WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE – Sometimes we choose what we do with our lives. Sometimes, what we do chooses us. The latter may best apply to Dennis Mesker, MD—one of the newest members of the Adena family coming into the Adena Health System in advance of the May 2 addition of Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) into that family.
Dr. Mesker, a primary care physician at Adena Family Medicine – Washington Court House, brings with him a longstanding relationship with the Fayette County community.
His roots in medicine, however, were planted early on – painfully so, in fact – in the Dayton area where he grew up.
“It’s kind of a stupid story, but I can remember exactly when I thought about becoming a doctor,” he said, chuckling at the memory. “I was 6-years-old playing on a swing set that was brand new and all the neighborhood kids were over and all were swinging. My dad had not yet put the anchors in the ground, and I’m up on the A-bar and everybody’s swinging and, all of a sudden, this thing starts tipping over, and I fall hard and break my arm.
“I was taken to the hospital and I can recall, even in all that pain, being absolutely fascinated going into that hospital. From that point on, I thought this is what I want to do.”
It wouldn’t be the last time an element of fate impacted his professional life.
There was the time the first practice in which he worked in Washington Court House burned to the ground within two years of his start there, leading to a full-time offer from the Emergency Room group at FCMH where he ended up spending five years from 1995 to 2000.
Then, after becoming affiliated with a couple of nurse practitioners and starting his own primary care practice and Washington Court House’s first urgent care facility – which he would be involved with over the next seven years — the health of his parents in the Dayton area declined, and they had to be placed into an assisted living facility.
His twin brother, Dave, had a practice just two miles from that facility and when one of his partners happened to leave, he offered the opening in the practice to Dennis. For the next six years, Dr. Mesker commuted each day from Washington Court House to Englewood – more than two hours daily – to practice medicine so he could visit his parents frequently.
“Retrospectively, I don’t regret it at all,” he said. “I left the practice I had going here, but I’ll never get that time back, and it was something I just had to do.”
Fate wasn’t done with him quite yet. About the time the demands of the commute began wearing on him, Dr. Albert Gay, FCMH hospitalist and Fayette County coroner, tragically collapsed during rounds and later died during surgery.
“The next thing I know, I’m getting a call from the hospital wanting to know if I would be interested in the hospitalist position,” he recalled. “It seemed like moments earlier I had just been talking with my wife about how I was just so exhausted with the drive, so from that perspective at least, the offer was almost like a God-send.”
He served in both hospitalist and coroner roles until late last year, when he decided to move back into primary care and recently became a part of Adena’s growth in serving the Fayette County community.
“I’ve actually worn many hats as a physician so far – primary care, hospitalist and ER were my main ones as a physician,” he said. “Besides coroner, I was the medical director for a while at one of the nursing homes in town, and I was the medical director of what was known as the Life Squad, which was our EMS service before the hospital took them over. I also was the team doctor for Washington school sports teams for 15 years and was a hospice director for many years.”
Primary care, however, has been his true love. From having delivered more than 100 babies in his days as a resident to being able to care for the full circle of life in a community he’s called home for many of his 60 years, it’s the personal relationships he’s come to cherish with his patients that make it so special.
“When you’re a physician, you are kind of instantly drawn into a family unit,” Dr. Mesker said. “You can hopefully sense some trust and welcome when you do things with families, and it happens quickly in those situations, it’s not something that needs months to build up. They’re looking to you for that help, for those kind words or hopeful words or whatever that might be.
“Primary care, that’s where you actually get to know everybody a lot better, unlike an emergency or hospitalist setting where you’re seeing people in their very worst possible situation. It’s great when you can get them home and things are going better, but the idea behind primary care is preventative care to keep stuff like that from happening and trying to keep everybody at their best to avoid those situations.”
Dr. Mesker understands how important primary care is to families, having raised one of his own with his wife of nearly 35 years, Cherie, a retired teacher. His four sons—Adam, Jeremy, Luke and Noah, all graduated from Washington High School.
As he works to grow his new practice under the Adena umbrella, he understands the excitement brought about by the announcement earlier this year that FCMH would officially be joining Adena’s family May 2. That announcement has given a community that has long supported its hospital a glimpse into its future.
“Under this agreement with Adena, one of the first things they said they were going to do is build a new hospital,” he said. “That’s exciting and something the community can look forward to because that hospital was built in the 1950s. It has been upgraded several times internally, but you can only do so much with a building.”
Personally, he is also excited to bring his welcoming smile and lifetime of experience caring for the community into his latest endeavor with Adena and getting to know a whole new group of patients in the years to come.
Assuming, of course, that’s what the fates allow.
Dr. Mesker is now accepting new patients at Adena Family Medicine – Washington Court House, 308 Highland Avenue, Suite C, Washington Court House. To schedule an appointment, call 740-333-4950.