Dr. King carrying on at Friends in Service Helping clinic | NevadaAppeal.com
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Dr. King carrying on at Friends in Service Helping clinic

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer
Photo by BRAD HORNDr. William King continues his volunteer medical practice at Friends In Service Helping despite the diagnosis of cancer.
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Carson City surgeon Dr. William King retired from his practice six years ago, but he hasn’t quit practicing medicine.

For eight years, he has volunteered at the free medical clinic operated by Friends in Service Helping at 138 E. Long St., and there’s a twinkle in his eye when he talks about it.

“I like working there very much,” he said. “But I get 35 patients every morning — too much for one doctor. The need is great, and we’re looking for more physicians. “

Sadly, King’s tenure at the clinic could be cut short. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in late July.

His ex-partner, Dr. William Thomas, removed the cancerous sigmoid colon on July 28, just four days after diagnosis. But two more spots have been found, one on the liver and another on the lung.

The liver spot has been diagnosed as malignant, the cancer most likely spreading from the colon. The irregularity on the lung is not yet diagnosed, but King said he’ll keep active.

“I’m glad I know what I’m dealing with, and I want to get on with it,” he said. “I have my own ideas about how I want my cancer treated.”

His wife of 50 years, Christine, said he’s very motivated. He left the hospital a day earlier than expected after the surgery and took just a couple of weeks, rather than the expected two to three months, before returning to work at the clinic.

King has lived in Carson City for 45 years, serving in a number of capacities, from surgeon to member of the school board.

“When Carson-Tahoe Hospital was too broke to hire an administrator, Dr. King stepped in,” said Monte Fast, executive director of FISH. “He put the hospital back on its feet. He’s operated on everyone who’s anyone in this town, in addition to being a wonderful human being.”

Fast said the clinic was in desperate need of a supervising physician following the death of Dr. Charlie Ross, its founder. He spoke to King one day after services at the Carson City Presbyterian Church about the problem, and King stepped right in.

“He said he’d love to do something like that,” Fast said.

King works with a staff of volunteers, including Dr. Rex Baggett and nurse practitioners Carol Read Andersen and Chris Fruegulia.

“He didn’t have to volunteer. He chooses to spend his retirement in a frenetic, busy, needy place,” Andersen said. “He’s been the most faithful physician I’ve ever worked with. He arrives at the clinic every morning at 9 a.m. ,and he’s always impeccably dressed. He treats his patients with respect, and they love him for it.”

King is 80 and has a hearing impairment. Andersen is often called in to check King for a heart murmur or to see if a case of bronchitis has developed. King has a mild tremor in one hand, but it leaves when he picks up the scalpel, Andersen said.

“We balance each other,” she said. “I know the new medications, and he knows the old practices. I love this man. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

Originally from Fall River, Mass., King attended Brown University in Providence, R.I., and Tufts Medical School in Boston before serving his surgical residency in Seattle from 1951 to 1954.

After spending time in the U.S. Army Public Health Service, King moved to Carson City in 1957 with his family to start his surgical practice, now known as Carson Surgical Group.

“When I started my practice, there were about 5,000 people and six physicians here,” King said. “I’ve had a great life here. Since retirement, I could have moved anywhere, but there’s simply nowhere I want to go.”

The Kings have three grown children. Frederica King is a social worker in Reno. Douglas King is a pediatric cardiologist. Sarah Scott runs a 12-acre horse farm in Maryland. A son, William Richard, died while in college.

Dr. King will be honored at 3 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Presbyterian Family Life Center at Division and Musser Streets in Carson City. Anyone who would like to share a story or photo of Dr. King is invited. For more information, call Read-Andersen at 883-1985.