Guest: Dr. Gary Ridenour
Guest Bio: Dr. Gary Ridenour attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico and ran his own clinic out of a Catholic Church. Dr. Ridenour ran the ER at St. Louis City Hospital and later set up his first rape Treatment Center at the same facility. He was a physician with the VA Medical System from 1977 to 1980 and moved to Nevada in 1981. Dr. Ridenour is an author and an authority on several subjects including Avian Flu.
Dr. Gary Ridenour gives a glimpse into the troubled history of the United States Veterans Administration.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. It is all over the world news mainly in the United States, the scandalous revelation at the Veterans Administration in the medical area of the Veterans Administration. Several VA hospitals are now under investigation, others are just being audited but many of the facilities in the United States have come under scrutiny in past weeks for falsifying reports and covering up the fact that some of their practices were less than on the up and up. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Gary Ridenour who received his degree in medicine in Guadalajara, Mexico and also ran his own clinic for the poor out of a Catholic Church and came to the United States and ended up in St. Louis City hospital where he saw, well what he says a murder a day, a rape a day, and two gunshots to the chest a day. He is here today to talk about the VA and his intimate knowledge having worked at the VA. How are you doing today Dr. Ridenour?
Dr. Gary Ridenour: I’m doing fine. How are you?
N: Great. Thank you for being here, you know it’s all over the news as I said before. And you are intimately familiar with the Veterans Administration in the United States. Could you give us a little history about the Veterans Administration? Exactly what is the Veteran Administration and when did it begin?
R: Well, the main thrust of this was after the first World War, the government told the veterans that they were gonna set up a program and take care of their healthcare and everything. There was no problem back then health care is very, very cheap. And it started up in 1921 they created the Veterans Bureau and within a year or two it was dissolved due to corruption and was abolished for about 9 years under a lot of scandal and also in 1932 that 10,000 World War I Veterans marched on Washington demanding that they get their promised war bonuses and to get their medical care and at that point I thought of the federal government and went, “My Lord, here’s 10,000 men that have knew how to shoot guns and are potential dangerous.”
N: That we trained (chuckles)…
R: So please let’s set up a VA and get these guys in and make them happy. So that was great until 1945 then Truman fired the administrator the VA due to Shoddy care. And then you know, the rest of it let’s just say Shoddy care and it goes 46, 47, 55, 70, 72, 74, 76, 81 oh onwards…at 99, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006 this has been on everybody’s shift.
N: So this has been a pattern for well over 50 years that we’re talking about of well as you say Shoddy care and basically scandal due to I guess poor leadership or maybe a lack of understanding of our veterans. What do you think was the main cause in the beginning with this scandal as you say the Veterans Bureau, what was it then?
R: It was been established a Bureaucracy to run this thing. And you know today Bureaucracy refers to the administrative system governing any large institution and this was something they wanted to put up make a bureaucracy out of it just get it under the rug and let it run. And because of it’s being a bureaucracy then you have certain problems with it. It’s inapt, it’s inefficient, it’s very, very slow. When people get in and working in the bureaucracy and it happened to me too, was in a month in the Bureaucracy I realized that due to its inefficiency and inflexible rules and complexity there are kinds of corners like cuts because I knew how to do that, and I cut those corners so I could get better care for my patients.
N: Well can I ask you a question as a doctor that received his medical degree not in the United States, why did you receive a degree in Guadalajara, Mexico? Where you living in Mexico? Did you move to Mexico? How did that come about and having received your medical training in Mexico, did you find that maybe some of the things that were going on in the Veterans Administration were worst or better than the medical training that you had received abroad?
R: My medical training, the reason I went down there was I went to Hiram College in Ohio and we’re about 20 miles from Kent state. And I was very active against the war, I had a total of 5 friends lost in Vietnam and I wasn’t against that shootings and the quarterly journal came out from the college about what we were doing and unfortunately there was I on the front page in the march in Washington. So I went in I went to Case Western Reserve and met with the Dean, he pulled that out and said “this is you?” And I said “yup” and he went “we don’t like people who rock the boat” and I’ve got that from another med school and my draft number was 89, I heard about Guadalajara so along was about a few thousand other men and women, we went down and did our training in Mexico. We saw diseases and things that nobody in medical school appear would ever see. And the big plus for us is that I’ve then had a crappy Spanish. When I got out there my Spanish was perfect and I had a gentlemen come in here yesterday, about 55 and was crying and hugged me and goes, “I can’t believe you speak Spanish. I didn’t know that there was any doctor around here that did. My God, thank you.” And I said “You know that takes back of the crappy stuff that happened down there.” But it was the same thing in Mexico is a bureaucracy, it’s socialized and the VA system, yeah you did learn a little bit but most of the time when I was in the VA system, we were dealing with the older World War II vets coming in and it was mostly lung cancers, alcoholism, alcohol related diseases, I mean horrendous problems with these men. And mainly because in World War II we scooped up 13 million people and threw them into the military. And there were a lot people that you know got sick very early in their life. So after being in the VA for a while I have so many patients I have to take care per day, but every 3rd or 4th night I’d be on call at the VA with my team and we would run an emergency room. So what we did is, Washington University was there too but in the emergency room if the patient have a sort of the social security was an odd number we could admit to Washington University and were called the ‘odd gods.’
N: The odd gods.
R: And the so, somebody will come in and they look really bad nigga “oh my god what’s the social security number?” and they go 2 oh no ma’am we’ve got 2 in this guy up and get him out of here, we don’t want to admit him. And we would do that, that would happen 3 nights in a row and the poor guy in the 4th night will get slammed with these people coming in that were you know barely alive because were turning them up for 3 nights.
N: You began at the VA in 77 and you were there up until 1980 as a medical doctor there at the VA. Before that though, you were running a clinic out of a Catholic Church and you did reaping to seem not in the United States but in Canada in Saskatchewan and I do believe, yeah?
R: I did because from Guadalajara after that, it was called the fifth pathway, and if you could find a medical system that would take you in for 1 year but you worked as an intern for free then they would let you be an intern the next year. Well I found that up in Regina, Saskatchewan they have an AMA approved internship and an income. So thru just a weird coincidence, one of my friends went up there and when he flew back, he gave us, my roommate his Ski jacket back and in the pocket was a receipt from Regina General, and I said “Oh man, I’m going.” So I went up and beat him out of the spot and so I went from 80 degree weather to 40 below 0 in about a day and a half.
N: There’s a bit of a shock for the system, yeah?
R: It was. I couldn’t even buy heavy clothes in December, they felt out in September. So that’s why, so I did it there and I got a taste of the Canadian system and then after running the emergency room at St. Louis City Hospital, we had our first kid and we saw the movie “Bronco Billy” and my wife and I, my wife is from Saskatchewan. She went, “Let’s get out of here.” And through a couple of serious mistakes I end up in Fallon and then suddenly Reagan put a billion dollars into the navy base and then over the years, we became the premier fighter weapon school in the world.
N: It’ll be Top Gun.
R: And so we have son two, son three and grandson one and granddaughter one. So we’re still there.
N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Dr. Gary Ridenour, a medical doctor. He’s been in practice for 39 year, and we’ve been here talking about some of the maybe the reasons why the VA is in such an uproar here today. It seems that there’s been a history and a pattern of scandal throughout the years. It’s been great having you here with us today Dr. Gary Ridenour.
R: Thank you.
N: Transcript of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm.