people, providing support and advice. Just tracking down one’s doctor can be a torturous experience for most people. In Greenpoint, Dr. McCartney’s patients often heard from him. When was the last time your doctor called you to find out how you were doing?
As Dr. McCartney closes his practice to take his long-deserved retirement, he leaves behind him a trail of stories that mothers will tell to their kids for years to come. Across dozens of kitchen tables throughout Greenpoint, mothers and grandparents will tell stories about the close calls, the sleepless nights, the cold compresses and aspirins cut in half that was part of their lives. And rest assured, in the course of these reminiscenses, Dr. McCartney will play a prominent role.
On behalf of all those he helped, counseled, and cared about during his 44 years of service to Greenpoint, I pay tribute to Dr. John J. McCartney, a man who healed the sick on their terms. Thanks, Dr. McCartney.