Long-time Carson City doctor to retire

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Dr. Rex Baggett talks about his retirement in his Bath Street office Thursday morning.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Dr. Rex Baggett talks about his retirement in his Bath Street office Thursday morning.

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Dr. Rex Baggett, who is retiring after 34 years as a physician in Carson City and will close his office door for the last time on Feb. 1, said the decision is bittersweet, at best.

"Saying good-bye to my patients has been very difficult," he said. "I'm going to miss my practice."

His office is lined with degrees, but one of his dearest possessions, it seems, is the antique shoe polisher sitting in one corner, given to him by a patient.

A few pictures, mementos from patients, decorate his walls. For retirement, he's purchased an older motor home. Baggett plans to use it at some of his favorite fishing streams, and beyond.

Some patients have been with him since he started his Carson City practice in 1969. He spoke of one in particular: a World War II veteran and the bride he brought back with him from Japan.

The veteran developed a chronic lung disease, and the condition was terminal, but the couple chose to keep his life going as long as they could.

Following two respiratory failures, the fight for the man's life included complex breathing apparatus for support, which his wife operated "like a pro." Baggett said she significantly extended her husband's life.

"I've been taking care of her since his death and the last day I saw her, I had to tell her this would be the last time," Baggett said, his voice cracking with emotion. "She stood up to say good-bye, ramrod straight, and hugged me with such honesty.

"I will miss my patients so," he said.

Baggett would like to continue his work as a volunteer physician at the FISH clinic in Carson City, but can do so only if his medical malpractice insurance company agrees to cover him. The decision is pending.

Ed Epperson, chief executive officer at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, said Baggett will be sorely missed.

"Dr. Baggett sets the standard, in my eyes. He has the kind of commitment and graciousness you used to see in the old days, together with cutting edge in skills," he said. "I'm going to miss him both as chief executive officer and because he's my personal physician.

"I'm very happy that he'll be continuing as a member of the board of hospital trustees," Epperson said.

Baggett attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and finished his medical training in Oklahoma City before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where served as a flight surgeon for two years.

He returned to Oklahoma to complete his residency in internal medicine and saw Carson City for the first time when he visited Dr. Jack Harper, a Carson City physician and friend from Oklahoma.

He was one of 12 physicians in town at that time.

"We shared emergency room call and we saw a lot," he said. "Dr. King performed every type of surgery, from orthopedics to urology. Then Dr. Pitts came to Carson City, and he was able to do special vascular procedures."

The hospital is looking at the possibility of performing cardiac surgeries and some neurosurgeons are interested in practicing at Carson-Tahoe, he said.

"In 34 years, I've seen a real progression here," he said. "It's been exceptional."

Baggett said he has strong feelings concerning the hospital's latest efforts to build a regional medical center and is looking forward to being part of that by remaining on the board of trustees.

He is president of Carson City's Sunset Rotary Club and, aside from his fishing, has numerous grandchildren to keep him busy in retirement.

Contact Susie Vasquez at svasquez@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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