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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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House Call: A heartfelt farewell and final advice to take to heart

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 7, 2020

"That's all, folks," Porky Pig says. And so does Dr. Bob Riggs.  (Heritage Auctions)
"That's all, folks," Porky Pig says. And so does Dr. Bob Riggs. (Heritage Auctions)
By Dr. Bob Riggs For The Spokesman-Review

As my childhood friend Porky Pig says, “That’s all, folks.” I turned 65 this summer and have decided to retire while my wife and I are young and healthy enough to do some of the things that full-time medical practice for the last 40 years has not allowed.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to share my thoughts and medical expertise with you for these past five years, as it has been a pleasure and incredibly rewarding to care for patients here in Spokane since 1992.

As a family doctor, I have found that over time, my patients have become part of my family, so stepping aside and entrusting their care to others is the next challenge I get to face in my career. Like most physicians, I am protective of my patients, and inside I am sure no one can care for them quite as well as I can (which I also know is ridiculous).

I am very thankful for my colleagues here in Spokane at Group Health and Kaiser Permanente. They have allowed me to care for my patients by concentrating on doing what is right for them rather than having to worry about generating income. It is the model of care I think is best and that suits my soul.

After taking some years off after my training, I went back to providing obstetric care and delivering babies on the night of the infamous ice storm we had in 1996. I think I have helped 300 to 400 babies into the world in the past 24 years here in Spokane.

And I have continued to care for many of them and their families since then. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the fine nurses, obstetricians and my family medicine partners for all these years.

These professional relationships have made it possible for me to be a leader in my role as local physician chief for nearly 20 years and as the “Eastern Washington guy” on the board of directors of my 1,200-provider statewide medical group for 12 years. This allowed me to become familiar and work with other leaders of my organization here in Washington and nationally.

It was quite an experience considering I was the first in my family to go to college. As is common in those settings, one sometimes feels like an impostor. Keeping my working/middle-class perspective on the table in the corporate world has been incredibly important to me over the course of my career.

I want to part with you by sharing my general advice for living well and optimizing health. If you have been reading my columns, these thoughts will sound familiar. The most potent factors supporting health do not come from a doctor; they come from how you conduct your life.

First, eat your vegetables and fruits, and make sure that you get plenty of fiber from beans, whole grains and plant foods. Choose healthy fats like olive oil and tree nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds.

Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. Walking, running and swimming are all great, and doing regular strength and flexibility workouts are important, too.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, and be kind to one another. Pray or meditate regularly. These practices reduce stress and cortisol levels and lower inflammation and blood pressure. If you smoke, quit.

Get enough sleep. Most of us need at least eight hours a night. If you are not sleeping well, practice the advice above and cut down on caffeine and alcohol. If you drink alcohol, keep it to no more than one drink a day.

Settle down in the evening with quiet activities like reading a book, preferably made of paper and purchased from a local bookstore or borrowed from the library. Get your vaccinations as they are available. They save lives. Trust the science.

I wish you all peace, joy and good health.

Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.

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