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This Doctor Is No Island

This Doctor Is No IslandAsthe only surgeon on the Massachusetts island Nantucket, Tufts School of Medicine graduate Dr. Tim Lepore has his hands full– but he's enjoying every second.

Boston [07.01.05] Even on Nantucket, a summertime island playground for tourists and the wealthy, a medical emergency can strike without warning. When those times arise, the community turns to its only surgeon, Tufts School of Medicine graduate Dr. Tim Lepore.

Being the sole surgeon to an island with a year-round population of 10,000– five times that in the summer – isn't for everyone. "A lot of physicians find the intensity disabling," he told the Associated Press.

In fact, the day Lepore and his family moved to Nantucket in 1983, he was called upon to perform an emergency pacemaker transplant at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the island's only hospital.

"I'd never done one before," Lepore recalled to the AP. After consulting with a physician in Rhode Island, the procedure was completed successfully. "It was an adventure, but it worked." Today, he handles everything from simple cuts to massive trauma.

The unusual issues Lepore must contend with as an island doctor include knowing whether Medflight helicopters can reach the island given the weather, checking if the hospital's blood supply is low and finding physicians to assist with tricky procedures.

"When the buck stops at your doorstep, it can be anxiety provoking," he told the AP.

But Lepore enjoys the challenge and the chance to get to know the members of the community.

He admitted to the AP that he can't complain too much. "Look where I live," he said.

Not only does he serve as the town's de facto medical examiner and the team doctor for the high school, but he also serves on the school committee and is generally well-known around the island.

"You get better care from people who you can get to know, have a relationship with, but the high cost of living squeezes people out," Lepore explained to the AP.

Indeed, Nantucket's high home prices – the average home price is $1.6 million– proved such an issue that Lepore successfully lobbied the hospital to build housing for its nurses.

Among Lepore's other medical initiatives are providing HIV clinics and treatment for heroin addicts and becoming a local expert on Lyme disease.

"I don't think we're doing everything we could, but we're trying," he told the AP.

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