Lowell North, PA-C, retires
Born in 1939, Lowell is a native of Hillsboro, WI. His first job in healthcare was working as an orderly at the original Hillsboro Hospital during his time in high school. "Orderlies did stuff they would never do nowadays," says Lowell, "one minute I'd be cleaning floors, next I'd be working in the kitchen, or even x-rays. Back then, what the doctor said was law and it was common for me to be dragged into working surgery too!"
At the age of 16, Lowell was beginning to learn a lot about healthcare – helping in all parts of the hospital and even putting catheters in patients with prostate cancer. But that wasn't Lowell's first time in hospital. In 1953, Lowell was having his appendix removed in the old Hillsboro Hospital while the then new hospital was being constructed next door. Lowell spent 2 days as an inpatient before being wheeled over into the new hospital. "I was the first patient in this hospital," boasts Lowell.
After leaving high school, Lowell joined the Navy as a corpsman and med tech at the Naval Training Base in Great Lakes, IL. His entire military career was in the medical field – taking care of patients on wards before finishing his time in medical research. During this time, the military had a huge expense related to the flu and recruits coming down with pneumonia. Lowell was part of a network of military research labs that worked on the first flu shot. "I think it got to a point where I was administering 200-300 prophylactic shots per day. Hundreds of recruits would line up, naked one after the other, stand in front of me, raise their leg slightly and "boom" I'd give them two shots at the same time," laughs Lowell.
Lowell left the Navy in 1962 and began working as a med tech at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore before moving back to the Midwest and taking a job as a med tech in Loveland, CO. Lowell later returned to school taking a range of science courses at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. "Somehow, I ended up with an English minor," jokes Lowell.
After completing his education, Lowell returned to Wisconsin, taking time away from the medical profession and working as an inspector at Badger Ordinance in Baraboo – a munitions plant that built rockets used during the Vietnam conflict.
In 1973, Lowell heard the call of the medical profession once again. "I wanted to get back to taking care of patients," emphasizes Lowell. At this time, a new program designed for ex-military medical professionals and ex-paramedics was being developed. The physician assistant program was a program based on the fast-track training of medical doctors during World War II and its aim was to improve and expand access to healthcare due to a shortage of primary care physicians.
The first physician assistant (PA) training school in Wisconsin was in Marshfield. "I first read about it in the Saturday Evening Post and, by the time I was ready to apply, they had already filled up the class. I called them every single day, nagging them. Eventually someone dropped out and I got invited for an interview," says Lowell, "I counted on getting the job so much that I had quit my job and sold my house. I said 'You gotta take me, I have no job and no house!'" chuckles Lowell.
Lowell completed PA school as part of a class of twelve and secured a job in Phelps, WI, supporting the work of Dr. Yousa Kim before getting a call from one of his former classmates who had taken a job in Washburn, WI.
Lowell was invited over to Washburn, WI to join his fellow classmate, supporting two doctors. "I remember the day I left Phelps, I had to leave late because I was involved with an emergency surgery patient," recounts Lowell, "I drove to Washburn to meet with the Doctors. I walked in to the clinic and the nurse immediately stops me and says 'your doctor isn't here, he's at his cabin and the other doctor is fishing on Lake Superior. The other PA is in Milwaukee.' There were 20 patients in the hospital over the weekend, I saw 48 patients in the ER and had 8 admissions. When my boss showed up on Monday I said 'I want a raise right now,'" laughs Lowell.
Lowell spent 5 years in Washburn before heading to Milwaukee where he worked in industrial medicine – conducting physicals and health maintenance checks at local factories and workplaces out of a mobile unit. One year later, Lowell and his fellow classmate and former colleague from Washburn both interviewed at St. Vincent's Trauma Center in Greenbay, WI. Both were hired on the spot and Lowell spent 12 years working trauma medicine in Greenbay.
Eventually, Lowell decided on a change of scenery and headed to Texas where he continued working in trauma medicine. "I found out quickly that I don't belong in Texas!" jokes Lowell.
It wasn't long before Wisconsin came calling once more. In 1995, Dr. Boehme called Lowell and asked if he wanted to come back to Wisconsin and work in Hillsboro. "you better believe it!" says Lowell, "I wanted to come back and work in my home town." For Lowell, his medical career had come full circle. "Some of my old high school teachers were still here when I came back and they ended up being my patients."
"I arrived back in Hillsboro in December 1995 and just like that, it's 2017," says Lowell, "I've loved taking care of the people here. It's a great place to live and a great place to work."
Lowell retires on April 27, 2017, at the age of 77 with a career in healthcare that spans well-over half a century. He plans to spend lots of time reading in the winter, showing people how to fly fish in the summer and spend time with his wife Linda.
Lowell's accomplishments during his career are vast and his dedication to healthcare is evident in the hearts and minds of all of those patients he has worked with and the lives he helped save. On behalf of every life he has enriched, including the staff that have had the pleasure to work with him, we wish Lowell all the best in his future plans and thank him for his commitment to caring. Thank you, Lowell.