- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

NANTUCKET (AP) — Before scrubbing in at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Dr. Tim Lepore usually takes a look at the sky.

As the only surgeon on an island 35 miles out to sea, Dr. Lepore has a different set of concerns than big-city doctors. Will a storm delay the transfer of a critical patient? Does the hospital have enough blood? Who’s available to assist?

The MedFlight helicopter is at least 45 minutes away, and it can’t come at all if a change in the weather is imminent.

“When the buck stops at your doorstep, it can be anxiety-provoking,” Dr. Lepore said.

The 60-year-old doctor, who has been Nantucket’s only full-time surgeon for more than two decades, treats everything from cuts and scrapes to massive trauma on the 50-square-mile island off the Cape Cod coast.

Although he rarely gets a day off — his last vacation was four or five years ago to visit his son for a week in Ireland — Dr. Lepore does not complain. After all, he says from his office overlooking cranberry bogs and white-sand beaches, “Look where I live.”

The fishhook-shaped island has a reputation as a summer playground for the rich, with shingled cottages outlining a historic town center of upscale boutiques, restored inns and pricey restaurants. The average house goes for about $1.6 million.

The population of Nantucket swells to about 50,000 in the summer, but during the winter it’s wind-swept and isolated. The year-round population is 10,000.

While most surgeons tend to hone their practices over the years to become experts in one field, Dr. Lepore has been forced to be a generalist. On a recent day, he was called on his day off to stitch up a man who fell out of a tree.

“In another hospital, with another doctor, this man may have not gotten treatment so quickly,” said Dr. Stephen Chase, a part-time emergency-room doctor at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “It’s very rare that nowadays you have to do everything.”

Dr. Lepore moved to Nantucket on New Year’s Day 1983. He was 38, the son of a doctor, and had been practicing at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, R.I., for 10 years.

The doctor has become part of the fabric of the island. He is a member of the school committee, an amateur boxer in a local league and the high school’s team physician. People recognize him as he makes his way around the island, offering a friendly hello to the man they simply call “Tim” or “Doc.”

“He’s on the field, and when the injury happens, he’s there,” said Mike Galvin, whose son, Josh, played baseball and football for Nantucket High School. “He’s like one of the team. The kids love him.”

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