Faulkners’ return to area brings medical expertise, community appreciation

A recently-returned couple whose presence here has enhanced Marshall County’s medical offerings spent some time last Thursday discussing their journey with Culver’s Kiwanis Club at the Yacht Club restaurant on Jefferson Street.
Joe and Noreen Faulkner moved back last year to Culver after many years in the Seattle area, though Joe Faulkner’s roots here run deep. A Culver Military Academy graduate whose father, Don, was formerly a physician at the school (his mother Janet was a secretary in the science department there), Faulkner’s also has a brother, Jim, employed here, as Culver-Union Township Public Library’s financial manager.
Joe Faulkner joined the staff at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth as a surgeon, while Doreen practices obstetrics and gynecology with the group, the only female OB doctor in the county, save for Beth Rutherford.
Joe Faulkner explained his family had lived in Hobart before moving to Culver in 1966. Faulkner himself earned his BA at Dartmouth following his CMA graduation, attending graduate school at the Indiana University School of Medicine, from which he graduated in 1982. After a surgical residency at the University of Michigan, he moved to Seattle, marrying Noreen a few years later. The couple has three sons, he said, one of whom -- of middle school age -- became interested in playing hockey at Culver Academies.
“There were lots of reasons to consider moving back to Culver,” he said, adding his son was accepted into the Academy and St. Joseph happened to be seeking a surgeon at the time.
“I’m reliving my childhood here,” Faulkner said with a smile. “You’ll see me riding my bike around town. People in Seattle can’t imagine what Culver is like. There’s no place you can’t get to in town on a bike. When I get to Culver I park the car and walk and bike.
“It’s a unique place to live,” he added. “There are a lot of special aspects to living in a town like Culver which a lot of people don’t experience. It’s a good life. We’re happy we’ve moved, and we’re looking forward to the future in our new house.”
The couple is building a home south of the downtown area.
Faulkner also discussed changes in the medical world during the years he’s been in practice, many of which he said are “pretty profound.”
One of these changes was in the addition of Laparoscopic surgery to the medical world, something which began initially as a change in the more than half-million gall bladder surgeries in the US each year. A painful, scarring, and multi-day hospital stay procedure beginning in the 19th century, a new technique was first performed in France in 1988 (and in America the following year). Four small tubes with fiber optic cameras and light sources providing “incredible detail” are sent into a patient, facilitating an operation which has become an outpatient procedure allowing most patients to return to normal activity with a week or two. By 1992, the method was standard and now is utilized in surgery for hernias, colon, and “”virtually any abdominal surgery.”
Another huge innovation in the medical world, said Faulkner, was the late 1990s of utilizing digital means of storing, accessing, and making available to physicians the medical records of patients, something which had been a perplexing and often frustrating challenge in the past. Such innovations allow Faulkner to view images at home during a middle-of-the-night call from the emergency room, which help him understand what hospital staff is speaking of.
Yet another change is the shift from independent, entrepreneurial doctors to physicians being employed by hospitals. The purchase by a hospital group of a facility for which Faulkner worked “was a really good thing,” he said, in that the group could handle many of the business decisions the smaller operation wasn’t prepared to death with. Large group ownership also aids in making the cost of records software and hardware a manageable thing, he added.
Most doctors in Plymouth are employed by the St. Joseph network, said Faulkner, though a few there remain independent.
Indiana is one of the more progressive states, he explained, in the area of liability coverage, something he said he believes started with Doctor Otis Bowen, former Indiana governor.
Responding to an audience query, Faulkner said he expects Medicare in America to begin shifting more heavily to financial means testing of citizens. In national spending, he said, the four biggest areas are Medicare, Social Security, defense, and interest on the national debt.
“Who wants to cut Medicare? I don’t think we want people starving to death on our doorstep, or limping down the street with blood dripping, but you can’t give everyone everything and they don’t pay for it.”
Faulkner also discussed the growing number of medical students from other countries with lower standards of living.
“Kids (in America) coming up nowadays aren’t focused on their studies as much compared to other countries where the people have a lower standard of living,” he said. “(Students in such countries) will work like heck to succeed in this. People from other countries are willing to sacrifice to stay here and succeed.”