Doctor maintains bright perspective
Much like the physicians many of us knew as a child, Dr. Rex Baggett has been carrying that black bag of his through the halls of Carson-Tahoe Hospital ever since he started practicing medicine here in 1969.
Distinguished and somewhat reserved, Baggett has light southern accent and an easy manner to match. He was the first internist in Carson City, and one of only 10 physicians at that time.
“Carson City had a population of 13,000 when we moved here and that’s what I liked about it,” he said.
He was born and raised in Oklahoma City. His parents were both school teachers but when the Depression hit, his father became a salesman for a company that sold class rings at high schools. The business turned out to be pretty lucrative but after the Depression his father went back to teaching until his death in a single-car accident in 1959.
Baggett always had an interest in medicine but the final inspiration came when his older cousin completed his medical training through an accelerated program during World War II. He was a surgeon and Baggett vowed he would take the same course.
“He graduated in 1945 at the age of 23,” he said, noting that the war ended so his cousin went into a regular practice.
Baggett attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman and finished his medical training in Oklahoma City just a few blocks from where he grew up. He complete medical school in 1962 and after a detour through the Air Force, (he was drafted into the Air Force as a flight surgeon) he returned to Oklahoma to complete his residency in internal medicine in 1969.
He saw Carson City for the first time when he visited Dr. Jack Harper, a Carson City physician and friend from Oklahoma. He and his first wife loved the small-town atmosphere but he said things have changed since.
People are moved around by their insurance plans. The days are gone when a physician could treat three generations and watch them grow. He wasn’t exactly complaining but said he misses seeing patients on a more personal level.
“Patients no longer look to you as a friend and helper,” he said, noting that everything is viewed from an economic perspective. “I’ve had patients I’ve taken care of for 10 years leave because of insurance.”
He said he doesn’t worry about patients that leave this way because Carson City is blessed with excellent physicians, but his ego does get banged around a little bit.
“All of us are feeling the pressures of regulations and new constraints,” he said, noting physicians are so busy checking boxes and explaining medical treatment that time with patients can be cut short.
He said the physician makes the evaluation but then the insurance company says the diagnosis doesn’t justify the treatment. Then the physician doesn’t get paid.
“We still have to pay the help and the light bill,” Baggett said. “It’s part of the reason medical costs have gone up.”
Baggett has been married for 17 years to his wife Karen, a Deputy Director for Nevada’s Commission of Economic Development.
He has three sons and one stepdaughter.