After 40 years of caring for patients, including many who’ve followed him across the shoreline and have grown to be like “second family,” Dr. Edward Dill, Jr., M.D. retires from his Guilford practice at Shoreline Internal Medicine this week.
The son of a general practitioner (GP) who cared for families in the mill town of Ludlow, Massachusetts, Edward completed his medical studies at Georgetown University School of Medicine and internship and residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital. In 1976, the newly board-certified internist briefly considered taking over his father’s practice.
“My dad was an old-time doc,” says Edward. “I tell my patients he was a real doctor. He was a single, solo practice; like Dr. [Elisabeth] Adams was in Guilford. He was a school physician, he made house calls, he did everything.”
But a different opportunity came knocking for Edward, in the form of a brand-new medical model. Community Health Care Plan (CHCP) brought medical professionals together into an all-in-one health maintenance organization located in Long Wharf, New Haven.
“It was sort of radical,” says Edward. “People didn’t understand it; our fellow doctors didn’t understand it. We were considered rebels” for breaking up the traditional model of care.
Edward says the decision to join CHCP also meant he couldn’t take up his dad on some good advice before starting his career.
“My dad told me, ‘Before you take your first job, take a couple of months off, because once it starts, it doesn’t stop,’” recalls Edward. “I got married in May and I had said to my wife, ‘Let’s take a couple months off.’ But then, CHCP approached me and said, ‘We need you in two weeks.’ So I said yes. That was 40 years ago! My dad was right,” says Edward.
Edward was with CHCP for 10 years in New Haven, then another 10 years in Branford, the hometown of his wife, Carol. The Guilford couple raised two sons, Edward, now a professor of child psychology at University of Colorado, and Christopher, a physician’s assistant assigned to Yale-New Haven’s downtown Emergency Room.
Edward left CHCP 20 years ago to join Guilford’s Shoreline Internal Medicine private practice. The group was based on the Boston Post Road until moving to its current office on Durham Road. The practice joined Northeast Medical Group five years ago, part of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s outpatient medical system.
“The world’s changing,” says Edward of medicine’s business-forward approach today. “Patients ask me, ‘Would you do this again?’ I don’t regret what I did for 40 years, but it’s different times and a different generation now.”
Known for his caring manner and for fostering great relationships with his patients, Edward notes it’s probably not as easy for many of today’s doctors to become as close to their patients as it has been for him.
“There are time restraints now,” he says. “Twenty years ago, you could spend more time with a patient, and really talk to them. Computers have also made a big difference—very often, you’re typing instead of looking at a patient. Looking at a patient, having a one-on-one encounter, to me, that’s special. But again, I’ve been around too long!”
A lot of his patients have stayed with him during his years of practice and saying goodbye to those relationships has been difficult, says Edward.
“I guess I’m getting a little emotional as things are winding down and what’s been hard is basically saying goodbye to families. A lot of people have been with me since I started with CHCP in New Haven. I still have patients coming all the way from Wallingford. They’ve been loyal for 40 years, so we’ve aged together and I’ve seen their kids,” says Edward. “There is a personal touch to doing this. It’s like a second family.”
Edward met his wife Carol during his residency, when she was a medical secretary at West Haven VA Hospital. Currently a medical secretary with a gastroenterology office in New Haven, Carol is also set to retire.
“We’re retiring together and we’re making a big move. We’re going to Colorado,” says Edward. The couple has been traveling out west each fall for many years and will be relocating to a home near family.
“My life’s a little worried. She said, ‘What are we going to do?’ We’ve never had more than two weeks off at a time,” says Edward. “I said, ‘Let’s just think this out. We’re taking November and December off, like it’s a long vacation. By January, we’ll figure it out.’ We’re both active people; we’re going to want to do something. Whether it’s something medical, I don’t know yet.”
Looking back over his career, Edward says he’s glad he chose to be an internist.
“When I came to Yale for training, it was a high powered residency program, and they weren’t into training just general practitioners. You were expected to go on to a specialty. Internists are basically modern day GPs, except we don’t take care of kids,” says Edward. “Out of my class of about 15 of us, I was the only that decided I didn’t want to go on further. I just wanted to go into general medicine. I just want to be a regular doc, like my dad was.”
Saying goodbye these past few weeks has been difficult, but Edward says he’s finally taking his dad’s advice.
“I’d like to say thank you to my patients for all the years of their faith in me, and coming to see me. I will miss them,” he says. “I’d also like to thank my all of my colleagues through the years. Everybody’s been great. It’s been a great ride. But like I tell my patients, it’s time to get off the train.”