Doctor’s journey began in Gibson County watermelon fields

Dr. Field convened with Libby Sanders, a nurse practitioner at the Jasper urgent care clinic.

Shirtless, sweating and surveying the acres of watermelons left to harvest with his grandfather, Thomas Field knew he didn’t want this seemingly endless field to be his future.

Now a doctor nearing retirement — though, he doesn’t expect to ever stop — Field’s memory is clear. That moment is where his path diverged to bring him to where he is at today. Now 72, he’s been a doctor since 1975 and his practice, Medical of Dubois, is celebrating 20 years in business.

“Watermelons will make you smart,” Dr. Field joked. “I ain’t picking watermelons today, am I?”

In a seasoned voice, the doctor laid out the moment. He and his grandfather, Guy Lofton, were working the 80-acre field. “FYI that’s a hell of a bunch of watermelons,” he said. “And the sweat, so much sweat, I could pull my leather belt off and wring it out.”

Young Thomas, lamenting his lot in life picking up the heavy fruit and putting them in the wagon, complained to his grandfather. Lofton looked down at the 15-year-old. “Anyone stupid enough to do this job, ought to have to do it,” he said before continuing on in the wagon.

“It pissed me off for a good while but then I thought, ‘he’s right, I ain’t going to do this. I think I’ll go to school,'” Dr. Field said.

While becoming a doctor wasn’t his immediate thought — he kind of stumbled into that path, he did decide that an education would be key to his not remaining in the watermelon fields of Gibson County. Upon graduating from Owensville High School in 1964, Dr. Field headed to a trade school in St. Louis called Gradwohl School of Laboratory Technique. After a year there, he graduated as a hospital laboratory technician.

He came back to Indiana and worked in a hospital in Oakland City for a while before moving to Arkansas to work at a hospital there for a time. Then he headed to Florida where he worked until he decided the laboratory technician gig wasn’t fulfilling his needs.

“It wasn’t buying me the lifestyle I aspired to,” he explained.

So, he returned to Indiana and took a job at Mead Johnson in Evansville as a microbiologist. Through Mead Johnson, Dr. Field had access to a tuition reimbursement program for employees taking college courses that applied to their jobs. “As long as you got better than a C on it, they paid the tuition,” he said.

Dr. Field while attending college on his path to becoming a doctor.

It sounded like a good deal, so Dr. Field headed over to the Indiana State Univerity Evansville Campus — what later became the University of Southern Indiana — which happened to be near Mead Johnson on First Avenue at the time.

He decided to take 12 credit hours his first semester as a challenge to himself.

“My father had no trouble telling me that I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed on a daily basis,” Field said. “I decided to really hit it hard and see what I could do.”

He finished the semester with a 4.0 GPA. Then he took 16 hours the next semester and continued through summer all while working 40 hours a week at Mead Johnson. “I was going straight through and Mead Johnson was paying,” Dr. Field said.

He decided to become a doctor and after three years and carrying a 3.89 GPA, he applied and was accepted to Indiana University School of Medicine. He was the first to do so with only three years of college completed. “I saw it as a $50 bet,” Field said referring to the $50 application fee back in 1971. “I saw it as a challenge as well as a way to cut out attending and paying for one more year of college. I could also become a doctor a year faster.”

Money was still an issue, so Dr. Field worked his way through school. He performed autopsies with the state coroner, he sold encyclopedias door to door, sold blood — back then a unit of his B-positive blood would buy groceries for two weeks — and even sold lakefront property in Kentucky to pay for his tuition on top of getting some scholarships and student loans.

When he finished school, Dr. Field remembers returning home and handing his mother the letter affirming he would be a medical doctor. “She was pretty tickled with that,” Field said. “My dad, he read it and put it down on the table without a word. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

He attributes his dad’s mentality to the harsh conditions of farming back then. Field and his brother still own the family property and farm. “Now, you won’t catch my ass in an International Harvester picking corn, but I’ve got the land,” he laughed.

Dr. Field headed to Evansville for his residency and was hired into the emergency department. He worked for hospitals there and eventually practiced at St. Joseph Hospital in Huntingburg where he also operated clinics in Holland and Santa Claus.

While working in the area he learned about the uptick in what he likened to doc-in-a-box practices or urgent care facilities and was hired on by a pair of doctors that operated five in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. “They wanted me because I had a medical license in Kentucky but I had decided to learn as much as possible about their practices while I was there,” he explained.

Medical of Dubois — notice the M.D. in the name — is located at 695 Third Avenue in Jasper, where it has been open for 20 years.

In 1997, Dr. Field determined he had enough experience and financial security to strike out on his own. He started Medical of Dubois completely independent from any other hospital group with his own money at 695 Third Street in Jasper.

“I knew I had bitten off a pretty good plug,” Dr. Field explained. “I remember one day digging in the change jar to pay for gas to get to work.”

But, despite the usual difficulties that occur when one strikes out on their own, the practice has grown for 20 years.

The company’s motto, Get In -> Get Out -> Get Well, points to their specialization in helping people in their moments of need while minimizing time in the waiting room. “Very seldom do patients wait very long but sometimes we’ll get a complication and it will slow us down,” Dr. Field admitted. “Then, I’ll usually go out into the waiting room and let people know it may be a little longer wait than they anticipated.”

Dr. Field and his son, Blake, continue to work together at Medical of Dubois.

In a modern social context of fast service and busy lives, the practice has flourished as people seek more economical and convenient ways to deal with those surprise medical situations. Dr. Field has also expanded into Loogootee. Urgent Care of Martin County is operated by a local nurse practitioner and supporting staff.

Medical of Dubois services people in their times of immediate need as well as provides special exams like those necessary for sports, pre-employment and commercial drivers (CDL). They also provide drug screenings for local employers and can handle minor surgeries.

“Fish hooks, scrapes, stitches, twisted ankles,” Dr. Field listed off many of the types of situations they usually see. “I like to tell people that 90 percent of the medical issues you have can be handled today, the other 10 percent may take a while because we will have to refer you out.”

Also, Dr. Field’s years of experience as a board certified family physician and emergency room doctor comes in handy in identifying more serious conditions for patients.

As growth and technology have forced changes, Dr. Field brought on his son Blake to assist in running the business in 2011. “I have a lawyer, MBA and IT guy that is my relative and my only heir,” Dr. Field said about Blake’s multiple degrees and experience.

Blake’s experience in law and business has helped solidify the company’s business practices and procedures regarding regulated physicals like those necessary for a CDL.

Although there have been tough times when Dr. Field has looked at some of his peers working as hospital employees with envy, he couldn’t be an employee any more than he could have picked watermelons for the rest of his life.

“I’m not going to do it,” he said. “I hold a doctorate and I am not going to be another employee.”

These days, Dr. Field sees his journey as being successful and working with his son has been a blessing. The practice employs three nurse practitioners as well as supporting staff so being semi-retired he fills in for any employees taking vacations or sick days. He also makes appearances weekly to help out and see his regular patients.

“I couldn’t buy a better spot,” he said. “He (Blake) and I have got it going here.”

Medical of Dubois is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. They can be reached at 812-634-6824 and online at http://medicalofdubois.com/.

The practice has recently undergone a facelift with brightly painted walls, new flooring and seating.

14 Responses to Doctor’s journey began in Gibson County watermelon fields

  1. Glenn Menke November 21, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

    I remember having you in Owensville High School. I really enjoyed Owensville. I am still farming at 80 so you can still continue Doctoring. Glenn Menke

    • Thomas Field November 21, 2018 at 9:54 pm #

      Well, a Skelton from my past! Glen you were on my great teacher list along with Marvin Adams and Kermit Johnson. Sit back and smile as you recall the time. You did, in fact, contribute to a young sweaty melon picker becoming what all parents want their child to become!

      • Jamie Eckert November 22, 2018 at 12:03 pm #

        “Anyone stupid enough to do this job, ought to have to do it”. Imagine society if people weren’t “stupid” enough to do really hard jobs. Society works with people doing all things together. I am sure being a doctor is probably better than hard manual labor, but what would happen if everyone became doctors, lawyers, rich business owners, etc like you suggest would make parents proud? Not to sure you would have many luxuries without people doing the stupid work. Just my opinion.

        • Dolly November 23, 2018 at 8:24 am #

          You are right, Jamie. Without the hard working people doing meaningless work, they wouldn’t be in business. Seems like this story was all about bragging and a “We are better than you ” attitude, which is sad. I may feel different going there now.

          • NOPE November 23, 2018 at 11:18 am #

            Yep, lets “over exaggerate” the meaning of a phrase said over 55 years ago. Geez, toughen up. And Dolly, this story is about MOD and the success they have had. So the people in this article have every right to brag about it.

          • Say what?! November 23, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

            He’s not calling people who do manual labor stupid. Rather it’s his “aha” moment that breaking his back for low pay wasn’t how he wanted to spend his life. This isn’t an advertisement but a story about MOD and its history in light of its anniversary. The care here is exceptional!! My son and I spent 35 minutes in the hospital Monday just waiting to register. 35 min at MOD means you’ve already been treated and have driven away. It’s an urgent care. If you don’t require a specific procedure that must be done at a hospital,specialist, or ongoing treatment w your primary care doc then this is an excellent alternative. You can receive expert care with great hardworking people without spending all day waiting.

  2. Dolly November 23, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

    To NOPE: Dr. Field has every right to be proud of what he accomplished but I feel his success is because of the people who utilize Medical of Dubois. Without the little people, he would not be in business. It takes a community. I would like to see this business in Strassenfest parade one year to give back to community that helped build him. And this will be last thing I say about this story.

    • NOPE November 23, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

      “And this will be last thing I say about this story.”
      Thank goodness. Both of your comments went in 2 totally different directions, and yet little tidbits in each one are so far from the truth….”Without the little people, he would not be in business.” Come on, really? Know what your talking about first before commenting.

      • MOD Supporter November 26, 2018 at 6:49 pm #

        Amen! 🙂

  3. Rhonda November 24, 2018 at 7:54 pm #

    I hate to hear anyone be negative about the farming community they grew up in. Yes being a doctor and having goals and achieving them is fantastic, but where would you really be without the hard working farmers like your dad that gave you this opportunity. The only thing I got out of this was , we here in Owensville were stupid and your better than we are , so sad you feel this way , too bad your son didn’t experience the good old country life . Your mom and dad very good people . Good luck in your retirement

    • Trucker Jim November 25, 2018 at 9:04 pm #

      *we’re *you’re

    • Ease Up! November 26, 2018 at 7:09 pm #

      Dolly and Rhonda- I think you are taking this waaaaay too personally. He is NOT bashing the farming community. He knows what hard work it is (as evidence by this story). He does not feel he is better than anyone. And, his grandfather was encouraging him to do something else, if he so desired. He just wanted a different path for himself after he witnessed generations of his family struggling with life as farmers. AND THAT’S OK!!! Good grief! He’s not saying that he did this all on his own. Of course he realizes the residents of Dubois county are the reason his clinic is successful today. It is called Medical of Dubois on purpose.
      He thinks very highly of the farming community, factory workers, semi drivers, fast food workers, housekeepers, lawyers, other doctors, stay at home parents, office workers, any occupation, or anyone that doesn’t have an occupation. All of the providers there are excellent and the care is excellent. It is just a story of how far he’s come. It’s not bashing anyone. Ease up a bit and try not to be so sensitive or read so much into the story.

      • Mrs. Ima Ruth Green November 27, 2018 at 8:46 am #

        Not to start a whole new thread, but kudos to Ease Up!, you make a great point, here – plus how the nature of various social media can and does cause such misunderstanding and/or misinterpretation because of its lack of real-time ability for live discussion, one-on-one, back-forth, either in person or via phone, etc. People are so knee-jerk (al-too-quick) to judge and assume (and sound-off about) things without the real-time ability to clarify and/or understand facts and positions, and this has become a virtual epidemic of hurt and anger – let alone misinformation – that is often never resolved. Thanks for a more calm and common-sense, objective scenario of the more likely intent of this story and those involved.

  4. Ease Up!! November 28, 2018 at 1:00 am #

    My absolute pleasure!! We live in hypersensitive times where everyone is searching for a reason to be offended. It’s exhausting!! No one just reads a story at face value anymore. It’s sad. This is a simple story of “teenage boy in field, boy thinks ahead to future, doesn’t want to be farming 20 years from now, chooses different path…”
    Instead, others read “teenage boy in field, parents are idiots, all farmers are idiots, I don’t want to be an idiot, I better become a doctor…”
    Ludacris.
    Life is so much easier when we stop looking for reasons to be attacked. Not everything is about you. Actually, MOST, if not ALL, things are not about you (I speak to the easily offended).
    It’s a wonderful story of success and triumph and serving his community.
    If there was a story about a homeless person who saved up every penny and bought a farm and was happy farming his/her whole life I would be happy for this person as well. I wouldn’t read the story and think “what a terrible person to look down on homeless people like this!!!”
    Personal goals, goals reached….simple.