Like a traditional country doctor from an earlier era, Dr. Barry E. Goldman maintains his family practice in an office located next door to his home, on a quiet road in the midst of a wooded residential neighborhood near the boundary of Gardiner and New Paltz. Patients pulling into the parking lot at midday might even see him walking his dog on his lunch break; one of the benefits, Goldman says, of having his practice so close to home. And it’s a true family business in more than one way: While the name of the practice, Goldman Family Medicine, does, indeed, refer to the doctor’s family practice, it also encompasses the fact that his wife and business partner, Michele “Mickey” Kee Goldman, serves as nurse practitioner there.
Goldman Family Medicine marked a milestone last month when the couple celebrated the 30th anniversary of the practice on February 10. “It’s still hard to believe,” says Barry. “The original appointment book is still down in the basement.” He credits Mickey with running the business side of the practice and holding things down on the home front, too. “There is no way I would have been able to be in this practice without her.” Mickey became a nurse practitioner in 2003, but before that she was the office nurse and she’s been the business manager all along, he says. “She did all the business stuff I didn’t like to do.”
Their children were very supportive, too, Goldman says, understanding when he had to work on holidays and if he couldn’t be there for every soccer match. One advantage of having the office next door was that the kids could get off the school bus and “pop in” to visit with their father. The Goldmans have two children, Emily, 27, who now lives in Boise, Idaho, and Danny, born the same year as the practice, in 1986. “That was a big year for us,” says Barry.
And the day before the practice opened, Dr. Goldman’s car gave out. “When I signed the five-year loan for a new car, I thought, ‘I have to make payments now every month for five years? I’ve never done anything for five years before…’ At the time, we’d been married just two years, and high school was four years, college was four years, medical school four years and residency three years. And now here it is 30 years later. I look at my son and he seems so young; but that’s how old I was when I started this practice. Now I’m a grandfather.” (Danny’s daughter, Gabriella Michele, is a year old.)
Dr. Goldman has a BA in biology from Temple University and a doctor of medicine degree from New York Medical College in Valhalla. Born in the Bronx, his family moved to Oceanside, on Long Island, when he was six. He came to New Paltz after doing an internship in Kingston. He knew he wanted to start a private practice, and took over the office on Forest Glen Road from a Dr. Forte, who was moving on to become a prison doctor. Forte had not lived in the home on the property, nor had his predecessor, Dr. Robert Taylor, the original doctor on the site who had built the home as a rental. Goldman says after living on Long Island and dealing with the Long Island Expressway and the Long Island Railroad, it was a pleasure coming to New Paltz and hearing that a traffic jam (at the time) was “three cars at the light.”
Despite initial thoughts as a child of becoming an astronaut, Goldman gravitated toward medicine after becoming interested in the life sciences, particularly biology, while still in high school. He knew he wanted to help people, and he knew from the start he wanted to go into family medicine. “I wanted to know a little about everything, not just do one area of medicine,” he says. “When I ask my specialist colleagues how they can do the same thing every day, they ask how I can do what I do, having to have a working knowledge of everything there is to know in medicine. But everybody finds their niche, finds what they’re good at doing and what they like to do; because you have to like what you’re doing.”
In his practice, Dr. Goldman treats entire families, from mom and dad to grandparents and grandchildren, and has seen many of the same families over the course of the 30 years. The upside, he says, are situations like when he ran into a state trooper at the hospital who said to him, “You gave me my kindergarten physical” and the man is now in his thirties. The downside, however, is seeing people he knew in their 40s and 50s as vibrant and healthy members of the community become ill or pass away, or develop something like Alzheimer’s. There’s a lot of joy in the work, he says, but some sadness, too. “When you see someone you’ve taken care of for all these years who is now having problems with something like dementia, you realize intellectually that it happens, but it’s hard.”
Not many students leaving medical school want to go into family medicine any more, he says. “I think there’s been a little bit of a comeback now, but the problem is, the system puts the emphasis on efficiency, technology and getting people in and out. In family medicine, you spend a lot of time with people, because that’s what they need, but the reality is dealing with the insurance companies. The way the fees are paid, it’s not terribly lucrative in family medicine. The younger people come out of school and say, ‘I want to be a specialist, because it’s more cut-and-dry’ and they make more money.” They also want to keep more regular hours, he says, “whereas the old guys like me, you know, you stay until the work is done. If it’s 4:30 and there are 20 kids with earaches coming off the school bus, you stay!”
Dr. Goldman is even known to occasionally make a house call if the patient is elderly and truly cannot get to the office. He says he hopes to stay in business at least another ten years. “The problem is never taking care of people, it’s the business realities, can you sustain being in private practice. Medicine has changed. The question is, ‘what will medicine be like for any of us as the years go on.'”
For now, what keeps people coming back to Goldman Family Medicine is that personal attention. “We’re out of the loop, so to speak, in terms of not being on the main drag, on Main Street, and it’s certainly not as efficient as the big practices, where they can have x-rays and specialists all in one place. But people come back for the care they’re given,” Goldman says. “It’s just me and Mickey. In the big practices, they’ll see a different doctor each time. But here, it’s been the same provider for 30 years. I can see a patient and say, ‘I was reading the paper and I saw you hit two home runs last week.’ It’s difficult to sustain this as a business model, but that’s what we offer. When I started this practice, people said to me, ‘Dr. Taylor left, and Dr. Forte left… how long are you staying?’ And I’d tell them, ‘I don’t know. But if you come and bring your friends, I can stay!'”
Goldman Family Medicine, 66 Forest Glen Road, New Paltz; (845) 255-5450.