The passionate physician | NevadaAppeal.com

The passionate physician

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Dr. Galen Reimer holds up a page of the Fallon Eagle Standard, showing his first delivered baby (and bill) more than 30 years ago.
STEVE RANSON / LVN |

As a fresh doctor out of medical school and residency, Dr. Galen Reimer, along with his wife, Donna, decided to move to the Lahontan Valley in the early 1980s where he began to establish himself as a physician in a career spanning four decades.

Overall, Galen Reimer spent more than half of his 62 years in Fallon.

Now, after delivering thousands of babies — many of whom arriving in the wee hours of the morning — Reimer and his wife have left Fallon to relocate to the Central California coast for family reasons.

“I thought I’d be here for the rest of my life and be buried by Rattlesnake,” Reimer said, remaining upbeat in discussing his future plans. “My wife and I had a family decision, but we will miss Fallon and our friends.”

One of his closest friends, Paul Strasdin, said they loved the outdoors and to hunt.

“We enjoyed going to the back country on horseback,” Strasdin said. “We went into some of the high country in Churchill County and loved the views across Nevada.”

While Strasdin said Reimer had a professional side to him, he also liked to joke with others.

“In his profession, he is a very passionate person. In the outdoors, I saw a humorous side to him,” Strasdin added.

While Strasdin will miss his friend of more than 30 years, he is happy knowing Reimer will still practice medicine and help others in the Santa Maria area.

REMAINING IN MEDICINE

Reimer, though, is not leaving the medical field. He will work full time for Dignity Health as a general practitioner in one of its clinics. According to Reimer, he’s been practicing primary care since he “retired” from obstetrics four years ago.

For those who know Reimer — both professionally and personally — his quick wit and humor easily uplift those around him. Not to mention, Reimer’s height at 6-foot-5 inches also draws attention. As he ended his practice in Fallon at the end of June, Donna Reimer had already moved to Arroyo Grande, halfway between San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.

Dr. Reimer, though, is prepared for life in the Golden State.

“We bought a home in California. My first paycheck will go to taxes, and the second to California mortgage,” he said.

A pause ensued, then Reimer laughed.

“We’re supposed to be doing the opposite,” he added.

FIRST YEAR IN FALLON

As Reimer discussed his career, he focused on his first year in Fallon when he began seeing patients in July 1982 in an office behind the old hospital, which is now the current Churchill County administration building. His spent his time in a remodeled office before moving to a larger officer where the current Department of Motor Vehicles office is and then several years later to a medical building on North Ada Street

His final move was to an office at Banner Churchill Community Hospital.

“I spent half my time in that office,” Reimer said of the Ada Street location, which was a block east of the old hospital.

While at the Ada Street location, Reimer’s friendship blossomed with Dr. James Hockenberry, a general practitioner and fellow obstetrician.

They first met when Reimer arrived in Fallon.

“James Hockenberry was my mentor in 1982. He was a seasoned, rural physician,” Reimer recollected. “He took me under his wing and taught me a lot. We worked very closely for 20 years. He was an amazing teacher and mentor.”

Hockenberry said he was happy when Reimer moved to Fallon.

“I was doing all the OB (obstetrics) then,” Hockenberry recollected. “We also spent several light nights going to Lovelock for C (Caesarean)-sections.”

Dr. Tedd McDonald had practiced optometry in Fallon before returning to medical school to become an OB doctor.

“Both he and James Hockenberry encouraged me to go back to medical school,” McDonald said. “They were my mentors from afar because I asked them many questions.”

Reimer said he had a two-year obligation to practice medicine in Fallon when he first moved here, but after the time expired, he and Donna decided to stay and make Churchill County their home.

For one reason or another, Reimer also remembers how antiquated the hospital was in the early 1980s.

“They still had the World War II beds with the cranks at the end,” he said.

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE

In the meantime, Advanced Health Systems owned the old one-story, L-shaped hospital, but the company, said Reimer, wanted to sell. Eventually, St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno bought the hospital and kept it until selling it in 1990. The county took over the building and hired Lutheran Health Services to oversee the medical operations.

At about the sametime, Lutheran Health Systems and Samaritan Health Systems merged to create Banner Health. Seven years later, Banner opened a new three-story hospital in Fallon, and the office complex adjacent to the hospital opened in 1999.

Yet, Reimer focused on his career.

“I enjoyed seeing all the babies … many of them grown up now,” he said.

For Reimer, practicing in a small town and meeting the people made him a familiar fixture.

“Fallon was a good place to raise kids, and I developed some good friendships,” he added.

During his career, Reimer figures he delivered 4,500 babies, which is about 60 percent of Fallon’s current population … if all the children had stayed. He delivered babies at all times of day, but as Reimer put in more years, the early morning calls became more difficult.

“I got older, and it was harder to get up in the middle of the night,” he said, sighing.

Before Reimer delivered his final baby years ago, he found himself delivering babies whose mothers first saw him in the 1980s. A second generation of babies greeted Reimer.

“I consider myself an honorary granddaddy doctor,” he chuckled.

THE ROAD TO MEDICINE

Before Reimer began delivering first and second-generation babies, his road to Fallon took many twists and turns. He graduated from Rancho High School in North Las Vegas in 1971 and attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. After changing his major in college to pre-medicine, Reimer began looking for medical schools. The University of Nevada, Reno had just established a medical school and was seeking students.

“I attended the medical school at UNR for two years because it was a developing school, and for my third and fourth years, I attended the Shreveport School of Medicine (LSU Health Shreveport Center),” he said. “At first, I was discouraged because only one out of six was accepted in California (for medical school).”

Reimer’s adviser at Westmont had heard about Nevada’s new program and encouraged the future doctor to apply before graduating from Westmont. Reimer noted an irony when he attended medical school in Reno. The late Virgil Getto, a state lawmaker from Fallon, was instrumental in bringing the medical school to the Reno campus.

After completing residency in Ventura, Calif., Reimer headed directly to Fallon, a small city he already knew from his commutes between Reno and southern Nevada.

“It was nice coming through Fallon and seeing those nice green fields,” he said. “I always had fond memories of that.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Those who know Reimer will miss him and his family, especially his close friends at the hospital and Christian Life Center.

In looking back at his career, Reimer often wonders if he made a difference.

Years ago when one of the hospital’s nurses was in Idaho, she stopped at a motel in Twin Falls. The clerk noticed on the registration the guest lived in Fallon. After some conversation, the girl said she was born in Fallon, and Reimer was her doctor.

Pastor Jimmy Myers of the Christian Life Center said the church and community will miss the Reimers.

“He was a big part of the Christian Life Center,” Myers said. “He served on our board numerous times.”

Myers, though, remembers the Reimers for flying to underdeveloped countries and taking care of individuals who needed assistance of one kind or another

Mike Berney and Lynn Pearce, both members of the hospital board, thanked Reimer for all he has done. Pearce said he read in a publication the average number of years a doctor spends at a hospital is three to four years. Reimer broke the mold by staying for decades.

“Dr. Reimer’s dedication to the hospital and community far exceeds everybody else,” Pearce said. “He has done an unbelievable job with the hospital and the board, and I can’t thank him enough.”